By Thomas URBAIN with Alex PIGMAN in Washington
The Super Bowl is here and that means millions of Americans will sit down on Sunday to partake in a national passion: watching commercials on TV.
The final of the NFL season — pitting the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers — is the US advertising industry’s biggest event of the year.
Companies will shell out an average of $7 million for 30 seconds in front of an audience that reached 115 million in 2023.
This year, big brands have the sizeable challenge of competing for buzz with megastar Taylor Swift — she will jet in from a concert performance in Tokyo to see her boyfriend play.
Her romance with Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce is expected to boost viewership to record levels, with teens and tweens grabbing a seat on the family sofa to see their hero cheer for her man from a luxury box.
Advertisers pay crazy money because the Super Bowl is one of the rare times when a politically divided and culturally fragmented nation gathers in front of one show.
“There’s no other medium where you can get more than 100 million viewers that are watching at the same time,” said Charles Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova University.
“This is like the old days when an advertiser can reach most of America with an ad campaign. Today, we’ve just got no other venue to do that,” he added.
– Celebs galore –
Ad agencies are taking pains to avoid sparking a culture war that could catch brands in the crossfire.
Bud Light found itself the subject of a right-wing boycott last year after it teamed up with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney on social media.
Playing it safe in Super Bowl ads usually means middle-of-the-road celebrities being funny (or at least giving it an honest try) and this year’s offerings are chock filled with stars flogging brands in gag-filled ads.
A spot for Uber Eats is jam packed with “Friends” stars Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer, as well as British super couple David and Victoria Beckham.
Lionel Messi, now with the Inter Miami football club, is the star of a Michelob Lite ad that also sneaks in NFL legend Dan Marino and “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis.
Bruised from last year’s controversy, Bud Light’s spot mostly takes place in the predictable confines of a sports bar. Celebrity appearances include tattooed rapper Post Malone, who will sing “America the Beautiful” at Sunday’s game.
Also not taking any chances is an ad for Budweiser that features the brand’s iconic Clydesdale horses delivering kegs of beer in a snow storm.
As typical, ads will feature other items that viewers want in their reach during a three-hour game.
For Pringles, a mustachioed “Guardian of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt stars as a man who resembles the potato chip company’s mascot.
“Wednesday” star Jenna Ortega is on hand to plug extra spicy Doritos in a spot that has her outwitting two grand-mothers.
– ‘Wonderful’ –
The Taylor Swift effect is impacting ads on offer, with women-focused products playing a bigger role.
NYX Professional makeup said it will “tackle the traditionally male-dominated football industry” in a spot featuring Cardi B.
Soap brand Dove is showing an ad that spotlights how poor self-image can drive girls to drop out of sports.
Big tech will make a showing too, with artificial intelligence not quite standing in for crypto currency, which in recent years used the Super Bowl to plug companies that later collapsed.
Microsoft will push its newly relaunched Copilot chatbot, while Google goes for the heartstrings in an ad that showcases its Pixel phone doing marvels for the blind.
For Derek Rucker, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, Sunday’s audience will remain faithful to watching commercials even with the Swift circus.
The pop star is “wonderful” but “when it’s commercial time… people want to, and will, watch and discuss the commercials,” he told AFP.