The Super Bowl is the NFL’s championship game, a head-to-head battle between the two most-talented football teams. 

For advertisers, the Super Bowl also is the biggest game of the year. 

In 2021, the average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial was an eye-popping $5.6 million. Although the cost is high, so too is the potential return on investment. The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched television events in the world. The game regularly attracts more than 100 million viewers on television and streaming devices. 

From an athletic standpoint, Super Bowl LV was much the same as past title games. From a marketing standpoint, though, this year’s Super Bowl was a whole different ballgame. Here’s why: 

Viewers paid attention 

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa only allowed only about 25,000 fans to view the game live because of COVID-19 limitations. Meanwhile, the CDC discouraged Super Bowl parties and large gatherings at bars and restaurants. 

Instead, more Americans tuned in to watch the game from their comfort of their own homes. The calmer, quieter environment meant TV viewers could actually see, hear and absorb content of the commercials better. That means whatever message advertisers were trying to convey, it was heard loud and clear. 

Who did not advertise 

Several big brands, including Budweiser, Coke, Pepsi, Hyundai and others, opted not to air Super Bowl commercials. Instead, the companies issued statements saying they reallocated those funds to help with community causes. 

Because of the pandemic, viewers saw fewer commercials from retail stores, automakers, travel-related companies and Hollywood movies. That left the door open for brands like DoorDash, VroomDraftKings and other companies that have been successful during the pandemic. 

Sneak peeks 

For decades, the largest corporate brands used the Super Bowl to drop new commercials. Those spots featured new products, new services, new storylines and new celebrity endorsements. 

In much the same way they’ve started introducing Black Friday sales earlier each year, brands have started creating buzz in advance of the Super Bowl by teasing their commercials earlyIn 2021, advertisers filled their social media feeds and websites with video clips. Some even posted their full Super Bowl commercials weeks in advance to stir interest. It worked. Many industry publications and media personalities unveiled their favorite Super Bowl commercials based on those early releases. Ad Age, for example, posted The top 5 Super Bowl ads you need to know about at 11 a.m. Friday… 55 hours before kickoff! Its early Top 5 were commercials from M&Ms, Michelob Ultra, Amazon, Uber Eats and ViacomCBS. 

The clear winners 

What are the ingredients to a winning Super Bowl commercial? 

As a full-service firm, Priority Marketing produces commercials that deliver outstanding results for clients. The agency’s turnkey video production services include concepting, scriptwriting, video shoot coordination, directing, editing and production, animation and motion graphics. Team members are considered experts in their respective fields. Olivia Orth, Priority Marketing’s assistant creative director and senior creative copywriter, was a featured guest Monday morning on FOX4. Olivia explained how advertisers captured audiences and built brand awareness during the Super Bowl. 

We asked five of our in-house experts to explain their favorite Super Bowl commercial of 2021 from a marketing perspective. Below are their responses: 

Olivia Orth, Assistant Creative Director and Senior Creative Copywriter 

Pick: Rocket Mortgage 

Why: During the Super Bowl, humor can be a doubleedged sword. Brands that hit the mark will create lasting buzz, and score huge brand awareness, but the humor has to support a strategic message to be effective from a marketing standpoint. Rocket Mortgage did well with its series of commercials featuring Tracy Morgan in situations where pretty sure isn’t sure enough. To me, these ads effectively used humor to position Rocket Mortgage as a practical decision-making tool for homebuyers.

Holly Boldrin, Director of Public Relations 

Pick: Huggies 

Why: “In its first-ever Super Bowl commercial, Huggies made history by featuring babies born on gameday! While most of the commercial spot was pre-produced, the brand incorporated same-day, user-generated content as new parents digitally submitted photos of their newborn to be edited into the commercial, just in time to air during the big game. In fact, two local babies, Emmett and Khloe, were among the featured newborns – Lee Health for the win! As video producers, we are impressed by this logistical mastery and creative rollout of their refreshed brand, #WeGotYouBaby. In terms of bringing joy to those of us watching, Huggies had it covered!” 

Melissa MitchellDirector of Marketing and Business Development 

Pick: Toyota 

Why: With the Bucs dominating the game, it was fun to celebrate and enjoy the comedic concepts that many brands brought to the screen. Yet, Toyota grabbed our hearts with a tear-jerking and uplifting ad featuring Paralympian Jessica Long swimming through scenes of her life, from Siberian orphan to 13-time gold medalist. Reinforcing the beauty and emotion of the story, the spot was filmed entirely in water, so the creativity of the production only enhanced its inspirational effect. Toyota filmed the commercial before COVID-19, but after 2020, I think we all feel that this story of selflessness, strength and triumph is more powerful now than ever. 

Rachel ToomeyMedia Director 

Pick: Bud Light Seltzer 

Why: “Beer is all about the shared experience, and Bud Light Seltzer took advantage of the biggest shared experience of this past year – all that was 2020 – to deliver a fun ad that hit home. Incorporating humor, they showed the lemon of 2020 disrupting celebrations, the workplace, public transportation, air travel, haircuts and sports. The spot has an ironic, nostalgic soundtrack as the characters reflected back. It was reassuring that was all past us – and we can move on now – with a tasty Bud Light Seltzer in-hand.  

“It was also very smart to have product placement during the game with ‘Dude with Sign’ part of the fun. He was featured in-game, and also shared on his own Instagram.” 

Dave BreitensteinMedia Relations Manager 

Pick: Vroom 

Why: Celebrity cameos and spectacular videography are staples of Super Bowl commercials, but I still want to hear about the company or product. That’s why Vroom’s commercial hit the mark. The intro was a little dramatic, but squaring off against a high-pressure car salesman is a very relatable experience to the average consumerThe closing clearly explained the car-buying process to viewers: ‘Go to, buy a car and we’ll deliver it contact-free.’ 


READ MORE: Best Super Bowl commercials require careful planning, call to action 

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