The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year for brands and advertisers, with a reported $6.5 million spent for each 30-second time slot during the game. Viewership for the Super Bowl typically surpasses 100 million, making the game a huge opportunity to attract new customers and establish a brand’s image. This year’s event featured familiar brands like Budweiser and BMW, as well as a new crop of advertisers, including a wave of crypto and tech-centric companies. The best ads of the night were able to bolster their brand reputation with consumers while also flexing their creative muscles and delivering a moment of entertainment. This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads was heavy on humor, celebrity, and nostalgia, with a few more serious ads in the mix. Here’s five things we learned from these commercials and what that means for the future of advertising. #1 Coinbase Scores Big ICYMI, Coinbase broke the internet on Super Bowl Sunday. With more than 20 million page visits in one minute, the 60-second crypto ad featuring a bouncing QR code was scanned so much that it caused the site to crash. Shortly after, “Coinbase” was trending with over 8,400 tweets. While QR codes seemed near-extinct pre-pandemic, the need for contactless and touchless information brought QR codes back to life in the form of restaurant menus, plane tickets, and more. Since iOS and Android updated their smartphone cameras to include QR readers, QR codes have become even easier for consumers to scan and use. According to Statista, 11 million households scanned a QR code in 2020 – up 12% from 2018. The rise in popularity of QR codes in practical uses has led to marketers using them for promotional purposes. From coupons, to print ads, and now even TV ads, marketers are taking advantage of the pandemic-driven trend – and it’s working. In June 2021, Statista found that 45 percent of U.S. shoppers used a marketing-related QR code. QR codes are particularly popular among young audiences with 24% of Millenials and 18% of Gen Xers preferring to scan a QR code to redeem an offer. This played well for Coinbase’s target audience. The power of QR codes, the reach of a Super Bowl ad, and a promotion for $15 in crypto resulted in: 20,000,000 website visitsMore than 8,400 Twitter mentions675 web mentionsA 98% jump in App Store charts (second behind Peacock) While it’s clear Coinbase’s campaign was a hit, crypto dominated the Big Game ad space. For more crypto campaigns, check out E*Trade and FTX’s Super Bowl ads.  #2 Celebrities Are Not Always the MVP The commercial breaks during the Super Bowl usually boast more A-list celebrities than the Oscars red carpet. On top of shelling out upwards of $7 million to secure 30 seconds of air time, brands invest a lot of money to secure big-name stars. This year’s roster included everyone from Zendaya and Anna Kendrick to Matthew McConaughey and Jim Carrey. But the star power of these celebrities isn’t enough to guarantee a commercial that resonates with audiences. Uber Eats had the makings of a stand-out, star-studded spectacular with Trevor Noah, Gwenyth Paltrow, Nicholas Braun, and Jennifer Coolidge all appearing in the commercial. The celebs took turns taking bites of inedible objects like candles and pencils, attempting to highlight the company’s ability to deliver more than just food. People across social media panned the ad, commenting on its similarity to the infamous Tide Pod challenge — ​​even the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission responded to the ad on their Twitter. While Uber Eats wasn’t the only brand to fumble their celebrity cameos this year — looking at you, FTX and T-Mobile — its commercial proves that celebrities can’t save a bad or confusing concept. Looking for some commercials that made the most of their celebrity investments? Check out Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost in Amazon’s commercial or Lindsay Lohan in Planet Fitness’ spot. #3 Escaping the Real World There’s a lot going on in the world right now. On top of the ongoing global pandemic, Super Bowl audiences continue to be confronted by headlines about climate change, racial justice, and economic woes every day. But, for the most part, companies decided to forego acknowledging these issues, instead leaning into humor, nostalgia, and special effects. Even the barrage of electric vehicle commercials tended towards the comedic end of the spectrum. For example, BMW touted their all new electric car in a stylish spot featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek as Zeus and Hera, Meanwhile, Chevy tapped into Sopranos nostalgia with a commercial starring Jamie-Lynn Sigler. While these spots certainly garnered smiles and laughs, they chose to avoid focusing on the environmental concerns that have helped drive widespread awareness and adoption of electric vehicles. As brands continue to balance entertainment and corporate social responsibility, marketing products in the context of the real world will undoubtedly be a challenge as consumer expectations continue to shift. Some brands tackled real-world issues head-on, though. In perhaps one of the most touching commercials of the night, Google’s Pixel 6 ad highlighted the device’s Real Tone software, promising to capture Black skin tones better. In a sea filled with attempted nods to diversity, the ad stood out as a poignant reminder of the challenges we must still overcome. #4 TikTok, Changing The Game? It’s no secret that consumers today are online more than ever before. And brands know this. The people behind the glitzy commercials know a large number of people tuned into the game are likely to only be paying half-attention to what is on the TV as they swipe through their phones. After it’s meteoric rise in popularity over the past two years, TikTok made a splash during the Big Game in a multitude of ways. The success of TikTok creators like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae have made the app’s most popular users just as valuable as an Oscar winner for brands looking to connect with younger audiences. That’s why brands like Instacart tapped TikTok creators to star in the Super Bowl campaigns, hoping to attract the attention of their millions of followers. Other brands used TikTok as an extension of their commercials, urging viewers to take to social media and engage with the brand before and after their 30-second spot. Doritos, Taco Bell, and Pringles all created TikTok-specific activations that encouraged viewers to use branded filters, participate in dance challenges, or, in the case of Lays, sing a duet of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.” Some brands even put all of their Super Bowl spend into TikTok, foregoing a pricey TV spot altogether. State Farm invited TikTok users to participate in the #TeamStateFarm challenge by following the brand on TikTok and submitting a duet with its mascot. During the Super Bowl, State Farm pinned the three most-popular duet videos to the top of their TikTok page and asked viewers to vote for their favorite, with the winner being given a role in an upcoming commercial. All three of these tactics go to show that brands have to consider a cross-channel approach to their gameday advertising if they want to reach the growing Millennial and Gen Z consumer base. TikTok is no longer just a platform for dancing, it’s a powerful tool brands can use to make lasting impressions with their buyers. #5 Beyond the Big Game More than 1 in 4 U.S. households watched the Super Bowl this year, a 12% increase from last year’s game. Running a commercial during the most watched event in the U.S. gives advertisers massive reach but at a costly price. As marketers, how do we extend the lifespan of a campaign beyond this 30-second window to drive sales and increase ROAS? Frito Lays took an unusual approach to their traditional Doritos commercial by introducing a new flavor, Flaming Hot Cool Ranch, as well as pairing the new flavor with Flaming Hot Cheetos in this 60-second commercial. Combining humor, celebrities, and music, Frito Lays is appealing to a younger audience by promoting these two products together. The CPG conglomerate found that 46% of Gen Z love flaming hot flavors. To draw this audience segment in, they partnered with musicians Megan Thee Stallion and Charlie Puth, both well known for their popularity with this demographic. Leading up to the Super Bowl, Frito Lays dropped bread crumbs with two teaser commercials one featuring each super star. Megan, who has openly shared her love for Flaming Hot Cheetos on TikTok, dropped a single on February 4, Flamin’ Hottie, which featured lyrics like “I’m all that and a bag of flaming hot chips”. While just their voices were used in the final commercial, the two celebrities promoted Doritos and Cheetos on their social media shortly after the commercial, amplifying the campaign’s reach and engagement. While the Super Bowl is just one night of the year and not every business can afford a $7 million ad, we can still take what we learned from this year’s commercials to create campaigns that are memorable, innovative, and inspire action.

