The winners and losers from Super Bowl LV: Brand edition

With some companies opting to not air ads for the big game, and others eager to jump into the conversation online, which comms pros had a night to match Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win?


It was a historic night. After a season rife with disruptions from the COVID-19 crisis, punctuated by a limited attendance and many brands foregoing their big airtime plays this year, it was a remarkable evening to cap the National Football League season.

The Super Bowl is one of the few annual events that attracts a broad national viewership, with almost half of all households tuning in last year for the big game. The top ad spots usually come at a premium, but this year many brands opted to do something different.

Budweiser announced it wouldn’t air an ad for the game this year, a perennial presence with its Clydesdales, and instead said it would spend its ad money on organizations working to help vaccinate the public against COVID-19. However, plenty of brands were ready to pounce on the opportunity, even without the big game TV ad.

For brands that did decide to run ads, it was a night for escapism, humor, purpose and a message of togetherness. Some ads struck a resonant chord, such as Toyota’s spot featuring para-Olympian Jessica Long.

Others turned to star power to move the needle. Jeep’s ad featuring Bruce Springsteen got a mixed reception:

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what the data reports as the winners and losers from the biggest night of sports in America. (Data provided by Sprinklr, collected during the time span from coin toss to final whistle).

Top of the Twitter

With brands expanding their message, driving contests online and subtweeting other advertisers during the big game, Twitter was an important arena for driving home key messages. The big winner of the night was Mountain Dew with the top performing tweet.

1. Mountain Dew

Total engagements: 83.8K
Post shares: 4.6K
Post comments: 66.4K
Post likes & reactions: 12.8K

2. T-Mobile

Total engagements: 38.4K
Post shares: 28.6K
Post comments: 2.5K
Post likes & reactions: 11.3k

3. Disney+

Total engagements: 26.1K
Post shares: 5K
Post comments: 293
Post likes & reactions: 20.8K


Who had the best night on Instagram? It was all Disney in the top spot for best post on the image- and video-sharing platform.

Facebook’s heavy hitters

Disney also had a strong performance on Facebook, taking the lead over third-place State Farm.

1. Disney+

Total engagements: 8.6K
Post shares: 1.6K
Post comments: 389
Post likes & reactions: 6.7K

2. Disney+

Total engagements: 5K
Post shares: 2.1K
Post comments: 486
Post likes & reactions: 2.4K

3. State Farm

Total engagements: 2.1K
Post shares: 1.2K
Post comments: 91
Post likes & reactions: 821

No ad, less buzz

For brands that opted not to run an ad this year, the engagement might have been lighter—but there was still some messaging traction to be gained. Sprinklr reported that during the game Budweiser received 2,951 mentions and Pepsi garnered 185 mentions. Coca-Cola, without an ad, got 58 mentions.

Yet, Pepsi was able to rely on its halftime show, which featured a charismatic performance from pop star The Weeknd. That bit of entertainment yielded 485,320 mentions.

Other companies tried to get in on the conversation without ponying up with a big ad buy.

Some Twitter feeds took on a tail-wagging persona to tweet out their messages for the big game:

And many brands took the opportunity to subtweet each other during their ads, playing off the themes in other advertisements to bring their message to the forefront again:

Not every attempt to pile on was well-received:

Some of the best ads were able to bring a little humor to the proceedings. General Motors was able to couple humor with a strong message about its brand purpose with regards to electric vehicles.

And yet, even with the laughs, the night felt less jubilant. The elephant in the room was the ongoing global pandemic, and how Super Bowl LV often felt like an attempt to reach for a prior time—possibly even glossing over the harsh reality of almost half a million dead from a virus that has scourged the U.S.

For many the evening was an exercise in cognitive dissonance, celebrating our health care workers and pretending that what we needed them for wasn’t so bad after all:

“What I was struck by last night was the fact that few brands (if any) shot commercials showing our current reality,” says  Olga Fleming, CEO, for Goodfuse. “It’s like everything was back to normal, which it is not. However, many brands embraced empathy and human-centric narratives in their marketing. That’s definitely a good first step, but brands need to a look under the hood and rework their entire communications strategy to focus on the individuals they’re trying to reach, whether it be customers or employees. Show empathy in your customer experience beyond the Super Bowl ad to truly engage with an audience.”

Perhaps we should count among the losses this year due to COVID-19 the Super Bowl commercial, which felt a little less special, a little less lustrous, and a whole lot less important amid the backdrop of deep national tragedy.


2 Responses to “The winners and losers from Super Bowl LV: Brand edition”

    Ann Sincox says:

    While we in Michigan liked the Jeep ad, their map left out 33% of our state. Considering that Jeep is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, this seems like a bad oversight. The Upper Peninsula is demanding 906 Jeeps (their area code) to be given to U.P. residents.

    Denise W. says:

    Surprised not to see Oatly mentioned in this article. I don’t know what their strategy was but it was so astoundingly bad that we watched it twice! And probably missed someone else’s half million dollar ad. Maybe that was the plan?

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