February 14, 2023 at 1:03 pm ET
The Most-Loved Ads of Super Bowl LVII: T-Mobile and Doritos
Celebrity-backed spots made up nine of the top 10 most-loved ads, but adding a superstar isn’t guaranteed to put points on the board
Super Bowl LVII arrives to cap off an eventful NFL season that saw record TV ratings, but also high-profile injuries that again called into question the sport’s safety and reputation. This article is part of our series looking into the big game’s impact on television, fans, advertisers and more.
Read our Super Bowl coverage: EV Ads | Who’s Watching | Eagles or Chiefs? | Rihanna’s Performance | Advertiser Favorability
Nine of the 10 most-loved Super Bowl ads featured a celebrity cameo, according to Morning Consult’s “Ad Likeability Score.”
Tech brands landed with a dud this year, and Gen Z showed it’s capable of loving Super Bowl spots, given the right vibe.
Brands looking to Super Bowl LVIII should consider a celebrity-sponsored commercial, but they need to understand it’s not just the famous face that makes an ad work — it’s what you do with it.
Super Bowl LVII was full of celebrity appearances, tech brands and humor that sought to court Gen Z. We’re speaking of the ads, of course — not the game.
While 60% of Super Bowl viewers tuned in to watch the game, and 20% were watching for Rihanna’s halftime show, 14% were mainly there for the ads. We saw similar figures for the 2022 game.
Advertisers who are reportedly spending upwards of $7 million for a 30-second commercial want a return on their investment. The first hurdle they need to clear is getting attention, but when our brains are used to screening out advertising, that attention isn’t guaranteed. One of the ways to bypass the brain is to generate emotion: i.e., make ads that people will love.
This year’s most-loved spot was T-Mobile’s “New Year. New Neighbor,” featuring the actors Zach Braff, Donald Faison and John Travolta reimagining the music of “Grease.” That’s according to Morning Consult’s “Ad Likeability Score,” which asked Super Bowl viewers on a scale of 1-6 whether they hated (“1”) or loved (“6”) the ad. Respondents could also say they didn’t remember (“0”) the spot.
Super Bowl LVII’s Most-Loved Ads
Brands that relied on the celebrity bump got their money’s worth
Many of this year’s advertisers used celebrities in their effort to engage audiences, with nearly 2 in 3 ads featuring a well-known personality.
Overall, that celebrity cameo did make a Super Bowl 2023 commercial slightly more effective: At an aggregate level, the average celebrity ad outperformed ads without celebrities on both love and recall metrics. But hidden beneath the average is a wide range of performance: For all of the love shown for T-Mobile and Pepsi’s commercials, some ads — such as Squarespace’s “The Singularity” and Workday’s “Rockstars” — failed to connect. It’s not just the presence of a famous face that makes an ad work: It’s what you do with it.
Part of the problem with celebrity ads is that the personality can eclipse the advertised brand. Most advertising works in the longer term by being recalled when a consumer needs to make a brand decision.
Simply put, the impressions that an ad lands will only be recalled if they are made in association with the brand. Dunkin’s spot, one of the most strongly branded ads —53% said “I’d definitely remember it is for this brand,” 17 percentage points higher than the average for a 2023 Super Bowl ad (36%) — works because Ben Affleck was working in a Dunkin’ store, in a Dunkin’ uniform and is a well-known, long-term Dunkin’ fan. Conversely, only 26% said they linked Workday’s celebs to the brand.
Because most Super Bowl commercials come from more established brands, the intended benefit of advertising would be to support salience. For brands looking to grow from their presence in an arena like the Super Bowl, the most likely route is to nudge consideration. And consideration is exactly the same, regardless of whether a personality is featured.
How Celebrity Ads Performed in Super Bowl LVII
Tech brands fell short
Chip, beer and soda brands dominated the airwaves this Super Bowl, but tech brands also had a heavy presence. In the year that Apple became the sponsor of the halftime show, plenty of other tech brands bought airtime, demonstrating that even the most market-disrupting brands need advertising.
As a group, the tech ads were less effective than their more traditional counterparts: After T-Mobile, the next most-loved ad in the sector was for Google Pixel, coming in at No. 18 in “Ad Likeability Score.” The company’s light-hearted demonstration of its handset’s photo capabilities placed it ahead of Amazon’s emotional pet-based tale at No. 22.
The tech group’s overall performance was pulled down by Super Bowl newcomers CrowdStrike and Limit Break, whose ads were missed by half of the game’s watchers and given low likeability scores by those who did recall them.
How Tech Brands Performed in Super Bowl LVII
Doritos got Gen Z’s attention
Although previous research shows Gen Z is less sports-focused than other generations, many advertisers still saw the Super Bowl as an opportunity to target this hard-to-reach audience. The use of new and emerging celebrities by some brands was seen as an attempt to appeal to a marketing-savvy — and often marketing-cynical — demographic.
Gen Zers showed that they are just as capable as other generations of showing love: Their favorite commercial, Doritos, had a similar ranking to that of T-Mobile’s “New Year. New Neighbor” among all watchers. This analysis was conducted among Gen Z adults regardless of whether they said they watched the Big Game.
The choice of celebrity clearly is important though: The Braff/Faison/Travolta combination, loved by the general population, doesn’t make Gen Z’s top 10 (it came in at no. 16). Rather, they favored ads featuring the likes of Missy Elliott and Jack Harlow, who starred in the Doritos spot, and Meghan Trainor, who was in the Pringles ad. The top 10 for this group also included brands that might be expected to skew younger anyway, such as Amazon, DoorDash and Paramount+.
Gen Z’s Most-Loved Ads of Super Bowl LVII
Morning Consult’s Most-Loved Ads of Super Bowl LVII is based on a Feb. 13, 2023, survey of 3,418 U.S. adults, including 1,446 respondents who said they watched all of Sunday’s game. Game viewers were presented with the brand name of each Super Bowl advertiser, and asked to rate the ad on the following scale:
6 – I loved it
5 – I liked it a lot
4 – I liked it somewhat
3 – I neither liked nor disliked it
2 – I disliked it
1 – I hated it
0 – I can’t remember seeing the ad for this
Ads are ranked by “Most-Loved Ad Score,” which is the average numerical value of all responses for each ad. “Recall” is the share of respondents who remembered seeing an ad.
“Branding” is a rating of how likely people are to remember that an ad is for the advertised brand.
“Consideration” is a rating of how likely people will be to consider choosing a brand the next time they shop the category.
The questions in the Most-Loved Ads of Super Bowl LVII survey are based on those used in Morning Consult’s ad pre-testing and in-market tracking solutions.