The most buzzed about ads and social media moments from the big game in 2023 (FT: Deep listening)

Michael Nuñez

Advertisements of the big game are some of the most precious and expensive time slots you can buy in American broadcasting. This year, the average price of a thirty-second ad on the Fox broadcast was around $6.5 million USD. And for many brands, the buzz and attention they get are worth it!

Putting an ad in front of the most watched live football game of the year is crucial for many brands to get in front of a large audience and raise brand awareness. Let’s also not forget that today, the social media buzz around these ad campaigns that preface and follow are equally, if not more, important. How much people talk about ads before and after they see them in-between game moments, indicates how viral a campaign was.

This year, the trend with brands seemed to be capitalizing on the popularity of the celebrity and the reemergence of beloved TV and movie characters to achieve that next level of buzz and awareness. So what were some of the most popular and successful of 2023?

We used listening tools to monitor the chatter on social media. Here are our top findings and what you can learn for your own social media campaigns.

1. The return of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad

What Happened: The return of two iconic characters from the widely loved television show Breaking Bad had millions of people on the edge of their seats, waiting to find out what happens next. Since the show’s finale, fans have not been able to get enough of it, with a movie sequel, El Camino, and prequel series, Better Call Saul. The PepsiCo brand, PopCorners, used that popularity to its advantage by employing the actors once again to reprise their roles in a new commercial.

Why We Love It: Choosing the right star power can create a huge buzz around an ad campaign. Since the show has such a big following and fanbase, many were thrilled to see these characters come alive again, even if for a simple snack commercial. 

Takeaways: If you’re going to use star power, choose a recognizable product or place your product clearly at the centerpiece. In other words, make sure you do not have celebrities in your campaign for the sake of having them. You have to be smart about how you attach your product to a larger existing narrative to really drive home that higher level of awareness and activate a loyal fanbase.

2. early release commercial

What Happened: posted their ad featuring Melissa McCarthy early, a strategy that reaped big results for them. The ad accrued 19 million views in one day and more than 100 million after the big game. People loved it! In a culture where people are always looking for spoilers before the release date, this was the perfect way for to take advantage and get ahead of the curve. By releasing the ad early, captured the attention of all the people excited to see what was coming before the game aired.

Why We Love It: Releasing a commercial early creates a social media buzz around what’s to come. Releasing the full ad creates more chatter about what people saw just before millions more will see it on game day. Here, it turned out to be a smart move by to show their ad in advance and generate ad conversation prior to a huge advertising event.

Takeaways: This is a major trend alert! Using teasers or posting the full ad before it’s scheduled for broadcast can be a good move for some brands. Some people might see the game, and others don’t want to wait for the ads on Sunday, so by releasing the ad early, this gets social media buzzing about a campaign and getting others talking about it before it officially takes off. Some may say it's overly eager, but the numbers say it’s brilliant.

3. Alicia Silverstone brings back the 90s

What Happened: Yet another reprisal of a beloved character, Alicia Silverstone returned to her iconic role as Cher from Clueless for the shopping discount company Rakuten. Fans of the 90s film rejoiced as they also saw Elisa Donavan make a comeback as Amber. It was a brilliant move on the part of Rakuten to touch on people’s nostalgia for a beloved movie that harkens back to a much-loved era.

Why We Love It: The nostalgia tactic is a great way to help people connect the feelings they once had for a beloved toy, show, or character with a new product. As it happens, the 1990s are at the moment a very trendy decade (even the younger Gen Z have developed an obsession with fashion from this decade), and Rakuten chose the perfect character to bring back for their advertisement. Since Cher was a “shopaholic,” this marries well with the premise of the film and hits their targeted demographic. 

Takeaways: The day after the game, this was the #1 talked about ad, according to listening tools; the tweet about the ad had the most retweets of any ad this morning and our highest trending single tweet. Casting a beloved shopping-obsessed character for a shopping company fits perfectly. Similar to the Breaking Bad PopCorners ad, it’s key to make sure the campaign for your business or product fits into the larger storyline.

1. The Flash movie

Entertainment companies were having a moment during the big game this year with some standout trailers. DC finally put out a trailer for the much-talked-about film centered around the Flash, and fans are loving it! It’s set to be the final movie of the ‘Snyderverse’ (a.k.a. DC movie by famed director Zack Snyder) and one of the year's most anticipated films.

2. Rihanna’s halftime performance

Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show was a highlight in itself. She debuted her pregnant belly, which generated all kinds of online buzz, and performed a catalog of her hit songs. It was a long-awaited performance after having taken a long hiatus from public performances. The performance even generated sales for her own business, accruing $5.6 million in media impact value in the first 12 hours for Fenty Beauty.

3. Ben Affleck’s Dunkin’ Donuts ad

Ben Affleck surprised customers, audiences, and even his wife, J-Lo, by working at a Dunkin’ Donuts. The fun commercial had the movie star taking and serving orders and asking people if they recognized him (spoiler: some didn’t). We can’t help but feel that the rise in Ben Affleck memes in recent years played a role in the success and buzz around this commercial.

Interested in learning how we can help you keep your finger on the pulse on what’s trending and learn how to track and apply these trends to your own organization? Ask us about deep listening today!

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