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This is a self-funded case study using our Ad Testing solution.
The Super Bowl is all about big for marketers — big money, big audiences, big opportunities, and big stakes. It’s not surprising then that so many brands bring out the big guns, leveraging the power of celebrity, humor, and cinematic spectacles to get the biggest bang for buck.
Our first category deep-dive of Super Bowl LVI looks at how food-related brands fared — using our 3Cs framework to break down the best performers:
Take a read of our other Super Bowl category deep-dives: Alcohol brands , Finance/Crypto Brands and Auto Brands.
Departing from last year’s celebrity-fronted spots for Doritos (Matthew McConaughey) and Cheetos (Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher), Frito-Lay instead focused their Super Bowl efforts on a popular shared flavor (Flamin’ Hot). And boy was it a hit, proving to be just as much a highlight of Super Bowl Sunday as Matthew Stafford’s strike to Cooper Kupp for the game-winning touchdown!
Taking the crown as the most effective Super Bowl food spot overall, Frito-Lay created a fun interlude which kept the product central. Viewers were enamored with the animals and their adorable quirks, leaving them intrigued to find out what would unfold next. The product had a salient role in the story, with each animals’ synchronized reactions a direct result of the ‘Flamin’ Hot’ flavor Doritos and Cheetos are renowned for. This reinforced a simple but long-standing insight – people like spicy flavors despite (or because of) the strange things they do to us.
Hellmann’s Mayonnaise created a fun spot around tackling food waste – quite literally. The action-packed, humor-filled story featured ex-NFL linebacker Jerod Mayo playing up to the football theme in a way that connected with viewers, with the appearance of Pete Davidson further adding to this. Taking on an important issue like food wastage inspired viewers, playing the joint role of public service announcement while also building goodwill toward Hellmann’s and setting the brand apart.
Frito-Lay’s second entry into Super Bowl LVI was the polar opposite of their first — an up-tempo, celebrity-driven story about good memories and marriage and ghosts and comedy and… sometimes even chips. Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd amused and delighted viewers; however, even with a bag of chips being the catalyst for their trip down memory lane, the dark theme hindered brand fit and more positive feelings from being formed toward Lay’s.
Pringles’ story of a man with a moustache who gets his arm stuck in a cannister directly linked to a relatable insight about the brand’s most recognizable asset, reinforcing one of the things which makes it ‘different’. While this was fun and had the powerful effect of making the brand unmissable, following the man on his journey through important life events — eventually culminating with him on his death bed — was a bit too much for some. Worn down by the same joke being repeated ad nauseum led some to tune out.
McDonald’s offered a highly relatable insight into the mind-blank which occurs precisely half a second after someone asks for your order — having fun with how universal this experience is. Using a mix of lay-people, celebrities, and mascots tapped into the brand’s down-to-earth and ‘for everyone’ appeal.
Taco Bell’s story about escaping clown school and ending up at Taco Bell — starring pop icon Doja Cat — neglected to say anything about the brand and caused significant confusion. Less than 5% of viewers picked up that the ad was taking a dig at McDonald’s (and their ice cream machine being eternally broken), meaning that while this subtle jibe would’ve caused lots of high fives amongst marketers, it ultimately had little brand impact. Balancing the novelty needed to get people’s attention, with the clarity required to leave a meaningful impression, is always a battle.
Avocados from Mexico made a return to Super Bowl screens in 2022, featuring gladiators from the Roman days “tailgating” outside the Colosseum. The elaborate story of ‘the oldest Super Bowl’, while distinctive, left many viewers disinterested or bored — even with clever jokes about ‘Caesar Salads’.
With avocados not featuring in the ad until over halfway through, their eventual innocuous appearance didn’t have a strong emotional impact on people, while their lack of relevance to the broader story meant the ad conveyed little meaningful information about the brand. While the medium of advertising during the Super Bowl is to some degree a message in itself, the spectacle of the show should never be allowed to overshadow the brand.