Branding Lessons From Super Bowl LII Commercials

Written by: Sarah Kinsella

If you were one of the 111 million people watching the Super Bowl LII on Sunday, you got a glimpse of this year’s best, and worst, commercials. While most provided the necessary amount of entertainment to get through the three-hour sporting event, some taught us lessons about the power of smart and strategic branding.

Below, I rounded up the biggest branding lessons we learned from Super Bowl LII commercials.

Align with like-minded brands.

We’re always on the lookout for strategic brand partnerships that will set our clients apart from their competitors. The Mountain Dew and Doritos Hot and Ice lip-sync battle commercial, featuring Peter Dinklage, Morgan Freeman, Missy Elliot and more, proved that two is always better than one. Their catchy commercial for new chip and soda flavors, jam-packed with A-list talent, was an instant sensation because of their selection of iconic and incredibly timely celebrities. With shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ being an American addiction, their choice to include Peter Dinklage was not only strategic but showcased the company’s dedication to creative direction and relevancy.

Tell a story .

Storytelling and creating meaningful connections with target audiences is essential to the success of the brands we represent – and it’s our sweet spot. NBC did an amazing job of eliciting an emotional response from viewers with their inspirational Winter Olympics ad. Titled “Best of U.S.,” the short story ad profiles alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, who won a gold medal in 2010 and couldn’t compete in 2014 due to injury. The clip starts with home videos of Vonn learning to ski and continues through her 2013 crash, where she had to be airlifted out of the race after injuring her knee. The powerful story not only reminds us that greatness isn’t achieved overnight or without sacrifice but also that adding a human element to branding initiatives can have a profound effect on consumers’ reaction and rapport with a brand.

Look at your brand from a different perspective.

This year, the NFL gave a whole new meaning to the touchdown celebration with a performance between Giants quarterback Eli Manning and receiver O’Dell Beckham Jr. The two performed the famed Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey lift from “Dirty Dancing” following a scoring pass in practice. The team’s offensive line got in on the action, playing backup dancers as “Time of my Life” played in the background. This commercial was a reminder of the success that comes from thinking ‘outside-the-box’ and how offering a different view on a commonplace theme can reap big rewards.

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When navigating challenges, stay positive and make yourself relevant .

Tide is a brand that received a lot of negative publicity recently due to the rise of the ‘Tide Pod Challenge.’ Instead of focusing on challenges, they changed the narrative and reminded us that Tide is a necessary everyday product. By hijacking the creative format of several other well-known products, like Mr. Clean and Old Spice, they were able to insert themselves as the common thread throughout, proving that without Tide, the ads for these products would not exist. The element of surprise also played into their success, convincing viewers that the ads they were watching were for a new car or traditional beer brand, when in actuality they were for Tide. Their ad spend of $15 million to create four separate ads truly drove the message home and left viewers talking, reminding us that remaining positive under fire and finding common ground always wins.

One thing all Super Bowl ads had in common this year was the element of surprise. Each brand stepped out of their comfort zones and showcased a unique aspect of their brand that viewers may not have expected. Use the lessons from these brands to ensure you’re amplifying the message of your brand in a compelling, strategic and surprising way.