Brand Bowl Outshines Super Bowl: The Winners and Losers

The following is inspired thinking from Future Buzz community member Kathryn Kilner.

While it was pretty clear from the first half which team was going to win the Super Bowl, the Brand Bowl carried much more excitement as ads vied for attention with the typical over-the-top drama. While it remains to be seen who gets the biggest return on the 4 million dollar investment, here are my thoughts on the winners and losers of the Brand Bowl from a branding and messaging perspective.


Bud Light

Bud Light completely wins with this excellent campaign of interwoven ridiculous stories that get us to think anything is possible when we drink Bud Light. They released several disparate preview videos (Arnold Schwarzenegger playing ping pong, Don Cheadle waiting for the elevator with a llama in a hotel) that made no sense at all and they all come together in this 3:44 spot featuring one guy’s crazy night out when he says yes to a pretty girl asking, “If I give you this [Bud Light] are you up for whatever happens next?” They have a clear message, “Up for Whatever,” which is conversational, relatable and aligns well with drinking beer. They also welcome people to think this could happen to them by starring a non-actor. You never know, this could happen to you. Brilliant!


Helping small business is something people can get behind and it’s great to see Intuit really delivering on their message that they help small businesses. They take it a step further by helping a small business join the big leagues with a Super Bowl commercial–something only large corporations can usually afford. Kicked off last July, the competition among small businesses for a Super Bowl commercial was a great way to generate buzz well beyond a single commercial. I’ve seen posts in my Facebook feed for months about voting for the best small business to have a shot at getting their brand in front of 100 million viewers. I could not be more excited that GoldieBlox won. I love their mission to encourage young girls to tinker and develop an interest in engineering. The teaser commercial was cute and raw and good with a band of girls running to the theme from 2001 Space Odyssey. I want to watch it again. The commercial that aired during the Super Bowl was cute too. Yay!


Pepsi has done a good job of connecting their brand with the halftime show through two spots. Their retro look at the first halftime break communicates that Pepsi has been all about making halftime great from the beginning and their ad planned to air right before the halftime show is a creative gem. Turning New York City into musical instruments and technology, it’s beautiful, exciting, and whimsical. It connects Pepsi with the excitement of the halftime show and effectively builds anticipation for one of the most anticipated moments of any Super Bowl and on top of that Pepsi generated an absurd number of social media posts. Well done!

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Heinz connects happiness with ketchup in this spot showing people coming together and eating food made better with ketchup. Their product gets featured over and over again as the sound made from pounding the bottom of a glass ketchup bottle to get ketchup out is used to fill in part of the song, “If you’re happy and you know it…” It even includes a fart joke with a fart sound coming out of a plastic Heinz bottle as a nice old grandma squeezes it—something I’m pretty sure has happened to everyone at least once. This isn’t the most memorable spot, but it has a clear message that is relatable and puts their product at the center of people coming together. Their marketing team should feel good about this one.


Chobani sends a clear message that their yogurt is crazy desirable with a bear ransacking a general store to obtain Chobani yogurt. The ad also delivers a subtler message that this yogurt is worth paying for as even a bear brings Chobani up to the register to pay for it. The visual at the end of everything in the store being a mess of garbage and the Chobani yogurt looking pristine on the shelf works well for the punch line of what goes into your food matters. Chobani has a lot of airtime coming up in the next month with their sponsorship of the Olympics. It’s great to see them off to a good start.



WTF. Lady Gaga’s Holiday Spectacular with the Muppets was weird enough.

Beats Music

This ad delivers a marginally clever spoof on the story of Goldilocks we all know, but, seriously, what is up with this costuming and set design. Ellen is ridiculously likeable and I love that she dances in this commercial, but it’s just overall strange. Clever co-branding for AT&T, but I don’t have AT&T and wouldn’t switch for Beats Music…


This ad is all wrong. Kia is known for offering affordable cars, not luxury cars. They can stand for high quality, but luxury? Saying a Kia is more luxurious than luxury a car doesn’t ring true. They would have done better if they had just shown how luxurious a Kia can be and not made the comparison to high-end cars. And seriously, the Matrix is so 1999.


The Doberhuahua was a decent gimmick that was pretty funny, but didn’t tie well to the Audi brand. It’s like the ad agency came up with a Super Bowl ad story and then found a brand to pay for it.


The message that the Ford Fusion has nearly double the fuel economy of the average vehicle came across loud and clear, but I’d be surprised if the double cost of the ad was worth it. It just felt too long.


Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale wins for generating buzz with their ad about not making a Super Bowl commercial released a week or so before game day when people are actually making purchasing decision. The best part of the ad is the bleeps over every time Anna Kendrick says, “Super Bowl,” as she complains about not getting to make a Super Bowl ad. This ad is definitely a winner in terms of cost-benefit ratio.


The ad for Butterfinger’s new candy featuring Butterfinger joining peanut butter and chocolate in couples therapy is ridiculous, but has a clever hashtag: #CupTherapy. I found the ad mediocre without the hashtag. What a strange world we live in.


It’s about time GoDaddy exploited the male figure instead of the female one. I’m surprised they haven’t done this sooner. And, they managed to tie it to the their product! Wow, GoDaddy is growing up.


Tide inserted themselves into the Brand Bowl with timely responses to the commercials as they aired and their repeated message of Tide getting stains out.


Esurance wins for the best first commercial after the Super Bowl with the promise of giving the $1.5 million they saved from not airing it during the Super Bowl. Clever.

Which ads do you think work best? And better yet, which ads do you remember the day after?

Kathryn is the director of corporate marketing at BrightTalk, where she specializes in developing engaging brand experiences and helping companies produce compelling videos and webinar that build their audience and grow their revenue. She can be found tweeting on marketing topics at @KKilner and blogging on the BrightTalk Blog.