The marketing winners of the superbowl

Super Bowl XLIX came down to the final 30 seconds that had New England fans rejoicing, Seattle fans stunned and even those who didn’t really care glued to their TVs (this was the highest-rated Super Bowl in history). Not to be outshined by the game, the commercials included plenty of celebrities, cars, puppies and screaming goats. But they also displayed a more serious tone—some would say downright sad—than what we typically see. The Super Bowl might mark the end of the football season, but it also marks the end of the biggest marketing season of the year. And just like there are winners and losers on the gridiron, there are also the victors and the defeated in the world of celebrity marketing. Let’s take a look at who came out on top:

The Superstars

Tom Brady, with four Super Bowl victories and three MVPs, is now in contention for the title of greatest quarterback of all time. He already has a string of high-profile endorsements—Under Armour, Uggs, Stetson and Movado—but he’s at the top of his game now and will continue to be extremely selective for any future partner.

The other global superstar in the game was Katy Perry, who wowed with her half-time performance, complete with a dancing sharks and singing beach balls. Album sales usually soar after half-time performances and there’s no doubt that will be the case for Katy. (It will also be interesting to see if that trend follows suit for surprise guest performer Missy Elliott). But similar to Katy, she doesn’t need the money so will likely only seek long-term, lucrative deals that benefit global tour sponsorships or other cross-promotional opportunities. Their agents will be looking for royalties and back-end money on upcoming deals.

The Bad Boys

Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Rob Gronkowski received a ton of hype surrounding the Super Bowl. Lynch (somewhat ironically) became the center of attention by responding to each media question with a single, non-informative answer that is now the catchphrase of this Super Bowl: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” (Which was also used by Katy Perry and Tiger Woods in their press conferences during the week). His partnersProgressive and Skittles capitalized on the situation with humorous videos poking fun at Lynch’s feelings toward press conferences and the media in general, and both ads gained a lot of traction online.

Meanwhile, Sherman and Gronk were busy promoting headphones – Sherman for Beats by Dre and Gronk for SMS Audio. These guys intrigue fans with their mysteriousness and offbeat personalities, so expect to see them more in marketing deals down the road. A quick-thinking brand could have some fun with Sherman’s reaction to the last play of the game, which wentviral last night. Watch for more activation from T-Mobile around Sherman.

Surprise Cameos

While it’s become popular to pre-release Super Bowl spots, some brands held out for the big reveal, and with A-list talent attached, surprising fans everywhere. Esurance tapped Bryan Cranston as his Breaking Bad character for its “Sorta Pharmacist” spot – a buzzworthy moment to see Walter White back in action, even for just a few seconds. Along the same lines, Clash of Clans tapped Liam Neeson as his Takencharacter for a humorous spot where his game username is AngryNeeson52. Nationwide pre-released a teaser of its Mindy Kaling spot, but when it aired during the game, there was a twist at the end with a Matt Damon cameo. These stars aren’t often seen in marketing campaigns so it added a fun and unexpected element to the ads. But these deals are typically for one-night of usage, so let’s see if those cameos spark water cooler conversation today and beyond.

Non-Traditional Marketers

Not every brand can afford (or wants to spend) the $4.5 million price tag for an advertising slot during the game, and instead are finding other ways to get the buzz and exposure. Brands such as Coca-Cola, Tostitos, Geico, Pepsi, Toyota, DiGiorno, Mercedes-Benz and Nutri Ninja all leveraged athletes and celebrities in digital ads in the weeks leading up to the game. Hidden Valley tapped The Holderness Family, known for their viral videos, for a Super Bowl-themed digital spot, and Nissan enlisted several YouTube personalities for its dad-themed campaign. Some brands chose the more traditional route of advertising, but not the full national distribution. American Family Insurance and Carl’s Jr. purchased regional buys, but released the ads ahead of time in hopes of making up some of that limited exposure – a trend we expect to grow.


Who doesn’t love dads? Marketers certainly do. As mentioned above, Nissan tapped several YouTubers to create content around fatherhood, tagged #withdad. Meanwhile, Dove Men+Care re-released its widely popular ad they ran around Father’s Day, and Toyota’s campaign focused on former football players sharing the roles their fathers played in their lives. Another big headline this week was around Richard Sherman, who said he might miss the big game if his girlfriend went into labor. Given the “awwww” factor of Sherman’s statement, it’s not inconceivable that a brand will want to tap the notorious bad boy for a dad-themed program to show him in a different light—someone all dads can relate to.

Other marketing winners worth noting:


Arguably one of the biggest storylines heading into the game was “Deflategate” and Gillette won big with its aptly named razor, FlexBall, which was featured on the backdrop of the Patriots’ press conference after the story broke. Within minutes of Belichick taking the podium, #FlexBall was a trending topic on Twitter. It’s estimatedthat Gillette (and parent company Procter & Gamble) received over $3 million dollars in TV exposure with this placement. The backdrop has been used throughout the season, but the controversy brought the brand front and center this week prior to the game. But as a Patriots partner, they let others do the talking and wisely kept their mouths shut.

Musician Pay Days

The Super Bowl is about much more than what you see on TV. Plenty of behind-the-scenes action keeps party goers busy, including a “who’s who” of A-list entertainers performing at corporate and media parties all week. Big pay days took center stage for one off shows, private jets and suite access at the Super Bowl. To name a few, Rihanna and Kanye performed at DirecTV; Pitbull played to an intimate crowd for JBL; Nicki Minaj took the stage for Bud Light; and Rolling Stonetapped Steven Tyler and Charli XCX. In addition, several brands licensed songs for their Super Bowl ads: Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” was featured in Nissan’s lengthy spot and Budweiser used a cover of The Proclaimers’ hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” for its popular Clydesdale-puppy ad.

Parting shots…

Russell Wilson – If that pass was caught by a teammate and not intercepted by the Patriots, Wilson would be crowned King of America today—and King of Madison Avenue. Despite Seattle’s bad day, we still expect Russell to stay very much in the marketing mix for brands looking for top NFL talent.

Uber drivers – One hundred straight hours of 4x surge pricing put some extra dollars in local drivers’ pockets this weekend. And Malcolm Butler’s shout-out on GMA this morning, when he shared a story of his family’s Uber driver predicting a big play from him, gave the brand a nice exposure bump as well.

San Francisco 2016 – Next year marks Super Bowl 50 in a big city with plenty of corporate and tech money. Expect brands to be all-in. Also expect 49ers legends Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young to be the most in-demand talent for marketing and hospitality programs on-site.

BMW – The elite auto brand’s choice of Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel were spot on for the demo and product launch. Clever use of old Today Show footage in the spot provided nice synergy with NBC as the broadcaster, too.

Idina Menzel – The Frozen star was an excellent choice to perform the National Anthem. No doubt her continued popularity from the Disney hit encouraged the youngest marketing demographic to tune in.

Disneyland – Even years later, the iconic “I’m going to Disneyland!” spot is still relevant and enjoyed by many. So Malcom Butler, who secured the Patriots’ win with his first-ever game-winning interception, gets to be that American underdog and the “unknown-to-hero story.” Talk about good timing.

Waffle House – The American classic got a nice publicity bump after Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Kayne West and Kim Kardashian shared their double date pics on social media.

As the football season closes out, we can all say with certainly that it was a year of ups and downs for professional football. With such a successful Super Bowl, it was hoped the NFL could spend the day celebrating record ratings and looking ahead to next season. But instead, news of Johnny Manziel entering rehab is now dominating the morning headlines. And so on it goes.

This article was also published in Forbes on Monday, February 2.