The Super Bowl of Advertising

Brand scorecard of winners and losers in the big game

Adrenaline’s take on Super Bowl LLI Ads

A classic face-off between fierce opponents with loyal fans in the stands and tuned in all across the country.

Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots left it all on the field with one team crowned the champion. But make no mistake; the competition between brands is no less spirited. No other event galvanizes brands and their fans quite the way the Super Bowl does. At more than $5 million a 30-second pop, the stakes couldn’t be higher for brands. As we watched this year’s main event, we took note of the ads that were funny and fresh, serious and surprising. Here is our scorecard on the Super Bowl’s advertising champions.


Theme: Wittiness

Score: Field Goal

Color Commentary:  These ads ran throughout the Super Bowl broadcast and were well-received across the board. They poked fun at the Super Bowl advertising genre and featured tongue-in-cheek observations about other Procter and Gamble brands. It takes a calculated risk to be self-deprecating and Tide’s gambit paid off, all the way to the end-zone. The placement and pacing of the ads throughout the game built excitement and made viewers feel like they were in-the-know on an inside joke. 

Adrenaline’s take on Super Bowl LLI Ads


Theme: Surprise

Score: Forward Pass

Color Commentary: What happens when Alexa loses her voice? Jeff Bezos makes a cameo and a decision to let his staff fill in for Alexa in an unexpected way. Celebrity fill-ins provide a series of unfortunate events as regular users ask for simple things like recipes, country music and to set a mood. Using a longer-format approach, Amazon deployed storytelling to spin out what would happen if four rogue personalities were to take over Alexa’s duties. The results are fresh, funny and socially on-trend.


Theme: Culture

Score: Fumble

Color Commentary: Dodge employed a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote and voiceover in its Super Bowl ad. While well-intentioned, the blowback was almost immediate, with viewers taking to Twitter to blast the car brand for cultural appropriation to sell cars. The brand wanted to show its values and mission relating to diversity and culture, but it backfired big-time on the world’s largest stage. Next year, we recommend a robust series of focus groups of average viewers prior to the broadcast to suss out any whiff of controversy.

Adrenaline’s take on Super Bowl LLI Ads

Anheuser Busch

Theme: Community

Score: Touchdown

Color Commentary: What happens when a disaster strikes? Some corporations step up and do what is right without a second-thought. Also deploying a longer-form storytelling format, Anheuser Busch showed what it means to be a good global citizen when disaster strikes. Taking its assembly lines down to bottle water rather than beer, the brand displayed its humanness and compassion in the face of an unspeakable humanitarian crisis. Using the music bed “Stand By Me” drives home the idea that when united, we can achieve great things. 

Adrenaline’s take on Super Bowl LLI Ads

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