Five Winners and Losers of Super Bowl LI Commercials, Social Media, and Tech

Gatorade Snapchat Lens Super Bowl LI Pepsi Snapchat Lens Super Bowl LI

Super Bowl LI had everything NFL fans could want. The first overtime Super Bowl game in history, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, and Tom Brady possibly solidifying himself as the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL. The second half was must-see TV, especially after the beatdown the Falcons put on the Patriots early on.

Another Super Bowl also meant another year of commercials surrounding The Big Game. Costing $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime, brands trying to showcase themselves need to make the most of each moment. Some do it very well. Others… not so much.

The Super Bowl is also more than just commercials, though. Brands needed to be alert and active throughout the game on social media, as the second screen is becoming more and more important every year. Sometimes, the timely tweet or creative GIF really draws the eyes to your post instead of to the commercial that’s on the screen.

Here are some of my winners and losers from all the commercials, social media, and tech surrounding the Super Bowl. Note: this is not in the traditional sense of best and worst ads. This is a combination of ads, social media activity, and tech.


Tech enhancements for broadcast

Two noticeable things stuck out for me during this broadcast. One: the drones flying behind Lady Gaga at the very start of her halftime show. For the first time, drones played a significant role in the Super Bowl and as the technology increases in popularity, so too will their usage. Two: there was a VR-like helmet camera angle shown during the broadcast that seemed to work pretty well the few times it was used. This can be a game-changer not only for how we watch football, but how people train QBs and assess their vision.


Skittles might not have had the most riveting ad during the game, but their work before the game got people’s attention. Tapping into famous celebrity endorser and fan favorite Marshawn Lynch, he traveled to Houston, Scotland to have some fun with the local citizens. This video spot got 1.3 million views on Twitter, 1.3 million combined views for segments on Facebook, and nearly 1 million views on its YouTube video. Tapping into brand advocates before a big event was a unique win.


While not having an ad during the game, Pepsi did everything they could to capture people’s attention on social while the game was going on. Sponsoring the halftime show, #PepsiHalftime was a sponsored hashtag with an emoji next to it on Twitter. Pepsi also sponsored a Snapchat selfie lens that fans could use to either kick a field goal or make fireworks go off. According to Twitter themselves, Pepsi was the most mentioned brand on Twitter during the Super Bowl. Smart investment of their digital dollars led to a win on Sunday.


While having some of the more entertaining ads of the Super Bowl, T-Mobile mastered the art of celebrity influencers before, during, and after the game. Kristen Schaal, Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart, and Justin Bieber not only starred in commercials, but continued the conversation on social media, interacting with fans, getting paid boosts by T-Mobile to targeted audiences, and even getting involved with the company CEO. This strategy is very effective in not only remaining in the minds of viewers, but continues their appeal in the eyes of  younger millennials/Gen-Z, who are brand new phone buyers.

Timely social media posts

It can be very hard to smoothly and organically fit into the Super Bowl conversation when you don’t have an ad in the big game. So many companies make it seem forced and inauthentic in an attempt to replicate Oreo’s successful social post when the power went out in Super Bowl XLVII. Some, however, find the right opening and hit the nail on the head. This year’s examples include:

-Buffalo Wild Wings, after the game went into overtime

-Eggo, after they made an appearance in the Stranger Things 2 trailer

-Doritos, after they made an appearance in Amazon’s commercial



Now this inclusion isn’t because of their commercial, as it had a good message with great delivery. However, going into the Super Bowl, they were going to be creatively using Snapchat throughout the game according to Adweek. They did have a geofilter for the game with their branding and it updated throughout the day. That’s great for impressions, but it does NOTHING when it comes to explaining why I should buy their car. It was not creative, didn’t have any connection to their ad, and Snapchat condones snapping and driving. Also, their story during the Super Bowl consisted of eight photos of their car. No videos. No product in action. Not a great way to use Snapchat at all.


Snickers’ big deal with their commercial was that it was going to star Adam Driver and it was going to be live. They also tapped into celebrity influencers like Tyler Oakley to increase anticipation for the spot even more. Then, it happened. It was super low-key and fell after two ads that captivated the screen (Audi and Mr. Clean). It came off as rushed (even though that was the theme of the spot) and it didn’t hit the mark quite like they did with Betty White, Danny Trejo, and others.

Alfa Romeo

The centerpiece of Chrysler’s ad spots in the Super Bowl surrounded Alfa Romeo, where they had a number of ads and were also the sponsors of the halftime report on Fox. However, their ads were uninspiring and forgetful. In a year where cars made a strong impression in commercials (Hyundai, Buick, Ford, Mercedes, etc.) their spots fell behind the pack.

Mobile games

Just two years ago, Clash of Clans, starring Liam Neeson, and Game Of War, starring Kate Upton, took the Super Bowl commercial game by storm as mobile gaming was becoming more and more popular. This year, Mobile Strike and Evony hit the TV and were nowhere near as exciting. Personally, while The Big Game brings these games quite the exposure and they probably have the money to spare through microtransactions in-game,  to fit the audience they’re predominantly looking for and targeting, these ad dollars might be better spent elsewhere, possibly Instagram ads or Snapchat ads/lenses.

Forced social media posts

Earlier in the article, we looked at brands inserting themselves into the social conversation effectively. However, lots of brands missed the mark and made for some cringe-worthy content. Note for brands: you do not need to inject yourself into EVERY conversation surrounding big events. Do it when it makes sense. Posts like the ones below reek of FOMO and seem very desperate:


#5: T-Mobile

#4: Ford

#3: Buick

#2: Bai

#1: Hyundai

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s