Taking the Super Bowl’s star power to the next level

Thought Leadership

Once again, the Super Bowl ad break (and what came before) was a star studded affair. In this blog, Aneka Hindocha, UK R&I Director, examines the brand winners and what this means for the NFL long-term. 

This year, as we welcomed Super Bowl LVIII, which took place in Vegas, the talk on social media was difficult to ignore, with a total so far of 16.7M mentions across the globe

The game was watched by around 123 million people in the US, which makes it the most viewed broadcast since the 1969 Moon landing. The Chiefs’ victory over the 49ers saw them take home the Super Bowl win for the third time in five seasons and noted the highest peak in online conversation around the event [4.6M global mentions].

Social media mentions during the live game surged 36% compared to last year, but the real buzz ignited a week before kickoff, with a remarkable 61% uplift compared to the previous week in 2023. 

This excitement was fueled significantly by devoted Swifties (in the masses) eagerly looking forward to getting a glimpse of Taylor Swift and her beau, Travis Kelce. Their joint presence not only electrified fans but also had a substantial impact on the NFL revenue [by $300M], symbolising the powerful connection between entertainment icons and major events. Dissecting the mentions in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, Taylor Swift alone contributed to one-fifth of all comments this year, underscoring the undeniable influence and economic boost generated by the intersection of fandom and major cultural events.

Clearly the hype before the game nearly overshadowed the game itself, so what drove it?

Star Power and Meme Culture 

Star power and social insight was front and centre for some of the event’s most talked about spots. 

Image Credit: Uber Eats

In the run up to the Super Bowl, Uber Eats pulled out all the stops, tapping into the nostalgia of an iconic 90s duo Posh & Becks – the OG sporting/entertainment power couple. Even if you haven’t seen the iconic Netflix Beckham documentary, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon the viral meme where David Beckham playfully quizzes Victoria about her Dad’s choice of car. Posh and Becks recreated the moment for an Uber Eats teaser, with a Super Bowl spin. The overall campaign received 506K global online comments, proving how influential continued storytelling and self-referencing is to audiences.

Image Credit: CeraVe

The Micheal Cera and CeraVe partnership [492K global mentions] also caused a stir on social media in the lead up to the big game. The premise is a play on the similarity of Cera’s surname and the brand – something which has been causing rumours of his involvement in the product on Reddit for years. Here, CeraVe came up with an idea that straightforwardly highlights the brand name and what the product is all about in a memorable way. Clever, right?

We saw a further star studded roll call during the game’s ad breaks – from Lionel Messi for Michelob Ultra beer [384K global mentions], to a starring role for singer and influencer Addison Rae for Nerds

Beyond the Super Bowl: building long term connections

It’s fair to say that, given all the above, the Super Bowl retains its super star status in the world of advertising. But while glitz, glamour, memes and marketing have made for an epic campaign for the NFL and the brands involved, the challenge now for the NFL is to broaden their reach on more solid ground, capturing worldwide consumer engagement outside of the big moments.  

Part of this is grassroots – initiatives like the UK-based NFL Academy aim to make the game more accessible to all outside the US. “Football is not just an American sport. It is international. It is growing. We are just a part of the thing for it to be a global sport,” said Kris Durham, the NFL Academy’s head of football. “We want to be like basketball. We want to be like baseball.”

Image Credit: NFL Academy

Currently, the NFL can’t rely on ‘local’ talent outside the US to capture hearts and minds. In the realm of the NFL, a sport intricately woven into the fabric of American high school and college experiences, foreign players are a rarity. We’ve recently seen an exception – Louis Rees-Zammit, former Wales wing – making the bold transition from rugby to the NFL. Whether he’ll succeed remains to be seen. 

Culture moves at the speed of social, and nowhere can that be seen more than at the Super Bowl – it’s one of the most iconic cultural events of our time. The NFL now has the challenge and the opportunity to build on the great awareness brands have raised during the Super Bowl, take some lessons from the success of those who tapped into social insights to succeed, and extend passion for the game to new fandoms. 

*Data sourced from Brandwatch