A Deep Dive Into This Year’s Super Bowl Commercials

By Matter

Well, that stung. For a Patriots fan out of water living on the West Coast, Super Bowl LII was an emotional rollercoaster, culminating in championship derailment. Witnessing my hometown New England Patriots come within inches of a sixth league title was a natural cap on the well to my young, albeit fruitful, tenure as a Boston sports fan. But, I’m over it. I swear. Now on to the topic that really mattered on Sunday: The Commercials.


Before diving into the analysis of the 72 spots by 27 advertisers, some interesting trends to highlight:


  • Cost / Running Time: Ads ran 30 seconds on average for a cool $5 million per spot — the highest ever. That means the big wigs at NBC, who hosted the big dance this year, ate up more than $50 million worth of Super Bowl spotlight for their five, minute-long Olympic previews. Ouch.
  • Hashtags: A dying breed? They certainly appear to be in Super Bowl advertising. A measly 6 percent of all spots used hashtags — a plummeting drop from the peak of 57 percent in 2014. Doritos and Mountain Dew took the hashtag charge, though, incorporating them throughout their joint ad. #WorthIt?
  • Call-backs: A big storyline in this year’s batch of ads was exactly that — the storyline. Advertisers used the copious in-game timeouts to their advantage, connecting multiple spots at different points of the game to create larger narratives. Tide took the reins in this department, with the four installations of its on-the-nose “It’s a Tide Ad” campaign. Tide won the day, with its mockery of the advertising form, by sending up other successful advertisers such as Mr. Clean and Old Spice.




  • Live Ads: There was a big, yet risky, push this year for commercials shot close to game time. Once again, Hyundai was successful in incorporating a live ad into the mix with “Hope Detector”, and playing a trick on some unaware Super Bowl patrons. Expect to see more of this in the future as advertisers devise creative ways to integrate their brand into an event.



Beyond the major advertising trends in this year’s Super Bowl, here are some nuggets of observations about the 72 ads.


  • A whopping 83 percent of ads were related to the product or service of the brand. This means that a major portion of the ad was dedicated to what the company was selling, rather than a completely unrelated narrative followed by the company’s tagline at the outset. Of note, Dodge caught serious flak for its “Built to Serve” spot, sampling a Martin Luther King Jr. sermon and connecting the messaging to … buying trucks. Questionable title, questionable content.




  • 57 percent of the ads used humor to reach viewers, compared to 40 percent being serious or dramatic — an even distribution considering Super Bowl advertising’s reputation of doling out gut-busters like (typical) Tom Brady spirals.
  • 26 percent of ads we uplifting or inspirational. Advertisers like NBC fired up the Olympic engines with spots like “Good Odds”, while Toyota offered its “Mobility Anthem” to send an inspiring message to all types of movers.




  • Just 7 percent of ads used political or activist themes this year, a lull compared to last year’s Super Bowl, which was filled with political buzz. Matt Damon spoke for Stella Artois again this year, ending with a compelling call-to-action.



Super Bowl LII thrilled viewers: the game was high-stakes, and advertisers, well, tried their best. While the New England Patriots ultimately met their demise, they gave us plenty of things to look forward to for their inevitable return to next year’s Super Bowl showdown.


In preparation for this post, a brief content analysis was performed on the 72 spots from 27 advertisers, courtesy of the archives on SuperBowl-Ads.com. Ads were catalogued based on the company that released them, their names, how long they ran, and finally a list of stylistic themes in a “check all that apply” format.