February 11, 2021 Four Columns Marketing

Super Bowl LV Commercial Recap: Why Nostalgia and Humor are the Best Tactics for 2021

Football season is here.  Concept of sports fan watching the football game on TV at home, at tailgate party, or sports bar with snacks and drinks.  TV remote, popcorn, football and soda, beer bottles.  championship game party.

Ah, the Super Bowl. This monumental meetup between football’s finest has kept fans and their families engaged and entertained since 1967 — though many don’t tune in for the game itself. 

Super Bowl commercials can be considered among the most elite spaces in advertising, costing up to $5.5 million for a 30-second spot due to a reach of over 100 million viewers each year. Companies that invest in Super Bowl advertising spots often choose to showcase their products and services through surreal humor, iconic celebrity cameos and inspirational stories that tug at your heartstrings or provide motivation to even the most seasoned couch potato. 

After the “lemon of a year” we’ve had, dubbed by Bud Light Seltzer’s “Last Year’s Lemons” ad, we could all benefit from a little nostalgia and comedic relief. By playing upon fond memories and inducing laughter, this year’s advertisers aimed to increase morale and target millennial buyers with a combined tactic of familiar faces, music and humor. This was notably the first year of a strong push toward millennials as having major leverage and buying power, therefore driving companies to return to what is familiar, comfortable and renowned through their advertisements. 

Of course, this Monday morning’s staff meeting had to begin with a heated discussion on which commercials deserved the highest honors. Here are the ones we all could agree on.

State Farm’s “Drake from State Farm”

This advertisement was a not-so-subtle nod to the original “Jake from State Farm” commercial, which aired in 2011 starring a real-life State Farm employee, Jake Stone, who scored the job at a casting call. Jake was eventually recast and replaced by Kevin Mimms in February 2020, who has become the true “Jake” mascot America knows and loves.

In this advertisement, football greats Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers discover their supposed stand-ins for the commercial, who bear no resemblance to either of them—Mahomes’ being actor, Paul Rudd. Jake then meets his supposed stand-in, world-famous songwriter and rapper, Drake. The commercial ends with Jake from State Farm and “Drake from State Farm” attempting to say the jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” at the same time, when Mimms’ character shuts the hit rapper down by saying, “Stand-ins don’t have lines.” 

How would you like to put Drake in his place?!

The familiar faces from the sporting world alongside Drake, who rose to stardom in 2001 with the Canadian teenage drama “Degrassi,” provide millennial audiences with the satisfaction of knowing and understanding the humorous relationship between the three celebrities who would share no common ground other than their chance meeting on the commercial.  

Paramount Plus’ “Sweet Victory”

Film company, Paramount Pictures, pocketed three 30-second ad segments for a total of one-and-a-half minutes of promoting the rebranding of CBS All Access to Paramount Plus, effective March 4. These commercials also feature a team of familiar faces from hit TV shows, movies and broadcast networks including Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart, Survivor’s Jeff Probst, CBS News anchor Gayle King and none other than Dora the Explorer. It symbolizes a reunion of sorts between fan-favorites, though the genre or intended audience of each show could not be more different.

This commercial appealed to all ages, which was quite possibly the most humorous aspect. It featured a juxtaposition of stars from both children’s and adult shows, such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Jersey Shore’s Snooki. Viewers may have experienced a sense of irony but also unity in understanding that Paramount Plus is fit for the whole family. 

Bud Light’s “Bud Light Legends”

Every year, Super Bowl audiences anticipate advertising greatness from Anheuser-Busch InBev. Though Budweiser took a break from its world renowned clydesdales and 37-year Super Bowl ad streak, Bud Light delivered by featuring 25 years worth of Bud Light stars. Since 1982, Bud Light has coined itself “The World’s Favorite Light Beer” and often promotes its product using outlandish characters and personalities. 

This commercial, in true Marvel Avengers-style heroics, brought back the “A-Team” of Bud Light personalities to save the day when a Bud Light truck finds itself in a bind. The cast included the Bud Knight, Post Malone, Cedric the Entertainer and the band Survivor’s lead singer, David Bickler, who made his first appearance in the “Real Men of Genius” campaign in the late 1990s. 

Bud Light sought to reflect on the legacy of previous characters in the beer brand’s advertising history that only millennials and older would fully understand. Despite the effort to also appeal to a younger audience by featuring Post Malone and a nod toward Marvel, the majority of characters might’ve been too old and narrow in the sense that Gen Z viewers probably wouldn’t catch on to the complex brand history.

Cheetos – “It Wasn’t Me”

Last, but certainly not least, was Cheetos’ delightful rendition of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”, starring That 70’s Show co stars turned spouses, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. The beloved snack brand checked all the boxes for millennial viewers by bringing back a catchy and familiar tune and two relevant childhood celebrities. 

Kunis and Kutcher first stole our hearts in 1998 with their on-screen romance as teenagers, Jackie and Kelso. After That 70’s Show and over a decade of “real life”, the stars reconnected and married in 2015. Millennial fans likely fell victim to the nostalgia of seeing familiar faces who were foundational to their own teenage years through Cheetos’ creative musical presentation of the snack’s addictive nature. Talk about a fairytale ending.

After the trials and tribulations of 2020, advertising teams clearly sought to not only humor, but remind consumers of the familiar comforts found in their respective brands. The noteworthy amount of familiar faces, reflection upon brand history and celebrity cameos gave viewers permission to reminisce and be reminded that though so much has changed in our world in the matter of a year, you can find consistency and relief through enjoying the products or services they have to offer.

Although our team enjoyed these clever advertising spots live on Super Bowl Sunday, we also gathered additional information from both CNBC and an UPROXX article

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