Inside the Super Bowl

Published on February 7, 2018

The Super Bowl took place this past weekend - to the tune of an audience of 103.4 million people in the U.S. alone. It is the largest advertising event of the year for the American audience, and our global strategy team at McCann Truth Central has been busy collating some key learnings about what it means to be a brand in this landscape.

As the only national platform where people have as much interest in the ads as in the broadcast event itself, the Super Bowl is a phenomenon that permeates our culture. It’s a collective event where brands become part of the same shared experience and reinforces our recent McCann Truth Central's Truth about Fans study which concludes that major sporting events have the unique ability to connect people to each other.

Some brands accomplished uniting us more successfully than others. The commercials that resonated the most were those that recognised current cultural dynamics, and created content that allowed their brand to be a part of the broader conversation. It appears that the two key areas that resonated best in terms of forging connections were comedic commercials and what we would call empathetic ones.

Best-in-Class Comedic Spots
Comedy, a hallmark of entertainment, is traditionally a mainstay within every set of Super Bowl commercials, and this year was no exception. Brands used humour in innovative yet culturally-aware ways, helping to relieve game day jitters by sharing a laugh with friends and family and reminding us that we’re not so different after all.

Best-in-Class Empathetic Spots
Ultimately, people are craving humanity in an increasingly inhumane world. This is precisely the need that some brands championed this Super Bowl by evoking empathy and playing on people’s best instinct to love one another and the causes close to our hearts. And rightfully so! People see brands as allies in helping them create meaningful change in the world.

The Super Bowl remains one of the best—and in fact only—ways a brand can reach most of the U.S. with a single commercial. Irrespective of their approach, whether comedic or empathetic, one thing is clear: those brands that relentlessly execute against their meaningful role stand a better chance of succeeding in as much as people are looking to brands generally to stand for something larger, and to deliver this core value across everything that they do.

But also, in evaluating Super Bowl commercials, we cannot forget that we are in a creative industry and no matter what is going on in the world, creativity is still of the utmost importance. As Rob Reilly, our Global Creative Chairman, says: “You’ve spent $5 or $10 million. You need to be the MOST creative. The rules go out the window. What is the most impactful thing you can do comedy-wise, empathy-wise, impact-wise? Brands stretch themselves because the price tag is so high. It still is the crown jewel of our business.”