Gimmicks Galore: The Super Bowl Ad Spectacle and What Brands Can Learn

Marketing ain’t easy, and sometimes the best way to pitch a product and get it to stick in viewers’ minds is with a good gimmick. Our team has certainly pitched a number of marketing gimmicks to SOAR over the years (copywriter’s note: I think we should have run a Single’s Awareness Day campaign for Valentine’s Day, but not all agreed and they had their reasons. Still sad!).

During this year’s Super Bowl ad breaks, audiences saw many-a-gimmick, some good, some not-so-good. These surreal, goofy, and unexpected concepts can be entertaining for sure, but they also run the risk of being just that, with tangible brand benefits being scarce. The recent Solo Stove and Snoop Dogg controversy is a case in point, highlighting the potential disconnect between an engaging ad and its impact on product sales.

With that being said, let’s look at the high-concept Super Bowl ads – minus film trailers and PSAs – that fostered the most consumer engagement right after airing, according to

The Super Bowl Top Performers:

Dunkin’ | “The DunKings”
Bringing in the big guns, Dunkin’ had us at “hello” with a star-studded cast. Ben Affleck, J.Lo, Matt Damon, and Tom Brady? Talk about a dream team. Dunkin’ showed us that celebrity sparkle isn’t just for show – it can significantly boost brand trust and relatability, making the ad stickier than a Boston cream donut.

By creating a humorous narrative and incorporating a band concept named after the celebrities, Dunkin’ made their ad memorable and shareable, increasing its reach and engagement.

Starry | “Love Triangle”
Starry used a playful narrative to stand out. By personifying the product in a humorous “love triangle” with popular drinks, they created a storyline that was engaging and easy to remember. Plus, featuring Ice Spice added a layer of contemporary relevance and tapped into her fanbase, broadening the ad’s appeal.

Skechers | “Mr. T in Skechers”
Nostalgia’s a powerful thing, and Skechers played it like a fiddle with Mr. T front and center. It doesn’t hurt that the shoes being advertised actually sound very useful- the ad focused on the convenience of Skechers’ hands-free slip-in technology, directly showcasing the product’s unique selling proposition.

T-Mobile Home Internet | “That T-Mobile Home Internet Feeling”
T-Mobile turned common gripes with cable internet into a compelling pitch for their 5G home service. Highlighting benefits like no hidden fees and easy setup directly responded to consumer pain points. This ad was also a chance to reinforce T-Mobile’s brand personality – their consistent brand messaging around transparency and customer-first approaches reinforced trust.

And of course, they took the opportunity to play with some more super fun celebrity guests, tapping into nostalgia and what’s cool now with Jason Mamoa and Those Guys from Scrubs. Man, I’m due for a rewatch.

Kawasaki | “Mullets”
Kawasaki hit the nostalgia nail on the head (are we noticing a pattern here?) by featuring WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in an ad that was as unexpected as it was entertaining. Sporting a CGI-enhanced mullet, Austin brought a mix of humor and surprise, making the ad a memorable highlight of the Super Bowl. The concept of “business in the front, party in the back” not only cleverly described Kawasaki’s Ridge side-by-side truck but also captured the spirit of fun and versatility that Kawasaki embodies. This whimsical approach ensured that Kawasaki’s message was both seen and shared widely.

Strategies for Super Bowl Success:

  • Emotional Engagement and Humor: All these ads leveraged humor or nostalgia, creating an emotional connection with the audience that went beyond just showcasing a product.
  • Clear Value Proposition: Whether through direct product demonstration or clever narrative, each ad made it clear why the viewer should be interested in their product or service.
  • Social Media and Celebrity Influence: Utilizing celebrities and social media buzz-worthy content ensured that conversations around the ads continued long after they aired, amplifying their reach.

The Well-Intentioned Misses:

YouTube | “Migration”
YouTube’s ad was high on creativity but left some of us scratching our heads. Even among the SOAR team, when we shared our favorite and least favorite ads on Monday, some mentioned not liking this spot, but also not remembering what it was promoting. Abstract is cool, but when it comes to ads, we like to know what we’re buying into.

BetMGM | “Tom Has Won Enough”
For what it’s worth, this star-powered ad was a recurring favorite among the SOAR team. However, sports betting advertisements inherently target a niche audience. Those not interested in betting (again, the SOAR team included) or without regional access to BetMGM’s services might have found the ad entertaining but not relevant to their interests. So, despite a great concept, a lot more people than Tom Brady might find themselves excluded from this particular campaign.

Drumstick | “Doctor on the Plane”
The ad’s humorous take with Eric Andre might have made the narrative more memorable than the product itself. If the audience remembers the joke but not the product, the ad fails to drive engagement.

Coors Light | “Chill Train”
In the crowded beer ad arena, Coors Light’s attempt was creative but didn’t quite leave a mark. Sometimes, trying to spoof a competitor can leave viewers more confused than amused. Plus, while spoofing the “Find Your Beach” campaign of Corona could be seen as clever, it risks not resonating with all viewers if it’s too subtle or the audience has a strong loyalty to Corona.

General Factors for Lower Engagement:

  • Entertainment Over Clarity: In trying to be overly entertaining or creative, the main message or the call-to-action of an ad might be diluted, leaving audiences entertained but not motivated to engage further.
  • Target Audience Misalignment: If the ads don’t align well with the interests or needs of the majority of the Super Bowl viewing audience, the result could be lower engagement despite high entertainment value.
  • Social Media & Shareability: Ads that fail to spark conversations or lack elements that encourage sharing on social media platforms may see lower post-airing engagement, even if they are entertaining during the event.

Surefire Wins with SOAR

In the end, the Super Bowl ad game is as much about scoring with audiences as it is about moving the sales needle. A well-crafted gimmick can elevate a brand, but it’s the connection to the product and the clear call to action that truly make it a success. As we’ve seen, nailing the perfect ad involves much more than just securing a spot during the game. It’s about creating a message that resonates, entertains, and most importantly, converts.

But let’s face it, even with the brightest ideas and biggest budgets, the true challenge lies in understanding where your marketing efforts are hitting the mark (and where your budget is being used wisely!). That’s where the expertise of SOAR Media Agency shines brightest. We’re not just about making waves; we’re about making sure those waves carry your brand to where you want to be!

So, book your free consultation with SOAR today! We’ll help you sift through the gimmicks and glitter to find where your marketing dollars are working hardest for you. With SOAR, elevate your marketing strategy and enjoy the game of business with the confidence of a champion.

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