Predictions for Super Bowl LVIII: What can we expect this year?

Kim Malcolm

The Super Bowl is upon us again! This year, we’re seeing more brands than ever before drop teasers to give us hints about what direction their ads will take. But we haven’t seen many full ads in advance of the big game like we have in past years. They clearly want to keep us guessing to generate some conversation! 

I’ve got many guesses! So let’s dig in.

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1. Ads will be better this year (but still not much better than the rest of the year)

As a Brit, I often compare the Super Bowl to the UK’s equivalent advertising event: Christmas. In the most recent season, we saw the UK Christmas ads improve year-over-year. I expect the same trajectory of improvement from Super Bowl advertisers this year.

In general, brands are growing their knowledge on what works in Super Bowl advertising. And brands that are known for their captivating and entertaining advertising like PepsiCo, Mars, M&M's, Oreo, etc. will have spots in the big game (and Budweiser has announced that their Clydesdales are back this year!). So I’m excited to see what they come up with. 

But I don’t expect to see much that massively outperforms advertising from the rest of the year — because on average, Super Bowl ads haven't been more creatively effective than ads we see the rest of the year. Of course we see some fantastic ones over the years that we can admire and learn from, but on average they don't outperform the average from the rest of the year.

Last year’s ads were more appealing (with a score of 7.2/10 compared to 7.0/10 the previous year) and better at driving brand consideration (6.8/10 compared to 6.6/10 the previous year). However they scored exactly the same as the US norm (the average of all the US ads we’ve looked at) on brand appeal and brand consideration.

This is a massive missed opportunity. The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in the US, bringing in the biggest audience at a single point in time. It’s an opportunity to be famous, credible, loved — and part of a moment in culture. Getting it right is critical!

2. Most ads will feature celebrities, but they won’t necessarily serve the brand

Around three-quarters of Super Bowl ads contained a celebrity last year, and from all the teasers and full ads we’ve seen so far, that percentage will hold for this year too. 

But what we find year after year is that Super Bowl ads often fall short of delivering strong brand linkage — and that’s partially because celebrities are not brand assets. Celebrities will often help your ad gain audience attention, give a sense of stature and generate conversation, but they can overshadow the brand if the story doesn’t offer a relevant, credible and obvious role for the brand or product.

It doesn’t help that celebrities can feature in ads for multiple brands over time — and some even pop up in ads for multiple brands during the Super Bowl! Last year we saw Serena Williams in ads for both Michelob Ultra and Rémy Martin, and this year former football player Rob Gronkowski will appear in ads for Frito-Lay and FanDuel. I’m interested to see if either ad produces a benefit for the brand.

Even the ads that landed in our top 10 list last year that featured celebrities didn’t have great brand recall. One of the most successful brands to feature a celebrity, PopCorners, only just beat the US norm on brand linkage.

I predict that ads that feature established brand characters or other distinctive assets will outperform those that don’t. And I hope that those with celebrities use them well!

3. Ads will bring the weird and crazy… but will they harness it for the brand?

Super Bowl ads can often be… a little weird. Especially to a non-American audience. But brands are working hard to be distinctive so their ad stands out during the night. One of the first examples that comes to mind from last year was the M&M’s ad that featured Maya Rudolph promoting clam-filled candies (yuck).

Mountain Dew’s “Puppy Monkey Baby” from 2016 is another one that comes to mind for its overall weirdness. 

Being distinctive is a huge asset for any ad. We are wired to pay attention to things that are distinctive or unusual as we need to check whether they're a threat or an opportunity. And Super Bowl ads tend to be good at this! Last year we saw they performed quite well on our uniqueness and viral likelihood metrics.

The opportunity for advertisers is to make sure the ad is weird in a way that offers a role for the brand. That’s where Super Bowl ads fell a bit short last year. 

4. One ad will be a ‘stunt’

Stunt ads have also become a staple in Super Bowl advertising recently. Last year, Tubi’s “Interface Interruption” was interesting because it pranked audiences by making them think they sat on their remotes or that one of their children had stolen it. The year before we saw Coinbase’s ad featuring just a bouncing QR code (with no branding at all) that got tons of people talking on the night. I predict we’ll see at least one ad deliver something unexpected meant to generate some buzz. 

