Super Bowl LI: Who Won the Ad Game?

More than 111 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl LI on Sunday, February 5th, some more excited about the commercials than the actual game. Super Bowl ads are highly anticipated months before the game, with predictions about which company will produce the best ads. Companies take advantage of the large audience, paying more than $5 million to get 30 seconds of air-time for the advertisements. Despite a few standouts, I thought this year most of the ads were a little disappointing.

People vented their frustrations with some of the commercials on social media. Image courtesy of Ethan Chester & Coca Cola via twitter.

Some of the advertisements had a political side to them, possibly addressing the perceived anti-immigrant tone of President Trump’s campaign and early presidency. A little-known, family-owned Pennsylvania lumber company, 84 Lumber addressed the building of “the wall” with heartfelt footage of a mother and daughter’s journey to America. Although some believe this ad was condoning  illegal immigration, others thought it was made in support of Trump’s wall. 84 Lumber stated that the ad “symbolizes grit, dedication and sacrifice, all characteristics that they look for in their people at 84 Lumber.” This ad brought 84 Lumber into the spotlight because it is such a small, unknown company. Also, the full ad was censored by the Fox network, but the full version was available online.

Budweiser’s annual Super Bowl ad, titled “Born This Way,” showed Adolphus Busch’s (the founder of Budweiser) journey as an immigrant from Germany in 1857. This ad also could be interpreted as a response to the general anti-immigrant tone and rhetoric of the past year in politics. Similar to the Budweiser ad, Coca Cola released their “America the Beautiful” ad again (first released in 2014). Featuring the title song being sung in many different languages, this ad received some negative feedback, as some took to twitter, trending the hashtag #BoycottCoke. Some believe that this ad takes away from the patriotic nature of a Coke, as well as that “America the Beautiful” should be sung in English because that is the way it was written.

However, Collegiate’s Lauren Brizzolara (‘18) thinks that these ads were “trying to pull on the pride heartstrings.”

Airbnb’s ad (“We Accept”) had a similar tone, reading “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.” Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky hadn’t planned to make a Super Bowl ad but decided to produce one when finding out there was space available. Many believe this is also a stab at President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, as the ad portrays collages of many different faces of different nationalities. Also, Airbnb offered free housing to refugees in response to Trump’s executive order.  NBC claims that Airbnb rushed to put together that ad in one day, “all to send a message.” While some ads had a political tone to them, others used humor to appeal to the wide audience. But were they as funny as they wanted to be?

Before the actual commercials were released, many predictions were made about what the trend of the ads would be, and  which company might bring up 2016’s Deflategate. A sensitive topic for all Patriots fans, “Avocados from Mexico ended up being the unexpected culprit. Referencing the highly anticipated Deflategate joke in their ad, the company revealed the “truth” behind the scandal. Carter Bristow (Douglas Freeman High School ‘18) stated that this ad was “a failed attempt at being clever,” and she thought the majority of the ads “weren’t as funny as they usually are.”

Alternatively, the Mr. Clean commercial attempted to make a cleaning product into something with sex appeal. Weird? Yes. Memorable? Definitely. Ultimately, a company’s main goal when coming up with commercial ideas is to make their product stand out, and this commercial definitely did so. One of the few ads that stood out to me was Kia Niro’s ad, starring Melissa McCarthy. It not only reaffirmed my fear of whales, but was one of the commercials that genuinely made me laugh, unlike many of the others.

Despite a few commercials that, as Rebecca Rogers (Mills E. Godwin High School ‘18) blatantly put it, “sucked,” some ads were very successful. In particular, Audi’s commercial, entitled “Daughter,” included endorsements for not only equal pay for women, but it reaffirmed that girls can do anything boys can do (even soapbox derby racing).  Snickers was also able to pull off a live commercial, and even though it wasn’t the best advertisement, it still was pretty impressive.  NFL showcased the Super Bowl baby commercial, featuring baby versions of “legendary NFL figures,” which was a big hit for all. Also, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was featured in Buick’s “Not so Pee-Wee Football” commercial, stiff-arming small children. Finally, after a long-awaited return, Justin Bieber broke his Instagram hiatus just in time for the debut of his T-Mobile Super Bowl ad. This commercial included a timeline of the touchdown dance, ranging from the shimmy to the shimmy-shake.  

2017 didn’t seem to be a big year for advertisers; with many commercials carrying a political theme, some ads weren’t received well. In particular, Saturday Night Live mocked most of the political ads with their Cheeto sketch. Also, many people took to Twitter, expressing their own opinions on the advertisements:    

Image courtesy of Tia Anderson.

Image courtesy of Casey Clemmons.












Based on the twitter backlash and political trends of the 2017 Super Bowl ads, we’ll rank this year’s ads a 6.5/10!

Featured image courtesy of

About the author

Caroline is a Junior at Collegiate School.