Super Bowl

Which Super Bowl Ads Were the Most Memorable?


Well, Super Bowl 51 has come and gone. Highlighted by one of the most ambitious half-time shows ever and arguably one of the greatest comebacks by any team maybe ever, which television ads do you remember, if any? Did any innovative packaging design stand out? In a brief conversation with Simon Thorneycroft, the Founder & CEO of Perspective: Branding, we discuss which brands broke through the noise to achieve the trifecta of branding (and Perspective’s approach to branding) and were visible, visceral or memorable. What was most memorable about Super Bowl LI.

CM: Simon, Super Bowl LI is over. Are there any ads we should still be talking about?

ST: More than anything else, that comeback win by the Patriots is memorable. They came back from being 25 points down! Does anyone even care about the ads after a performance like that?

CM: Maybe not. And there certainly were the usual suspects out there in ad land – lots of fuzzy animals and supermodels, actors and musicians. But what stood out for you?

ST: The companies that stood out this year from an advertising perspective took a stand against what is going on in the political arena. Business is pushing their view on immigration and acceptance, which is rather the opposite of what you’ve seen lately from the current President. You saw it with Airbnb and their #weaccept campaign, and the buzz around Anheuser-Busch and their company’s very personal immigration story involving its two founders. Maybe because they are based in the Bay Area, but I remember Google and their ad. It starts with the image of a rainbow flag and someone whistling “take me home” [a John Denver song] and cuts to images of families of all colors using their Home device. They used all the tools at their disposal – actors of all colors, songs of inclusion, recognized diversity and inclusion symbols – to convey their message of acceptance.

Business gets it. They can’t lock out their audience.

CM: Did any other ads leave you with a sense of visceral, visible, memorable or your VVM philosophy?

ST: I liked FORD’s Go Further ads. Maybe because it was remarkably long, what over a minute? [It clocked in at one minute, 30 seconds.] And they put people in uncomfortable situations but ones that every one of us can relate to. Its Memorable.

Other than that, I also want to mention the National Football League. They have had players embroiled in controversy this season for acceptance, for trying to be visible to the police, and yet, they, too, took a stand with their “Inside these Lines” ad. When the Super Bowl host organization is urging people to join together and “live united,” that is powerful.

Sadly, I don’t recall the name of the brand that poked fun at the President’s hair [“It’s a 10” hair care], so they missed out on memorability, but making fun of the President as a way to get attention – well, that’s quite remarkable.

CM: So, no kangaroos or celebrities were memorable this year?

ST: I laughed out loud at Justin Bieber dancing but that’s just it. Bieber is memorable and he has a well-established brand but if you don’t remember the company he’s pitching for, you’re just another very expensive Super Bowl ad, forgotten by Tuesday. (That one was for T-Mobile and also featured Patriot Rob Gronkowski, among other stars.)

The Super Bowl is a great way to talk about VVM, shorthand for Visible, Visceral and Memorable, or Thorneycroft’s three word toolkit for building a great brand. Quite often, the best Super Bowl ads stand out from the crowd, make you laugh out loud. This year, after years of superstars and fuzzy bear commercials, what stood out in the sea of Super Bowl ads, what was memorable was the theme of acceptance.

Consider the Chip – Food Packaging Matters

Super Bowl Brand Packaging

Food Packaging

Food packaging can have a significant impact on food taste, quality and longevity. But none of that matters if the product does not get picked up off of the shelf and purchased. As we move into a new world of what makes a product marketable and peek at one of the biggest snacking events of the year – the Super Bowl – we want to know what marketers and brand packaging professionals are doing to encourage consumers to pick up their bags of chips and containers of dip before the big game. So we went to the store (our local Safeway) and asked consumers why they picked up a bag of chips.

Americans spend over $20 million on tortilla chips and a whopping $140 million on potato chips during the week before the Super Bowl (presumably for scooping up the 140 million pounds of avocados-a-la-guacamole). We asked why customers chose the bag of chips they did. Here’s what we heard.

Many choices of chips displayed for Super Bowl snack shoppers

Tostitos Party Safe Bag

With giant stanchions of Super Bowl-friendly items ringing the check-out aisles and almost every endcap, customers still aimed for the chip aisle, many picking up the Tostitos Restaurant Style chips. Of the five people we spoke with, two mentioned hearing about the Party Safe Bag that Tostitos launched prior to game day. The sleek black bag comes with a built-in sensor that, when blown on, turns into a red steering wheel when alcohol is detected and includes an Uber code and a “don’t drink and drive” message. Though we did not see this bag at the store, the “cool” factor drove interest in the brand.


Takis Chips

Positioned close to the deli counter, portion-sized bags of Takis Zombie and Takis Fuego resemble rolled tortillas. Coated with salsa and lemon powder (Fuego flavor also has hot chile pepper), Takis (a product of Barcel USA, the snack division of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo) were selected by a young man who was looking for “spicy snacks.” (He chose Fuego.)  



Towards the back of the store, Mission boasted a huge display of just tortilla chips. We inquired of one customer why she chose the Mission Tortilla Strips. “You get a lot of chips for the price,” she said (the Safeway Club price was two bags for $5), confirming that product and its packaging is just one of the four P’s in the classic marketing mix.


In My Family’s Basket – Skinny Pop, Fritos, Safeway Organics and Ruffles

What made it into our shopping basket was determined partly by price (Mom loves bundled pricing) and partly by demand from my husband and two boys. “Can you get some Fritos?” “Oh! We love Boom-Chick-a-Pop!” and my insistence on purchasing only GMO-free corn products (except for those Fritos) determined what went into our cart on Super Bowl weekend.

My boys scouring the aisles for their favorite snacks

Admittedly, my team’s methods are imperfect (and involved minors) and our stats are not grounded in science. But there it is. Brand packaging drives sales but to move product before the Super Bowl, don’t neglect any of the four P’s of the marketing mix: placement, price, product and promotions all have their place in selling chips.