The Big Game is enough of a draw. But the commercial breaks are sometimes just as riveting.
Both players and advertisers can score a touchdown... or lose big.
If you tuned in to watch the game this year, you probably saw some of the best Superbowl 56 commercials on the air. There were certainly some clunkers, as well as some stand-outs.
But what can marketers and agency owners learn from watching the best Super Bowl ads? You may not have millions of dollars to spend, but you can still apply many of these concepts to your own campaigns.
Let’s dive into the history of Super Bowl commercials and recap some of the best Superbowl commercials 2022 had to offer.
The Tradition of Super Bowl Ads
First, a brief intro to the long-standing tradition of Super Bowl commercials.
The very first Super Bowl was played back in 1967. According to Southern Living, advertisers were charged a pretty penny to run ads even during that first game. The Super Bowl aired on only two networks that first year, with NBC and CBS charging $75,000 and $85,000 respectively for a 60-second spot. You could pay $42,000 for a 30-second commercial at the time; with inflation, that would equate to around $316,000.
Since then, the average Super Bowl ad cost has skyrocketed. This year, running a 30-second Super Bowl ad cost around $7 million – and that doesn’t include making the commercial! But with over 100 million people tuning in each year, many proclaim that it’s still a great investment (if you can afford it).
There have been countless Super Bowl commercials that managed to make a substantial impact, but you won’t find many for lesser-known brands. Reebok, Coca-Cola, Google, Budweiser, Nike, McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Snickers, and Old Spice are among the companies that managed to be inducted into the advertiser hall of fame with their Super Bowl commercials in the past. Will the best Superbowl commercials 2022 has to offer be able to compete?
The Best Super Bowl 56 Commercials
What makes an ad truly great? The answer is subjective, but most of us can instantly say whether we respond to a commercial or whether we don’t. Even if you don’t have advertising or marketing experience, you’ll instantly know whether an ad affects you.
Although the list of best Super Bowl 56 commercials is subject to debate, we’ve compiled our top picks from this year below. Check out the commercials we thought were clever, moving, and entertaining – and what marketing professionals can glean from these advertisements.
Toyota: Brothers and Keeping Up With the Joneses
Toyota makes the Best Superbowl Commercials 2022 list twice, as the car company managed to fire on two different cylinders.
In its first ad, Toyota tells the remarkable story of skiers Brian and Robin McKeever – brothers who defied the odds and won 10 paralympic medals together, as Robin lost his vision to macular dystrophy. The idea of achieving the impossible is one that resonates with just about anyone (especially during troubled times). Watch it here.
When evaluating the ads on the Super Bowl commercials 2022 list for lessons learned, marketers can apply the concepts of visual storytelling, inspirational true stories, and emotional gravitas to their own campaigns. As one of the first ads right out of the gate, the “Brothers” spot really struck a meaningful chord.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Toyota’s Super Bowl ad for its Tundra truck was one that was meant to entertain more than inspire. Rashida Jones, Leslie Jones, and Tommy Lee Jones attempt to keep up with each other in their respective trucks, while Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual” sets the mood. Nick Jonas pops up at the end and, presumably, the others leave him in the dust. Although the concept is fairly straightforward, the celebrity appearances (and their shared last names) made this spot memorable. See the commercial here.
Most marketers won’t have the budget that rivals the best Super Bowl ads like these, but you don’t need to recruit A-list names to start in your next campaign in order to succeed. The concept is simple but clever, featuring wordplay and surprises that will elicit laughs from the audience. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel! Sometimes, you just need to turn it slightly to the left – and accelerate hard.
Michelob Ultra: Welcome to Superior Bowl
Commercials for alcohol are fairly standard Super Bowl fare, so Budweiser’s absence was palpable during Super Bowl 55. While the King of Beers returned this year with an ad that featured its iconic Clydesdales, the wordless commercial about overcoming obstacles may have been overlooked by some. That said, it might hit on another level for some viewers; the spot is self-referential, harkening back to an ad Budweiser aired during the 2014 Super Bowl that really tugged at the heartstrings. Watch this year's Budweiser ad here.
Michelob Ultra, on the other hand, managed to assemble an all-star cast and deliver a concept that delighted most viewers. Peyton Manning (in his first of several appearances during the Super Bowl 56 commercial breaks), Serena Williams, Steve Buscemi, and others gather in a bowling alley to battle it out to become the king pin. This spot is nearly wordless, as well, but its comedic premise and recognizable players made it stand out. See it for yourself here.
Both beer commercials show that you don’t always need a lot of dialogue to be engaging. In fact, spots are sometimes much stronger when they’re unspoken. Whether to be aspirational or entertaining in your approach will come down to your brand identity, the product, and your ultimate goals. You don’t have to limit yourself to one or the other for all time, either. Both commercials feature product placement, but there’s something about the bowling alley spot that feels more memorable than the Clydesdale commercial – despite the fact that Clydesdales are far more ingrained into Budweiser’s brand than anything featured in the Michelob commercial.
