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Super Bowl Postgame: Ad Breakdown

by Taylor McFerran

Themes we noticed from the biggest advertising day of the year.

Ah, the Super Bowl…a cultural explosion where everything relevant comes together at once. After the many events of 2020, this year’s game presented a major opportunity to bring a bit of joy and unity to Americans who needed it more than ever—a challenge many advertisers gladly accepted. In doing so, a few common themes seemed to pervade the night’s TV spots. Here’s what we noticed:

Lighthearted Inclusivity

Inclusivity seemed to be a common thread throughout the entire evening. We kicked things off with the unlikely pairing of a country and R&B artist to perform the national anthem and celebrated the historic milestone of having the first female Super Bowl referee. In the ads themselves, though, inclusivity was kept pretty lighthearted.

Stella Artois’ “Heartbeat Billionaire,” featuring Lenny Kravitz, encouraged us all to invest in our own happiness—with 2.5 billion heartbeats each, we’re all billionaires after all. Recently-controversial investing app Robinhood aired a spot with a similarly inclusive message titled “Everyone’s an Investor,” to remind us of the small investments we each make every single day.

A Competitive Spirit

As brands preached resilience, references to a competitive American spirit felt present at every turn. Toyota’s inspiring spot showed Paralympian Jessica Long overcoming the hardships of a rare health condition and conquering her sport as the holder of 23 Paralympic medals, including 13 gold.

Taking a more comedic approach to competition, “Bud Light Legends” featured several characters of the brand’s previous ads coming together over a common goal. While its actual content featured competition, the spot also sent the message that Bud Light sees itself as a historic frontrunner in the Super Bowl ad game (which…fair).

Leaning into Nostalgia

Looking back on the good times has been a major source of comfort for people isolated in lockdown, and advertisers showed up ready to play with that idea. Anheuser-Busch’s “Let’s Grab a Beer” tugged at the heartstrings of everyone missing the tiny moments of togetherness that haven’t been possible lately.

We also saw nostalgia popping up in the form of music and culture with E*TRADE’s nod to the Karate Kid and Squarespace’s collaboration with Dolly Parton featuring a rewrite of the iconic song “9-5” that has since landed them in hot water.

Environmental Consciousness

One popular theme that remained forward-thinking, however, was the emphasis on electric vehicles throughout the game. We saw a happy moment for an iconic character in Cadillac’s spot, “ScissorHandsFree,” for their all-electric vehicle that features such high-tech driving assistance that even Edward Scissorhands can take the driver’s seat.

Another notable nod to environmental issues was GM’s spot where Will Ferrell gets competitive about beating Norway as a nation in electric vehicle sales. A definite tie-in to the previous theme of America’s competitive nature, GM gave us a hyperbolic glimpse of what that might look like if we channeled our passion and drive into the environment.

As for the brands that sat this one out? We have thoughts on that too—right over here.

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