The Kansas City Chiefs seized a dramatic overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers as Super Bowl LVIII and its whirlwind of brand and celebrity activity concluded last night. The game proved to be record-breaking, clocking in at the longest-ever Super Bowl and featuring first a record-breaking field goal by 49ers kicker Jake Moody, and then an even longer one as Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker broke that very same record later in the game.
Cameras lingered on Taylor Swift sparingly throughout the game given how thoroughly she has dominated NFL-centric headlines — and even some conspiracy theories — for the past few weeks. Her presence still loomed large, however, as she continued to make news, and both Swifties and official Super Bowl trackers documented her every move at the game. Those conspiracy theories, meanwhile, are likely to rage on given her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s prominence in the game, both for his performance on the field and his bombastic (even aggressive) meme-worthy behavior.
Beyond Taylor and Travis, these were the potential PR moments we had our eye on at the Big Game. Do you think they stood out?
Brand blandness, brilliance and bashing
What ought to have been a bonanza on the advertising front given the $7 million price tag fell somewhat flat for Big Game regulars, as celebrities were packed into ads without the messaging or cleverness to make the spots memorable. In a bid to recover from its difficult PR year in 2023, Bud Light abandoned much of its boldness and humor in favor of a star-stuffed, incoherent mishmash. Despite its alignment with an authentically mustachioed Chris Pratt, Pringles’ Big Game ad also induced yawns.
A great deal of safety permeated brand strategy, with advertisers leaning on recognizable mascots such as E*Trades pickleball-playing babies and firmly-cemented stars such as Christopher Walken, whose distinctive voice was parodied in BMW’s ad (Will anyone remember that it was a BMW ad?), and Anthony Hopkins (though that regional ad for STōK Cold Brew and Wrexham AFC wasn’t bad thanks to Maximum Effort’s involvement).
First-time advertisers captured major social media admiration: E.l.f. Cosmetics’ first Super Bowl ad featured Judge Judy as “Judge Beauty” and balanced nostalgia with a fresh feel and positive message, while Etsy told a charming tale of historical international gifting.
Skincare brand CeraVe’s lengthy and involved prank, which positioned the aptly named Michael Cera as its apparent founder, managed to score major buzz through strange public stunts and an influencer campaign.
And interactivity was a plus: Doordash’s ridiculously long promo code, for instance, sent viewers scurrying to score in its big delivery activation.
A couple of advertisers earned negative attention: With a series of four ads featuring the tagline “shop like a billionaire” and related giveaways, fast-fashion outlet Temu generated quite a bit of chatter — plenty of it negative and pertaining to its business and manufacturing track record. Snapchat paying $7 million to play a “not like other girls” card in the social media toxicity arms race shortly after it laid off 10% of its staff was certainly a choice.
Music magic: Beyoncé beats the halftime show
Although it would be inaccurate to say that the 2024 Halftime Show, er, ushered in a new era for the annual performance, Usher, Alicia Keys and guest stars including H.E.R., Lil Jon, Ludacris, Will.I.am and Jermaine Dupri didn’t reinvent the wheel as they took the stage. It was only near the end when everyone donned shimmery getups and roller skates that the show dazzled, followed by a performance of “Yeah!” that managed to lift the energy in an attempt at nostalgia that otherwise fell flat.
The music moment of the night was Beyoncé’s announcement that she’ll be releasing a country album — news which followed Verizon’s ad that centered around the star and teased the new tunes.
Social media moments: Duo and Dark Brandon
Everyone’s favorite persistent green owl made a regional appearance at the Super Bowl — though even in markets where it aired, you may have missed the Duolingo ad if you were looking down at your game snacks. In the surreal 5-second ad, the owl, named Duo, birthed a smaller version of himself from his backside as a reminder to do your daily language lesson.
— Duolingo (@duolingo) February 12, 2024
Unbeknownst to those watching at the time, the brand also made a longer, weirder teaser that ran on social media earlier that day.
The other surreal, social media-centric moment of the night fell at the conclusion of the game, when Joe Biden’s official account posted an image of the president styled “Dark Brandon,” a parody of right-wing conspiracy memes, poking fun at the notion that the Super Bowl was rigged.
Just like we drew it up. pic.twitter.com/9NBvc5nVZE
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 12, 2024
On a less controversial note, fans seemed to have fun watching Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob-driven coverage of the game on Paramount+, with characters from the TV show providing highlights and sideline coverage.
Nickelodeon’s broadcast 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/N752ALKCR5
— Chase Daniel (@ChaseDaniel) February 12, 2024
Whether you came for the game or the ads, this year’s Big Game had plenty to remember despite some safe plays.
Jess Zafarris is the content director of Ragan and PR Daily, and an author, content editor, journalist, social media engagement strategist and creator.