Super Bowl Advertisers Want to Avoid Social Media Backlash

By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Feb 16, 2024

With Super Bowl LVIII on everyone’s radar, it’s time for the plethora of multimillion dollar advertisements that come with it.

In recent years, numerous Super Bowl ads have been highly controversial with fans. Yet, this year, companies plan to return to nostalgic themes in hopes of avoiding backlash on social media.

The Price of Super Bowl Ads in 2024

Rumors online suggest that at this year’s Super Bowl, CBS aims to charge an eye-watering $7 million per ad (per Reuters).

A billboard sign shows off a starry background with a city in the distance

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Over 50 major companies and businesses from across the States and beyond paid to gain the attention of the NFL’s 100 million fans who plan to watch worldwide.

Long Gone are the Ways of Old

Super Bowl commercials have evolved over the years. It appears American-themed promotions, including Budweiser’s famous Clydesdale horses and Bruce Springsteen Jeep cameos, seemed like a thing of the past.

Photograph of Budweiser’s Clydesdale horses as they walk the field during a sporting event

Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In their place came ads like one from Mophies, which portrayed an angry God watching the earth enter an apocalypse era because his phone battery ran out of charge. To say the least, it didn’t sit well with conservative fans.

Returning to Lighter Ads

However, this year, it appears that companies will try to avoid highly shocking or controversial ads and instead opt for amusement and nostalgia (via Outlook).

Friends gather together in the lounge and watch a sports game on the TV

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One reason behind this is that the companies, as well as CBS and the NFL, hope to avoid social media backlash.

Experts Aim for Nostalgia

At Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, there will be around 70 ads, many of which will star the nation’s most recognizable faces, including Jason Momoa and Tina Fey.

A group of males gather around a couch as they prepare to watch an NFL game

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Two people familiar with Super Bowl ads try to explain why fans should be ready to experience more nostalgia and less socio-political-driven advertisements this year.

Professor Speaks on Super Bowl Ads

Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has spent years teaching students about Super Bowl commercials.

A professor dressed in a blue-striped shirt gives a talk during a lecture

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In an interview, he told Variety, “Advertisers are very aware that things can go wrong at the Super Bowl.”


Cautious Companies Going Forward

When discussing the potential risks associated with ads, Calkins said social media plays a significant role in how an ad is perceived.

A company’s marketing team pictured as they gather around a large table at work

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According to the professor, marketers now understand their ads can “annoy people or cause a backlash. Nobody wants to put their career on the line with a certain piece of Super Bowl footage. There is a huge incentive to be cautious.”


Anheuser-Busch InBev Plans a Comeback

No company may have felt the sting of backlash quite like Anheuser-Busch InBev in recent years following the controversy surrounding their beer, Bud Light.

Dylan Mulvaney pictured alongside various cans of Bud Light beer during promotion

Source: @JimmyMenard2/X

Unfortunately, a promotional idea that saw the company issue cans with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney immensely backfired when right-wing protesters brought forth severe boycotts that saw the company’s sales plummet (via NBC News).


Back to Basics For Budweiser

At this year’s game, Budweiser, also under the Anheuser-Busch InBev umbrella, aims to bring a lighthearted ad that shows a Clydesdale horse delivering beer to a bar in a rainstorm.

A board portrays a Budweiser ad during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match between Cameroon and Serbia

Source: Elsa/Getty Images

“There is so much that is going on. We are stimulated all the time, and going back to basics and delivering things the old-school way is really something that consumers are looking for,” said Kristina Punwani, the executive of marketing for Budweiser in the U.S. (via Variety).


Oreo Set to Return to the Super Bowl

Speaking to Variety, Michelle Deignan, vice president of U.S. Oreo operations, revealed that Oreo would return to the Super Bowl.

A packet of Oreo cookies is pictured behind several Oreos on a silver tablecloth

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The ad will show intense decisions being made following the twist of an Oreo cookie, and features a cameo from Kris Jenner.


Resonating with the Consumer

Deignan is under the impression that whatever brands decide to choose, nostalgia and simple humor will likely be the ones that connect with the audience.

A group of football fans pictured as they cheers their drinks before a match

Source: Freepik

“I think you’ll see those brands that lean into nostalgia, humor, emotion at the Super Bowl … those brands will resonate with the consumer,” she said.


Risks Are Too Great

With such an exorbitant price tag on the ads and the potential for right or left-wing uprisings, Calkins said that many companies will begin to opt for safer promotions.

A small family gathers around a table and watches TV during a commercial break

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“The investment is so high, and the attention is so great that you have to be a very brave marketer to take a big creative risk on the Super Bowl today,” said Calkins.