10 Video Marketing Lessons from The Super Bowl's Best & Worst Commercials
If you didn’t catch the Super Bowl on Sunday, you missed quite a show.
And this is coming from a non-sports fan.
In the first overtime game the Super Bowl has ever seen, the New England Patriots came back from an over 20-point trail to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.
While Patriot fans and teammates are celebrating their historic win and the Falcons are debriefing where they might have gone wrong, we marketers are doing the same with the game’s big commercials (a.k.a. the original video marketing).
Making Outbound, Inbound.
The Super Bowl commercial is quite possibly the epitome of traditional outbound marketing.
I mean, think about it.
However, despite its outbound roots, many brands in recent years have taken a very inbound approach to their Super Bowl commercials, teasing them online via social media on the days leading up to the big game.
Take Bai, for example:
A video posted by Justin Timberlake (@justintimberlake) on
Five days before the Super Bowl, the antioxidant drink company enlisted the help of Justin Timberlake to share a short teaser of its upcoming commercial on Instagram.
At about five seconds, the clip above did little to explain what audiences would see come Super Bowl Sunday, but with well over 2.3 million views as of Friday, it clearly piqued curiosity.
Bai then took the campaign one step further, turning its website hero image into a similar clip, displaying only the date of the game.
Once again, Bai made it clear that the only way viewers could find out what Justin was up to was to keep an eye out for its commercial on the 5th -- and as I’m sure many of you saw during the game, the result was an unexpected, but very punny cameo by Christopher Walken reciting an NSYNC hit:
What Can Your Video Marketing Learn From This?
When it comes to your brand’s video marketing, consider taking a similar approach to building anticipation and piquing curiosity for each campaign.
With their short-form capabilities, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook present great opportunities to tease your videos through snippets, bloopers, or even a live behind the scenes peek.
You could also take a page out of 84 Lumber’s Super Bowl playbook and show viewers the beginning of your video, but then drive them back to a page on your website to see the conclusion.
This strategy was so successful for 84 Lumber, the page shared in their ad actually crashed, but it’s important to note, this should only be used with highly compelling video content. Viewers need to be hooked by your video content to make the effort to follow through to the next chapter.
So, who won this year’s brand bowl?
Quite frankly, this year’s Super Bowl commercials were a pretty mixed bag in terms of effectiveness and quality. So, rather than simply sharing my favorites, here’s a look back at the year’s best and worst Super Bowl commercials and what your team can learn from them for your video marketing.
1. It’s a 10 Hair Care: 4 Years of Awful Hair
Love him or hate him, long before Donald Trump became president of the United States, his hair was the butt of many jokes.
In this hilarious (or hair-larious, if you will) commercial, It’s a 10 Hair Care lightly ribs the Commander in Chief about his locks while also positioning its products as the solution to “awful hair.” -- And it was my favorite of the night.
The Video Marketing Lessons: Don’t be afraid to newsjack! Pay attention to what’s going on in your industry or current events as a whole and think of creative ways to align yourself with the conversation through video marketing.
Also, humor is humanizing. If you can tastefully infuse humor into your video marketing, it will not only engage your audience but make your brand more personable.
2. Honda: Yearbooks
In this charming commercial, Honda doesn’t even show its product until the last nine seconds and when it does, it may leave you scratching your head. Fortunately, regardless of this shortcoming, the ad has been universally enjoyed.
Rather than self-promote, the car giant aims to build and an emotional and relatable connection with its audience by sharing real life yearbook photos of celebrities, paired with inspirational words on how to overcome obstacles and naysayers to achieve your goals.
Why does it work? Because Honda is showing they understand their consumers on a deeper level, beyond normal car concerns. You have dreams (and perhaps were an awkward teen) and the Honda CR-V just be the car to help you get to those dreams faster.
The Video Marketing Lessons: Two things.
One, if you can, enlist the help of influencers. Honda called upon a very diverse group of celebrities to get its message across, almost ensuring that any viewer would find someone they relate to and trust.
Two, make an effort to strike an emotional chord. Studies show that a person’s emotional response to an ad is more likely to influence their buying decisions than the content of the ad itself.