Research & Strategy

5 Things We Learned from this Year's Super Bowl Commercials

Chris Bailey & Megan Mertes
February 15, 2022

Featured Blog Featured Image

The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year for brands and advertisers, with a reported $6.5 million spent for each 30-second time slot during the game. Viewership for the Super Bowl typically surpasses 100 million, making the game a huge opportunity to attract new customers and establish a brand’s image.

This year’s event featured familiar brands like Budweiser and BMW, as well as a new crop of advertisers, including a wave of crypto and tech-centric companies. The best ads of the night were able to bolster their brand reputation with consumers while also flexing their creative muscles and delivering a moment of entertainment.

This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads was heavy on humor, celebrity, and nostalgia, with a few more serious ads in the mix. Here’s five things we learned from these commercials and what that means for the future of advertising.


#1 Coinbase Scores Big

ICYMI, Coinbase broke the internet on Super Bowl Sunday. With more than 20 million page visits in one minute, the 60-second crypto ad featuring a bouncing QR code was scanned so much that it caused the site to crash. Shortly after, “Coinbase” was trending with over 8,400 tweets.

While QR codes seemed near-extinct pre-pandemic, the need for contactless and touchless information brought QR codes back to life in the form of restaurant menus, plane tickets, and more. Since iOS and Android updated their smartphone cameras to include QR readers, QR codes have become even easier for consumers to scan and use. According to Statista, 11 million households scanned a QR code in 2020 – up 12% from 2018.

The rise in popularity of QR codes in practical uses has led to marketers using them for promotional purposes. From coupons, to print ads, and now even TV ads, marketers are taking advantage of the pandemic-driven trend – and it’s working. In June 2021, Statista found that 45 percent of U.S. shoppers used a marketing-related QR code. QR codes are particularly popular among young audiences with 24% of Millenials and 18% of Gen Xers preferring to scan a QR code to redeem an offer. This played well for Coinbase’s target audience.

The power of QR codes, the reach of a Super Bowl ad, and a promotion for $15 in crypto resulted in:

While it’s clear Coinbase’s campaign was a hit, crypto dominated the Big Game ad space. For more crypto campaigns, check out E*Trade and FTX’s Super Bowl ads. 


#2 Celebrities Are Not Always the MVP

The commercial breaks during the Super Bowl usually boast more A-list celebrities than the Oscars red carpet. On top of shelling out upwards of $7 million to secure 30 seconds of air time, brands invest a lot of money to secure big-name stars. This year’s roster included everyone from Zendaya and Anna Kendrick to Matthew McConaughey and Jim Carrey.

