Super Bowl LV Playbook of Advertising

As a social media enthusiast and public relations practitioner, I often find myself intrigued by the trillions of dollars spent on advertising (Hello, car ads!) that could go further when applied toward interactive or, dare I say, two-way communication focused revenue streams. Maybe this is too cavalier of me to say with such a limited background in the advertising field, but I do know that the Super Bowl always seems to put these digital storytelling opportunities back into perspective.

Overall, Super Bowl LV ads were about as interesting as the game itself. There were key players that didn’t get off the bench this year, such as Coca-Cola and Budweiser. And the brands that did air commercials mostly chose to avoid the realities of this past year. (One could say almost as quickly as Mahomes ran from the Buccaneers defense.) Advertising during the “Big Game” brought humor, nostalgia and a heavy investment into Paramount OTT streaming resonance. Let’s take a deeper dive.

On The Sidelines

Communicators were tipped off early that key brands weren’t going to invest in Super Bowl spots. At first glance, this might seem like a tightening the belt approach or if – if you’re reaching – a cop out to avoid touching controversial subjects. But in reality, I say this approach was incredibly strategic and thoughtful. Big brands actually walked the walked this year and put their money where their mouth was. They skipped Super Bowl advertising to invest in more purpose-driven projects, such as PSA’s for COVID-19 vaccines or employee engagement programs.

Market Drive shares that more than two-thirds of Gen-Z’s and millennials are influenced by social cause-related marketing. These brands’ approach to back up purpose-driven campaigns speaks volumes and attempts to build a stronger relationship with this audience. (And this approach also saved them from some of the worst viewership ratings reported by Nielsen since 2007. Is this karma?)

In The Game

Those who chose to stick it out had quite interesting strategies as well. It appeared that addressing our realities or hot topics were off the table and out of the playbook for this Super Bowl, save the few that talked about sustainability and food insecurity. I don’t think many viewers minded this form of escapism, but it was definitely noted by several trade publications.

The key themes in this year’s round-up heavily relied on pop-culture, nostalgia and comedy. We saw many cameos of celebrities and throwbacks to a simpler time. These definitely resulted in mixed feelings. I’m a pop-culture junkie and always appreciate nostalgia, but it begs a few questions.

  • Are advertisers being overly cautious about controversial topics and using nostalgia as a safe default?
  • Did someone free Matthew McConaughey from that Doritos vending machine?
  • Is creativity overshadowed by celebrity prominence in advertising?
  • How old is Dana Carvey?

Regardless, I didn’t really see an advertisement that was overtly disinteresting. (The Oatly Milk commercial was peculiar for sure though.

Here is a hot take round-up of some of this year’s advertisements:


The T-Mobile “Banned” Commercial with Tom Brady & Gronk


Oatly’s “Wow, No Cow”


Rocket Mortgage’s “Certain Is Better” Commercial


Paramount +, “Expedition” series

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