They might not be great ‘traditional ads’ that entertain… but depending on the brand objectives they can be very successful in standing out and getting a conversation going.  

We’re already seeing that Coors Light will attempt to digitally insert fans into its ad during the Super Bowl. Will any other brands attempt the stunt? And will it be tied enough to what the brand needs to achieve to be valuable? 

5. Humor will be everywhere

Humor has long been used in Super Bowl ads to entertain audiences during the big game. 75% of ads in the Super Bowl last year relied on humor, and I expect more of it this year. We’re already seeing hints of it in the teasers, like Uber Eats’ teaser with David and Victoria Beckham where they recreate their viral documentary moment from last year, Mountain Dew’s teaser with Aubrey Plaza where she displays her signature deadpan delivery, and many more! 

PopCorners, T-Mobile and Google Pixel delivered on entertainment (and humor) particularly well last year, making people laugh three times more than an average ad.

This chart shows the amount of the laughter emotion elicited through each of the top 10 ads from 2023.

It’s a great thing to see this so prominent as humor has become less and less used in advertising in past years — yet we know it’s effective. It entertains people. It resonates and creates positive feelings. It grabs attention. I love the quote from GK Chesteron: 

Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.

GK Chesteron, writer and philosopher

6. Love and connection will (or maybe should?) be more present

Despite humor playing a big part in the Super Bowl, we found that love truly won at the Super Bowl last year. Many of the top 10 Super Bowl ads made consumers happy and elicited significantly more feelings of love — twice as much as an average ad and three times more than the previous year's Super Bowl ads, in fact!

Consumers found the ad by The Farmer’s Dog, which scored the highest on love, particularly relatable. It resonated so strongly with people that some even mentioned how it made them cry!

This chart shows the amount of the love emotion elicited through each of the top 10 ads from 2023.

And going back a few years, I personally loved this ad from Microsoft in 2019 promoting its adaptive controller that allows people with different physical disabilities to play video games with ease. As a mother, and indeed a mum to a child with disabilities, I found it a hugely powerful and emotive story. But I think it speaks to everyone by highlighting the joy of inclusivity.

We tend to think of Super Bowl ads as big spectacles that just get bigger and bigger every year to stand out, so last year’s shift to smaller stories that take people on an emotional journey was a bit of a surprise. But of course it makes a lot of sense: Making people feel something is a great way to be memorable. And when better to make people feel something than when friends, family and loved ones are together, feeling connection and joy in a rare shared moment these days in a fragmented world?

And it just goes to show that when the world is zigging, it’s time to zag! I predict we’ll see some ads use this approach this year, although maybe not as many as we should! So far, the Volkswagen teaser looks like it could be tapping into this feeling of love with a nostalgic angle.

7. A few brands will play into the Super Bowl without paying for a slot

We all know that a Super Bowl ad is a massive investment for a brand — not one a brand will take on lightly. Some brands decide to associate themselves with the event without advertising in it. We’ll surely see something like that this year. 

Last year Heinz leaned into the fact that “57” is a part of its brand and this was the 57th Super Bowl with an integrated campaign leading up to the game. The brand reminded us that “LVII” means 57, and that most of us aren’t great at reading roman numerals! Its digital ad on YouTube scored in the top 5% of our ad database.

We’re already seeing Miller Lite and Dawn set up experiences around the event. Which other brands will try to get in on the action this year? 

8. Movie trailers will continue to do well

We removed movie trailers from our analysis last year because we wanted to focus on brand ads, but if we had included them, three would have been in the top 10. 

This year we’ll surely see a few movie trailers during the big game, and they’ll get a lot of attention from audiences. Often those that do the best are trailers for long-running franchises we all recognize (last year it was Marvel, Indiana Jones, Scream, etc.) with a new story to tell. 

Advertising is all about telling a great story! And these movie trailers have a leg up on most brands because they have characters and settings audiences already know and love to capitalize on. 

Final thoughts

I can’t wait to see what brands deliver this year during the big game! There have been some great Super Bowl ads made over the years, but on average there is still a lot of opportunity to improve — specifically in the connection to the brand. 

Need more Super Bowl insights while we wait for the big game? Check out our recent discussion on how to make the most out your Super Bowl ads:

You can also read our analysis of last year’s top ads.

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