Honorable Mention: Budweiser wasn’t the only brand to return to its roots with this year’s list of best Super Bowl ads. E*Trade brought back its talking baby – a character that was at the center of one of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials back in 2008. More than a decade later, the baby has since “retired” but is poised for a comeback when the world needs investment help. Even with a well-known concept, a nearly 15-year-old reference is a risk – but E*Trade felt it was one worth taking. Find it here.
Rocket Mortgage: Barbie Dream House
At first glance, this ad looks like a pretty basic toy commercial featuring an appearance from Anna Kendrick. But once you get a little further into the spot, you realize that it’s a smart parody that comments on the current cut-throat state of the real estate market.
Rocket turns the coveted Barbie Dream House into a symbol that prospective homebuyers will recognize all too well. With nods to fix-and-flippers, cash offers, and bidding wars – all presented with a shiny musical tone – the 60-second spot taps into both childhood dreams and real adult problems. Of course, Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Homes are presented as the solutions that allow Barbie (and, presumably, would-be buyers) to win out in the end. Catch the commercial here.
Marketers may be inspired by the concept of using a sentimental cultural mainstay to tap into the audience’s common problems. Rocket Mortgage really committed to the idea and fashioned a laugh-out-loud script that would have worked even without the celebrity cameo. It’s tongue-in-cheek without being condescending . As a bonus, it might help the brand reach women more readily (a demographic that is consistently overlooked, despite both spending power and Super Bowl viewership).
Uber Eats: Uber Don’t Eats
Uber’s had a rough go of it in recent years, but the company has proven itself to be hard to replace. Not only are customers still happy to use the ride-sharing service, but Uber has managed to find success in the world of food (and non-food) delivery – even as the pandemic becomes less of a concern for many Americans.
This funny-yet-gross commercial features some familiar faces like Jennifer Coolidge, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Trevor Noah playing into the supposedly incomprehensible idea that Uber delivers only edible items – so it stands to reason that diapers, lightbulbs, and kitty litter must be for eating. A viral TikTok sound (sampled from a 1960’s hit by the Shangri-Las) can be heard in the background and a nod to Goop’s eye roll-worthy and headline-making candle can be momentarily seen, adding to its cultural relevance. Watch it here.
Overall, the spot has the feel of an SNL skit, which is a tall order for most marketers. But the concept of “yes, and”-ing your ad brainstorms will almost always come in useful – and that same improv-centered spirit will almost always yield funnier ideas. In 2020, Uber launched its Uber Direct service, which allowed users to get deliveries from places other than restaurants and grocery stores. At a time when online retail and delivery services are still incredibly popular, Uber was able to let Super Bowl fans know that they can now get just about anything through the app. Without a doubt, it was a memorable approach.
General Motors: Dr. EV-il
In a sea of electric vehicle ads, GM’s stood out for its use of recognizable movie villains finally doing something good for the planet. General Motors has committed to launching 30 electric vehicles starting this year. With its “Everybody In” campaign, GM has vowed to make electric-powered cars more accessible and inclusive. The brand managed to put the “EV” in “Dr. Evil” with this comedic spot that will likely resonate with drivers in the 30-to-50 age range.
There were a number of spots on the Super Bowl commercials 2022 list that featured either electric vehicles or crypto-related platforms. GM’s commercial was unique because of its familiar premise, comedic chops, and surprising twist; we don’t expect Dr. Evil to want to save the planet, but the idea that he wants the credit before destroying it is both ridiculous and relatable enough to engage viewers who might otherwise tune out. Laugh along here.
Although most marketers won’t be able to utilize well-known characters like these in their campaigns, playing with the hero’s journey (or, in this case, rooting for the villain we all love to hate) is often a compelling way to go. You don’t have to include an obvious nod to a movie franchise to get your audience on-board.
FTX: Don’t Be Like Larry
Crypto commercials were at an all-time high during Super Bowl 56, with many of them falling flat. (Can you imagine spending $7 million+ on a blank screen with a bouncing QR code that viewers essentially ignored?) But FTX came up with a truly clever concept that likely hooked viewers up until the brand is revealed at the very end.
In what was arguably one of the best Superbowl 56 commercials for cryptocurrency-related services, Larry David plays himself throughout the ages. Again and again, he doubts and turns down historically great ideas – and at the end, the brand cautions others to not be like Larry. This almost-cinematic spot had some people feeling hoodwinked at the last minute; many were on-board with the concept and the execution until they realized what the ad was for.
