Super Bowl advertisers upstage politicians with gags, celebrities

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Advertisers turned to laughs and big-name celebrities for the biggest TV advertising event of the year, Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV football championship, upstaging two billionaires who aired nationwide presidential campaign commercials.

Advertising on the National Football League’s annual event often generates much buzz as the game itself, which this year brought come-from-behind victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers.

Another highly anticipated battle of the evening was competing ads by President and Michael Bloomberg, who is seeking his party’s nomination, whose commercials are estimated to have cost up to $11 million (£8.4 million).

Advertisers spent as much as a record $5.6 million for a 30-second spot, according to Fox Corp <FOXA.O>, which broadcast the game.

But the chatter on social media and among branding experts skewed towards gags like Planters’ mascot Mr. Peanut, who died and was reborn, and football star Tom Brady’s appearance in an ad for streaming service Hulu.

This year advertisers were more restrained in promoting social causes, which dominated last year’s game, said Benjamin Hordell, a partner at creative ad agency DXagency.

“It’s almost going back to Super Bowl ads of old with high production value,” he said. “The world is political and everything is polarized. People are trying to have a little fun on this national holiday.”

Singer and halftime show performer Jennifer Lopez starred in a commercial for Hard Rock International along with baseball player Alex Rodriguez and hip-hop artists DJ Khaled and Pitbull. The star-studded spot was directed by Michael Bay, known for action movies such as “Transformers.”

With many strong commercials from brand advertisers, Trump’s and Bloomberg’s campaign ads did not stand out in the mix, said Derek Rucker, professor of marketing at Northwestern University.

“I’d surprised if that was what people were talking about in the office tomorrow,” he said.

Both Trump and Bloomberg showcased African American women in their ads. Bloomberg featured a gun control activist whose son was shot and killed, while Trump featured Alice Johnson, who was freed from prison after being granted clemency.

Women were the center of some of the buzziest commercials of the evening, including , which featured 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers, the first woman to coach in more than half a century of Super Bowls.

The commercial was the top ad of the night among viewers immediately after the game, according to System1, an advertising effectiveness firm that surveys consumers about how an ad made them feel.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Edmund Klamann)

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