30-second summary:

  • Asked what they look forward to about the Super Bowl, 20 percent of respondents in a recent survey said it’s the ads. That’s second only to watching the actual game.
  • Selligent Marketing Cloud’s CMO, Niki Hall, highlights the biggest marketing and branding lessons from this year’s top Super Bowl ads:
    • Lesson #1: Don’t try to be something you’re not
    • Lesson #2: Let customers get in on the fun
    • Lesson #3: Don’t complicate your message
    • Lesson #4: Remember, it’s just advertising

Super Bowl Sunday was once again the night when everyone gets a pass (football pun!) to inhale way too many snacks and chug that extra beer they probably don’t need. It’s also when everyone looks forward to the latest and greatest Super Bowl ads.

Asked what they look forward to about the Super Bowl, 20 percent of respondents in a recent survey said it’s the commercials. That’s second only to watching the actual game (34 percent)! To feed such a hungry audience, brands are digging deep into their wallets.

In the NFL Super Bowl LIV, a 30-second ad cost $5.6 million according to The Hollywood Reporter. But throwing money by the handfuls does not equal marketing success. Post-game, every spectator will have an opinion on which were the most surprising, the funniest, and who had the biggest flops.

Here’s my post-game analysis that highlights biggest marketing and branding lessons from this year’s top Super Bowl ads:

Lesson #1: Don’t try to be something you’re not

Major news this year included Coke’s return to Super Bowl ads – after sitting out the 2019 game – to introduce its new Coke Energy drink.

The Coca-Cola Company is launching an energy drink and entering a market already cornered by the trifecta of Red Bull, Rockstar, (Read more...) Monster Energy.

Interestingly, they’ve hired Martin Scorsese to endorse it. Competing brands count sports legends like Shaun White and Tony Hawk as spokespeople so Coke’s choice is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Jaideep Kibe, VP of Coca-Cola, tells AdWeek’s “Coca-Cola tries to show up in places that are surprising.”

Sure, but are we really supposed to believe Scorsese was dancing at a strangely-themed costume party (which is definitely NOT a Super Bowl party… but also probably not a Halloween party… I’m quite confused on this one but let’s move on).

If they wanted to stick with this idea, it probably would have made more sense to switch Hill and Scorsese’s roles.


Maybe there is an alternate reality in which all this makes sense. Maybe there’s a level of intended irony with choosing a 77-year-old serious-Hollywood type.

Either way, it seemingly falls flat. At first glance, it looks downright thirsty (as the kids say these days) — like someone trying very hard to be something they’re clearly not.

Instead, marketers are better advised to guide their brand image by knowing their audience. Better yet, know who actually buys your stuff (the two are not always the same).

Trust intelligence from consumer profiles and data bases to deliver long-term engagement, not just a quick caffeine buzz.

Lesson #2: Let customers get in on the fun

The beverage marketplace is cooling on domestic beers, mostly because millennials have become obsessed with hard seltzers. Budweiser is throwing its hat in the ring with Bud Light Seltzer, a new beverage endorsed by millennials’ other big obsession: rapper Post Malone.

Post Malone is a safe bet when it comes to brand ambassadors – he’s long been linked to Bud Light, even doing a dive bar concert tour sponsored by the brand. Taking his relationship with Bud Light to the next level, Post Malone filmed two different versions of his 60-second Super Bowl ad for the new drink.

Next, it was up to customers to vote which one should air during the big game. Millions of comments later they had a winner (and a viral sensation on their hands).

Both ads are hilarious — the face tattoo detail alone knocked this out of the park; both, deserving of the spot. Bud Light’s play here was rooted in choice and customer empowerment.

Post Malone’s Instagram post garnered over 2M views and 81K+ comments in a matter of days. Marketers can score major points by letting customers control their marketing content.

Lesson #3: Don’t complicate your message

And this year’s What-The-Heck-Did-We-Just-Watch-Award goes to: Audi!

The German car maker’s 2020 Super Bowl ad depicts actress Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame stalled in rush hour traffic, surrounded by frustrated drivers in fume-emitting vehicles.

Next, for reasons unknown, the theme song from Frozen kicks in and Williams decides to ditch traffic and ‘Let it Go’ by putting the pedal to the medal in her electric vehicle.

As I watched Maisie Williams drive into the sunset, concluding a pro-environment commercial by an automobile manufacturer, I was left a bit baffled. But the video description on Audi’s YouTube only offered:

Join Maisie Williams singing Disney’s ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen, and Audi as we drive to a more sustainable tomorrow in an all-new Audi e-tron Sportback. The only thing you might not be able to let go of, is the song.

What I can’t let go of is the question “what was the point?” Arya Stark deserves better, as does the audience. Twitterverse seemed to agree:

Audi Super Bowl ads

Audi Super Bowl ads

Customer confusion can take many forms, with one of the biggest missteps is sending the wrong brand messages, like welcome emails to long-time rewards members or cart reminders long after an item was purchased.

Instead, use smart automation and analysis to deliver a consistent CX. Otherwise you might as well just let it (and by ‘it,’ I mean your customers) go…

Lesson #4: Remember, it’s just advertising

Sure, Super Bowl ads are major productions with massive budgets. But do we really need trailers to tease them ahead of game day?

This year, stunts like Budweiser’s 46-second trailer for their commercial or Doritos’ 1-minute teaser for their ad featuring Sam Elliott alongside Lil Nas X received considerable pushback from media outlets, including VICE.


The world doesn’t need commercials about commercials. Even during the biggest sports event of the year. Although it’s tempting to reach the largest possible audience for the newest energy drink or hard seltzer, marketers may see better results by serving the right message to prospective customers, at the exact time when they’re ready to buy.

Niki Hall is CMO of Selligent Marketing Cloud, overseeing its global go-to-market strategy. Over the course of her 20+ year marketing career, Hall has specialized in global growth and operational efficiencies for some of tech’s largest companies, including Cisco Systems, Polycom, and Five9, where as the VP of Marketing she successfully positioned the company as a digital enterprise cloud leader. Her primary focus currently is driving demand generation; managing product, client, partner and field marketing and communications; and spearheading Selligent’s global brand initiatives.

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