3. Budweiser: Born the Hard Way
In this poignant departure from its iconic puppy and Clydesdale ads, Budweiser tells the dramatized story of one of its immigrant founders, Adolphus Busch and the struggles he overcame to realize his dream in the United States.
The Video Marketing Lesson: While surprisingly relevant in today’s turbulent political climate surrounding immigration, Budweiser insists the ad was in the works long before the 2016 election.
With that in mind, the lesson here is to share your brand’s story. Showing your audience some of the values and hard work that goes (or went) into your product makes them that much more emotionally invested in it.
4. Febreze: #BathroomBreak
This one’s just potty humor --literally.
In this 30-second spot, Febreze pokes fun at the common habit of Super Bowl viewers running to the bathroom during half-time, while positioning its product as the solution to some “stinky situations” that may result.
The Video Marketing Lesson: Timing is everything. Outside of the Super Bowl context, this ad probably wouldn’t have resonated or generated as much social media buzz as it did.
5. Google Home: Home By You
“Home By You” by Google follows a familiar tech formula.
Like Amazon does with Echo and Apple did with Siri, Google shows the Google Home being used by a variety of different people to complete a number of different tasks in their everyday lives.
While effectively showing the capabilities of the product, the ad did little to differentiate it from competitors or really grab the audience’s attention -- especially considering it was the first commercial aired during the game.
The Video Marketing Lesson: Be original. Like a homepage or any other piece of content, if your video doesn’t command your audience’s attention and show why you deserve it over your competitors, it will likely be forgotten.
6. Airbnb: #WeAccept
Though very simple, Airbnb, a global brand built on the idea of traveling and opening yourself up to experiencing other cultures as a local, delivers an ad that not only makes a political statement but aligns perfectly with their business and audience.
The Video Marketing Lesson: Stay true to your brand and audience. While your message may be controversial to some, like Airbnb’s if it’s something that reflects your brand’s values and those that your buyer admires, go for it. The only person you need to like your ad is someone who will actually do business with you -- your buyer persona.
7. SNICKERS: A Live Super Bowl Commercial
Without a doubt, live video is the talk of both the marketing and media worlds. So, when SNICKERS announced that it would be doing a live commercial during the Super Bowl this year, it understandably made waves.
In this 45-second ad, the candy company continues its “you’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign, but with a very meta twist.
The Video Marketing Lesson: Don’t rely on a gimmick for evergreen content. The SNICKERS “when you’re hungry” campaign has been around for many years and while enjoyable, it’s become rather predictable.
The “live” angle on this commercial was an admirable attempt to put a new, relevant spin on their tried-and-true tagline, but unfortunately, it fails to make a lasting impression. After all, a live commercial is only live once.
8. Audi: Daughter
Speaking on the nation’s notorious pay gap between men and women, Audi positions itself not just a company dedicated to progressive cars, but a company dedicated to social progress as well with this nostalgic ad.
The video’s description states, “Progress is in every decision we make, every technology we invent, every vehicle we build. It’s our past, our future, our reason to exist. Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. A 2016 report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee found that women were paid 21% less than men on average.*”
The Video Marketing Lesson: Tell a story. Instead of just preaching its initiative, Audi frames its progressive message in the form of a relatable story.
9. Mr. Clean: Cleaner of Your Dreams
Clean is sexy -- at least that’s what Mr. Clean hoped you’d be thinking after its cheeky Super Bowl ad. While not the most sophisticated commercial we saw this year, it was a huge crowd pleaser.
The Video Marketing Lesson: Use humor to make an impression. No matter how boring your product may be, finding a funny way to present it to your audience will not only make it more memorable but also make your brand more likable.
1o. YellowTail: Yellowtail Wines Commercial w/ Ellie Gonsalves
As much as I enjoy kangaroos, rooftop parties, and barbecues, this ad was as directionless as its this description and title suggests.
Between the animatronic marsupial flipping hamburgers and random cameo by model Ellie Gonsalves, it’s hard to pinpoint what the wine and spirits brand was trying to achieve with this one.
The Video Marketing Lesson: Go in with a plan and clear goal in mind. The message and value of your video should be clear to the audience early on or you’re likely to lose them.
What’s Your Take on This Year’s Commercials?
Which brands hit a homerun and which ones should’ve spent their millions elsewhere. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section!