2023 Trends: Big Game Ad Claims

Feb 14, 2023 by Jennifer Santos, Attorney, National Advertising Division, BBB National Programs

What makes the Super Bowl “super”? As a former advertising standards executive and now as an attorney at BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD), I would argue it is the commercials. I have always been excited to watch the game and get a glimpse of upcoming advertising trends. 

With the explosion of streaming services, targeted advertising, and the metaverse, the big game is a throwback to good old-fashioned advertising directed to a live audience’s attention for a whole 30 seconds or maybe even more. The stage for these ads has always been huge (as evidenced by the price tag – a reported $7 million per 30-second spot this year), but the stage of today feels like it could be even more important for advertisers. 

In recent years the explosion of increased marketing channels has led marketers to flock to targeted advertising, but this stage provides an important opportunity to reach millions of consumers at the same time. Let’s take a look at some of the trends from this year’s big game. 

 

Celebrities

The most obvious trend of this year was brands opting for A-list celebrities to star in their ads rather than influencers. We saw Will Ferrell in General Motor’s ad, Ben Stiller and Steve Martin touting Pepsi Zero Sugar, Sylvester Stallone promoting Paramount’s streaming service, as well as Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck promoting Dunkin. The message is that brands are avoiding influencers on a stage this big. Brands are still using influencers to advertise on other social media platforms (even during the game), but they are keeping influencers where they are comfortable and have the most – well, ability to influence.

 

Nostalgia

Brands are playing it safe by returning to tried and true favorites – from Michelob Ultra ads that alluded to the 1980’s hit movie Caddyshack, to Alicia Silverstone reviving her role in the 1995 hit Clueless for Rakuten, to Popcorner’s revival of the decade-old Breaking Bad series. Maybe this is a sign of uncertain economic times with advertisers keeping it light and bringing viewers back to familiar easier times. Then again this could be marketers leaning into a nostalgia trend where everything old is new again.

 

Beer & Gambling

With sports betting now legal in 36 states and Anheuser-Busch InBev giving up its decades-long advertising exclusivity deal with the NFL, viewers were inundated with alcohol and sports betting ads. Could the advertising beer wars be back? Molson Coors generated a lot of pregame interest by encouraging viewers to bet on elements that would appear in its first big game ad in decades. While its pre-game print ads taunted the competition by stating “The big game hasn’t tasted this great in 30 years,” its in-game ad focused on competition between its own two big brands: Miller Lite and Coors Light. 

That doesn’t mean follow-up ads won’t take direct aim at the competition. Sports betting and competitive beer ads are trends that will likely last all year. 

 

Electric Cars

Companies increasingly tout their planet-conscious sustainable policies or programs as a reason consumers should choose their products, and this year’s ads prove that trend continues in the car industry. Ads from General Motors featured GM Electric Vehicles (EVs) and touted a partnership with Netflix to feature more GM EVs, while Stellaris featured two commercials, one for the anticipated 2024 RAM REV 1500 Ram electric pick-up truck and another featuring animals doing the electric slide for Jeep’s electric Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. 

With electric cars dominating the automotive ad space in the big game for the second year in a row, electric cars may be cementing their place as the future of transportation rather than just another trend. 

 

Emerging Trend?

Could there be an emerging trend of big game ads trying to appeal to women? Immediately after the coin toss, Astellas Pharma featured an ad to raise awareness about vasomotor symptoms and menopause in general. Rakuten’s highly publicized reboot of Clueless pairing shopping and saving was an appeal to the female audience, as was e.l.f. Cosmetics’ ad featuring its TikTok-famous Power Grip Primer. 

We can consider this an interesting test to see if products traditionally targeted to women have success on football’s big stage. With an audience the sheer size of the big game, my prediction is that the test will become yet another trend.

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