Best Super Bowl Ads Of Put New Plays In Marketer’s Playbook

Five lessons for marketers from the best Super Bowl commercials.

By Greg Jarboe


Well, the Big Game is now history and it appears that some of the best Super Bowl ads of have put some new plays in the advertiser playbook. Let’s see what we can learn about how to be visible and persuasive in the moments that really matter.  

Think with Google recently published a feature entitled, “A Marketer’s Playbook for Winning the Big Game.” Unruly recently published a white paper entitled, “5 Plays Every Marketer Needs to Be A Super Bowl MVP.” And even Harley Morenstein of EpicMealTime, who was one of the hosts of the YouTube Halftime Show that was live-streamed on the AdBlitz Channel, created Harley’s Playbook – 21 rules that senior marketers need to know to create a successful Big Game ad.

For example, Harley’s Rule #17 is: Babies Are Adorable Selling Machines.

And Harley’s Rule #20 is: Old Folks Doing Young Stuff Will Make You Pee Your Pants.

What can we learn from this year’s best Super Bowl commercials?

The Kick Return

This is one of the most basic plays in the playbook, but it’s surprising that trick plays often get more attention. And senior marketers should study Budweiser’s kick return, because it generates results again and again.

By most measures, “ BUDWEISER SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL “LOST DOG” | BUDWEISER #BESTBUDS” ran off with the honors for “Top Dog” this year. According to the YouTube Trends Dashboard, “Lost Dog” was one of the most viewed videos in the last 24 hours that was uploaded in the last 28 days. It has 20,776,677 views on YouTube.

The version uploaded directly to Facebook has 27,972,083 views. According to the Super Bowl chart powered by Unruly, “Lost Dog” ranked #1 with 1,907,288 shares on Facebook, Twitter, and blog in the last 30 days. According to USA Today, “Lost dog finds way to top of Super Bowl Ad Meter.” And the Super Bowl ad demonstrates Harley’s Rule, “You can melt consumers’ hearts with cute animals.”

Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” is the first back-to-back Super Bowl ad winner. Last year, “Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial – ‘Puppy Love’” established the special friendship between the Clydesdales and a puppy. This year’s Super Bowl ad continued the story – this time accompanied by “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” performed by Sleeping At Last.

What lesson can we learn from the kick return? Pack an emotional punch.

There are many psychological responses that drive video sharing. “Puppy Love,” which was the most shared Big Game ad last year, used happiness, warmth, and sadness to connect with viewers. Whichever emotional triggers you pick, hit ‘em hard! The more intense the viewer response, the more likely you are to earn a share.

The Reverse

This is one of the running plays that Snickers has been using for years. It takes a little time to set up, but it often works.

By several measures, “SNICKERS - “The Brady Bunch” was second banana in this year’s field of contenders. According to the YouTube Trends Dashboard, “The Brady Bunch” was one of the most shared videos on Facebook and Twitter in the last 24 hours. It has 7,822,143 views on YouTube.

According to the Super Bowl chart powered by Unruly, “The Brady Bunch” ranked #2 with 123,117 shares in the last 30 days. However, it ranked #12 in USA Today’s Super Bowl XLIX Ad Meter results.

What lesson can we learn from the reverse? Launch your ad before the big game.

Last year, 60 percent of the most shared Big Game ads were launched before the Sunday broadcast, building digital buzz ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. “The Brady Bunch” was published on Thursday, Jan. 29.

Don’t wait to “surprise” viewers on game day. If Snickers hadn’t pre-released “The Brady Bunch” three days early, it might have ended up ranking #12 across the board.

After the top two Super Bowl ads, you get different “winners” using different metrics. So, let’s look at three more Big Game commercials that you might want to your marketer’s playbook for next year.

The Screen Pass

“Always #LikeAGirl - Super Bowl XLIX” isn’t new, but even the shorter version continued to produce results.

The original “Always #LikeAGirl” was published on June 26. It is 3 minutes and 18 second long. And it has 54,486,224 views on YouTube and 1,547,675 shares, according to Unruly. The 1-minute version was published on Jan. 29. It has 867,783 views on YouTube and 5,873 shares, according to Unruly. But it ranked #2 in USA Today’s Super Bowl XLIX Ad Meter results.

What lesson can we learn from the screen pass? Layer on the social motivations.

Viewers share videos for very different reasons ranging from sharing a passion, demonstrating knowledge, or championing a good cause. Most Super Bowl ads underperformed because ads brought out only 1-2 of these social motivations.

#LikeAGirl, which started last year’s noticeable shift in the way brands market to women, demonstrated that the Super Bowl audience is no longer limited to men. The fact that women control two-thirds of family purchasing decisions, according to Nielsen, is why this play is worth adding to the marketer’s playbook.

Half-Back Pass

This trick play has high risks, but high rewards. And “Aubrey Plaza Prepares America for Newcastle’s Band of Brands Ad” demonstrates that you don’t need to be an official Super Bowl advertiser to steal the show.

This ad has 2,208,232 views on YouTube and 3,320 shares. And did I mention that Newcastle Brown Ale didn’t pay NBC $4.5 million to air a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl?

What lesson can we learn from the half-back pass? Watch out for surprise plays.

The previous two Super Bowls had dealt viewers – and advertisers – a surprise in the form of a blackout or a blowout of a game. However, this year’s game held viewers’ attention right up to the end when Malcolm Butler of the Patriots intercepted a pass intended for Ricardo Lockette of the Seahawks in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.

So, the New England Patriots 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks delivered big time for Super Bowl viewers and advertisers. But, that’s no guarantee that a non-advertiser might be able to steal next year’s Super Bowl.

Tackle Eligible

This innovative play may get added to every marketer’s playbook next year. It’s worth noting that “Ted 2 - Official Trailer” was uploaded directly to Facebook. And according to Facebook, it has 38,956,365 “views.” Now, it’s unclear whether these “views” are the equivalent of YouTube views, but Unruly reports that this Facebook video has 1,478,616 shares.

So, what lesson can we learn from the tackle eligible formation? Facebook is rewriting the marketer’s playbook. YouTube may still be the center of the video playing field, but it is no longer the boundary.

What did you learn from the top Super Bowl ads this year?