The MVPs of Super Bowl (Commercial) Sunday

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The Super Bowl is always one of my favorite events of the year because there is truly something for everyone. If you weren’t glued to Sunday’s on-field matchup of the San Francisco 49ers’ dominant defense vs. the Kansas City Chiefs’ seemingly unstoppable offense or spending the day Googling Roman numerals and weird regional recipes, you were probably at least tuned in for the commercials. Here are some of the highlights:

The Fake-Out

When Tom Brady tweeted this cryptic photo three days before the Super Bowl, the internet seemed sure he was signaling his departure from the New England Patriots when he officially becomes a free agent next month. Was he ready to blaze a new trail with some other lucky NFL team? (My in-laws, who are Tennessee Titans fans, certainly couldn’t be convinced otherwise.) Alas, it was just an ad for Hulu. Pats fans can rest easy for now—and whether Hulu sees a spike in subscriptions remains to be seen.

If you’ve been paying even a little attention lately, you’ve heard plenty about how 5G is going to revolutionize our world. While T-Mobile took a humorous approach to their Super Bowl ad, Verizon leaned emotional, showcasing first responders against the backdrop of what 5G won’t do—namely, how it can’t and won’t replace the bravery and dedication of these individuals. Verizon’s choice to turn the focus of their ad away from the more expected aspects of the 5G brand war shows they’re confident enough in their coverage and service advantages to use valuable ad space for a greater purpose.

The Funny (and Timely!) One

The Super Bowl has only fallen on Groundhog Day twice: this year and in 2014. Jeep took advantage of this rare situation and tapped Bill Murray for a callback to his 1993 movie where he relives the holiday over and over. This time, he kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil for an adventure-filled repeating day, fueled by the Jeep Gladiator truck.

The Pivot

Planters got the attention of the internet two weeks before the Super Bowl with their #RIPPeanut campaign. It seems they planned to kill off the classic Mr. Peanut, much to the confusion of Twitter users everywhere. However, the brand (smartly) decided to halt this campaign following the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant on January 26. They still chose to air their original spot during the game, which culminates with Baby Peanut’s birth at Mr. Peanut’s funeral—and he speaks dolphin? Controversy or not, this was a weird one. But there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

The First

49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers made history at this year’s game as the first female and LGBT coach in the Super Bowl. This ad from Microsoft celebrates her history as a true fan of the game since childhood. Considering that Microsoft Surface tablets are the go-to device on all NFL sidelines, this is a powerful statement from a valuable NFL sponsor.

The 2020 Super Bowl really had it all: a fourth-quarter comeback, a halftime show that sparked social media debate, and commercials featuring a newborn legume, an emotional support rodent, and heroes on and off the field. Will next year’s game offer the same creativity and variety as this year’s? We’ll have to tune in to find out.

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