But in that sense, FTX probably achieved its goals. Crypto is a polarizing topic that appeals to a certain demographic. If the brand can get people who might otherwise dismiss the subject to at least check out what FTX is all about (especially since it’s marketed to crypto newbies), the spot can be considered a success. Check it out here.
Even if Larry David hadn’t become a household name from his involvement with Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, this commercial’s premise would probably have still delivered. The concept is just plain funny. But it’s an added delight to see the melancholy comic playing into his idiosyncrasies. Framing the commercial’s main character as someone the audience wants to avoid being isn’t really a cutting-edge approach, of course. But the FOMO, as they say, is real – and capitalizing on that can be an effective strategy.
Amazon Alexa: Mind-Reader
As one of the only spots on our Super Bowl commercials 2022 list to drop before Game Day, Amazon’s Alexa promo featuring real-life power couple Scarlet Johansson and Colin Jost gave us a taste of what we could expect.
It’s always fun to take a peek into the real lives of celebrities (even if they’re completely made up for TV). But this commercial also plays into many peoples’ fears about just how much Alexa is able to know about us. While there’s nothing particularly fresh about the premise, it’s a playful formula that works even without the A-listers. See the commercial here.
Playing with a fantasy that goes awry can be an effective marketing tool, as can tapping into the universal experience of human relationships. Amazon may not be everyone’s favorite corporation right now, but the brand does a good job of making itself indispensable despite its controversy. That said, the Alexa spot inadvertently might hit a little too close to home for those who fear the capabilities of smart technology, AI, and robotics. Playing to the negative can result in positives, but it’s not clear whether this is one of the best Super Bowl ads that will result in an influx of product sales.
Planet Fitness: What’s Gotten Into Lindsay?
A clever redemption arc in just 30 seconds, this new Planet Fitness ad positions working out as a means of achieving overall wellness (rather than as a solution to achieve physical perfection). It’s perfectly aligned with the Planet Fitness no-judgment ethos – in more ways than one. Plus, you can’t really go wrong with William Shatner as the narrator.
So what can marketers learn from this spot? While the commercial is certainly star-studded, with appearances from Danny Trejo and Dennis Rodman, it’s still relatable. The idea that Lindsay Lohan is now making healthier choices for a better life, with Planet Fitness playing an integral role in her routine, is both accessible and aspirational at once. See it here.
Google Pixel: Real Tone
The NFL has had a troubled history in regard to its stance on racial equity, social justice, and the right to protest. Google was smart to humanize an overlooked issue that has plagued Black and brown people for decades: the inability to realistically and consistently capture darker skin tones on camera.
Lizzo’s soaring vocals serve as the soundtrack for what was arguably one of the best Superbowl 56 commercials for tech. The concept is simple: a series of overly dark photos taken with older technologies are shown, making the figures indistinguishable. Google aims to provide a solution with its Real Tone software, which comes standard on its Pixel 6 phones and aims to more accurately and beautifully capture the images of POC.
The ad’s “before and after” approach is classic and strong, but its timing may have been even smarter. It aired right after a well-received halftime show that undoubtedly showcased Black excellence (and even featured Eminem taking a knee, against the NFL’s wishes). It’s both poignant and timely, helping white audiences practice empathy and understand the privileges they take for granted – all while Google looks like the altruistic hero, championing for equal representation and a more beautiful and diverse digital world. Check it out here.
Although some marketers are hesitant to base a campaign around potentially divisive issues, the reality is that today’s consumers want to support brands whose values align with their own. Whether it’s social justice, environmental causes, or health and safety – all categories that affect everyone and have virtually nothing to do with actual politics – you can win over potential customers by taking a stand and being transparent about your values. If you can do that while solving a universal problem, even better.
Nissan: Thrill Driver
Coming in last (but certainly not least) on our list of best Superbowl 56 commercials is Nissan’s spot with Eugene Levy as an unlikely-yet-likable action star. With the help of the sleek and cheery Nissan Z sports car, Levy sheds his nerdy and distinguished appearance for something a bit more dangerous. As he speeds by his Schitt's Creek co-star Catherine O’Hara, Levy finds himself in the middle of a fiery and epic chase sequence through the city.
It’s an ad that strikes the tone between cool and funny, making what could have been just another car commercial into something a bit more special. Whether there’ll be a positive sales correlation remains to be seen – but considering how well-liked Levy is among audiences, it was a smart move on Nissan’s part. Watch the commercial here.
Having access to such a big budget isn’t the norm, but selling the fantasy is. The idea that you could be transformed with this one addition to your life is something marketers have been using for eons. But playing into the absurdity of it all can make a brand even more likable and memorable.
Use the Best Super Bowl Commercial Concepts as Inspiration
Chances are that you won’t ever have to develop an ad for the Big Game. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what these huge companies are doing. By learning to dissect these ads with a discerning eye, you can become a better marketer and come to appreciate these brands on a deeper level.