Big Game Ad Claims: Trends & Lessons Learned

Feb 9, 2024 by Jennifer Santos, Attorney, National Advertising Division, BBB National Programs

It’s time again for the Big Game, when we gather to watch the most expensive commercials of the year. With exposure to tens of millions of viewers and a 30-second ad costing a reported $6.5 to $7 million, brands will endeavor to use their time on screen wisely. 

Some brands will lean into humor, others will try to tug at your heartstrings, and a few will make comparative claims against competitors. As brands create their memorable content, it is important they remember to make all claims truthful and accurate. 

Over the past several years, BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD) has received competitive challenges to several high-profile Super Bowl commercials, asking us to test the truthfulness and accuracy of the claims made. 

This year, as you watch brands’ creative efforts, keep these lessons learned from past challenged claims in mind. 


Lesson 1: Consider the industry and context of express claims.

Verizon and T-Mobile both challenged Comcast’s 2023 Super Bowl ad for its Xfinity 10G Network that suggested the launch of the network was as momentous as the moon landing. Verizon argued that consumers would reasonably think that Xfinity 10G offers 10 Gbps and is twice as fast or at least faster than 5G. Comcast argued that Xfinity 10G is a brand name incapable of conveying a message because consumers don’t know what “G” means – they just think it stands for better technology than 5G, not that it represents a defined speed. 

NAD concluded that the claim does communicate that the Xfinity network provides subscribers with 10 Gbps speeds, considering how “10G” is used in the industry, a message NAD determined was not supported. As a result, NAD recommended Comcast discontinue the claim or modify it to use “10G” in a manner that does not misleadingly describe the Xfinity network, a recommendation that was affirmed this month by the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).


Lesson 2: A brand’s substantiation must be a good fit for its claim. 

Both Comcast and Charter brought an NAD Fast-Track SWIFT proceeding challenging the claim “Don’t you worry ‘bout speed” in T-Mobile’s 2023 Super Bowl commercial featuring John Travolta, Zach Braff, and Donald Faison where they sang about T-Mobile Home Internet (T-HINT) to the tune of a famous song from the movie Grease. Both challengers argued that T-Mobile’s “Don’t you worry ‘bout speed” claim communicates a broad unqualified speed claim that all users receive 5G speeds at all times of day allowing consumers to perform unlimited tasks. 

NAD found that T-Mobile’s evidence, showing that most T-HINT customers receive speeds that meet the FCC’s definition of high-speed broadband internet, was not a good fit for T-Mobile’s unqualified claim. Information showing the typical range of speeds T-HINT customers can expect to receive did not support the message implied by the claim, which was that users are able to perform nearly all typical activities on the Internet, including intensive uses like gaming or streaming on multiple devices. 


Lesson 3: Clearly disclose information qualifying a claim.

Following the 2022 Super Bowl, Verizon challenged T-Mobile’s “save up to 50%” claim in its commercial featuring Zach Braff and Donald Faison singing to the tune of “I Feel Pretty,” a spot that introduced T-Mobile’s home internet product, T-HINT. In the ad, Zach Braff is complaining about the price of his home internet, when Faison enters the commercial touting T-Mobile’s new home internet service, and the 50% savings claim appears in the visual of the commercial with a smaller disclaimer stating, “vs. National FCC Broadband Rate Benchmark.” 

Verizon argued that consumers would not see the disclaimer and instead would interpret the claim as a savings compared to competitors and, even if they did see the disclaimer, consumers would not understand the basis of comparison. NAD agreed the disclaimer was not clear and conspicuous, and even if consumers could read the disclaimer, it is unlikely that they would understand the point of comparison; therefore, NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue the claim. 

While savings claims and price comparisons can be helpful for consumers, the basis of comparison must be clear and consumer-relevant. 


Lesson 4: Aspirational environmental claims need to be substantiated too!

As part of its public interest mission to ensure consumers receive truthful and accurate advertising messages, NAD initiated a monitoring inquiry into Chipotle’s 2021 Super Bowl commercial where a young boy is wondering whether a burrito can change the world. NAD inquired about several claims that Chipotle’s practices save water and reduce carbon emissions, including the claim that Chipotle’s burrito “could make our farmers… more organic… less carbon emitting.” 

While aspirational claims such as the ones made by Chipotle may convey different messages to consumers than claims about present benefits, they nonetheless must still be supported. Brands need to provide evidence of their stated environmental commitments to demonstrate that their aspirational claims are not merely illusory. 

In this case, NAD found that Chipotle did have a reasonable basis for its aspirational claims. 


Lesson 5: Be accurate when using a comparative demonstration to show differences in product performance. 

AT&T challenged T-Mobile’s 2021 Super Bowl commercials that featured  Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Tom Brady, and Rob Gronkowski engaged in video conversations on their cell phones but, due to their “spotty network,” experienced distorted conversations that lead them to miscommunicate. The voiceover ultimately suggests that consumers should switch to T-Mobile. 

AT&T argued that the commercials convey the message that AT&T’s network is spotty, that the poor quality depicted in the commercial is representative of what actual AT&T users will experience, and that consumers can avoid this by switching to T-Mobile. NAD determined that even though competitors weren’t named, the commercial shows that some providers are spotty and T-Mobile is not one of them. 

The commercials essentially contained a comparative product demonstration, and NAD found that T-Mobile did not provide a reasonable basis for the demonstration’s message that T-Mobile provides better 5G service for video calls than its competitors and that consumers will experience spotty service with competitor networks. When using a comparative demonstration, advertisers should be careful not to overstate the extent of any demonstrated superiority. 

We will be watching the Big Game this weekend – or at least the commercials! Join us on social media to play Big Game, Ad Claims BINGO. If you play, let us know what you find on LinkedIn

Originally published in MediaPost.

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