But the star power of these celebrities isn’t enough to guarantee a commercial that resonates with audiences. Uber Eats had the makings of a stand-out, star-studded spectacular with Trevor Noah, Gwenyth Paltrow, Nicholas Braun, and Jennifer Coolidge all appearing in the commercial. The celebs took turns taking bites of inedible objects like candles and pencils, attempting to highlight the company’s ability to deliver more than just food.

People across social media panned the ad, commenting on its similarity to the infamous Tide Pod challenge — ​​even the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission responded to the ad on their Twitter. While Uber Eats wasn’t the only brand to fumble their celebrity cameos this year — looking at you, FTX and T-Mobile — its commercial proves that celebrities can’t save a bad or confusing concept.

Looking for some commercials that made the most of their celebrity investments? Check out Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost in Amazon’s commercial or Lindsay Lohan in Planet Fitness’ spot.


#3 Escaping the Real World

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. On top of the ongoing global pandemic, Super Bowl audiences continue to be confronted by headlines about climate change, racial justice, and economic woes every day. But, for the most part, companies decided to forego acknowledging these issues, instead leaning into humor, nostalgia, and special effects.

Even the barrage of electric vehicle commercials tended towards the comedic end of the spectrum. For example, BMW touted their all new electric car in a stylish spot featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek as Zeus and Hera, Meanwhile, Chevy tapped into Sopranos nostalgia with a commercial starring Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

While these spots certainly garnered smiles and laughs, they chose to avoid focusing on the environmental concerns that have helped drive widespread awareness and adoption of electric vehicles. As brands continue to balance entertainment and corporate social responsibility, marketing products in the context of the real world will undoubtedly be a challenge as consumer expectations continue to shift.

Some brands tackled real-world issues head-on, though. In perhaps one of the most touching commercials of the night, Google’s Pixel 6 ad highlighted the device’s Real Tone software, promising to capture Black skin tones better. In a sea filled with attempted nods to diversity, the ad stood out as a poignant reminder of the challenges we must still overcome.


#4 TikTok, Changing The Game?

It’s no secret that consumers today are online more than ever before. And brands know this. The people behind the glitzy commercials know a large number of people tuned into the game are likely to only be paying half-attention to what is on the TV as they swipe through their phones.

After it’s meteoric rise in popularity over the past two years, TikTok made a splash during the Big Game in a multitude of ways. The success of TikTok creators like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae have made the app’s most popular users just as valuable as an Oscar winner for brands looking to connect with younger audiences. That’s why brands like Instacart tapped TikTok creators to star in the Super Bowl campaigns, hoping to attract the attention of their millions of followers.

Other brands used TikTok as an extension of their commercials, urging viewers to take to social media and engage with the brand before and after their 30-second spot. Doritos, Taco Bell, and Pringles all created TikTok-specific activations that encouraged viewers to use branded filters, participate in dance challenges, or, in the case of Lays, sing a duet of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.”

Some brands even put all of their Super Bowl spend into TikTok, foregoing a pricey TV spot altogether. State Farm invited TikTok users to participate in the #TeamStateFarm challenge by following the brand on TikTok and submitting a duet with its mascot. During the Super Bowl, State Farm pinned the three most-popular duet videos to the top of their TikTok page and asked viewers to vote for their favorite, with the winner being given a role in an upcoming commercial.

All three of these tactics go to show that brands have to consider a cross-channel approach to their gameday advertising if they want to reach the growing Millennial and Gen Z consumer base. TikTok is no longer just a platform for dancing, it’s a powerful tool brands can use to make lasting impressions with their buyers.


#5 Beyond the Big Game

More than 1 in 4 U.S. households watched the Super Bowl this year, a 12% increase from last year’s game. Running a commercial during the most watched event in the U.S. gives advertisers massive reach but at a costly price. As marketers, how do we extend the lifespan of a campaign beyond this 30-second window to drive sales and increase ROAS?

Frito Lays took an unusual approach to their traditional Doritos commercial by introducing a new flavor, Flaming Hot Cool Ranch, as well as pairing the new flavor with Flaming Hot Cheetos in this 60-second commercial.

Combining humor, celebrities, and music, Frito Lays is appealing to a younger audience by promoting these two products together. The CPG conglomerate found that 46% of Gen Z love flaming hot flavors. To draw this audience segment in, they partnered with musicians Megan Thee Stallion and Charlie Puth, both well known for their popularity with this demographic.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Frito Lays dropped bread crumbs with two teaser commercials one featuring each super star. Megan, who has openly shared her love for Flaming Hot Cheetos on TikTok, dropped a single on February 4, Flamin’ Hottie, which featured lyrics like “I’m all that and a bag of flaming hot chips”. While just their voices were used in the final commercial, the two celebrities promoted Doritos and Cheetos on their social media shortly after the commercial, amplifying the campaign’s reach and engagement.

While the Super Bowl is just one night of the year and not every business can afford a $7 million ad, we can still take what we learned from this year’s commercials to create campaigns that are memorable, innovative, and inspire action.