The Biggest Commercial Winners of Super Bowl LI

Every year millions gather around with wings, chips, and beverages to watch the epitome of American sports, the Super Bowl. Some watch for the game, some watch for the halftime performance, but we all watch for the commercials. Here are the biggest commercial winners of Super Bowl LI and what made them great.

Many commercials this year were either typical, comedic, or just plain boring. However, there was just one important reoccurring theme this year. Brands standing up and sharing their beliefs and values. Some brands did great and others felt a bit forced. There is one thing I do know for sure – whether I agree with a brand’s political or social stance, I always respect a brand that stands for something and uses their platform for good.

Airbnb’s #WeAccept

What I loved most about this commercial is that it embodies everything Airbnb is. Their whole brand is founded on staying within real communities to experience other cultures rather than just being on vacation at a resort. What makes this commercial even more of a winner is that they also took it a step further without even pushing their own brand aside from a small logo at the end towards the bottom. It’s not about an ad to Airbnb, it’s about accepting other.

Audi’s Battle to #DriveProgress

Similar to Airbnb, Audi decided to use their platform for good. What I loved most is that they used analogies to drive the message across the finish line (proud of myself for that one). Also showing the little girl beating out the boys and walking with her trophy to an Audi was genius. It not only symbolizes that a female can do anything just as good or better than a male, but that Audi is the ride of champions.

Bai’s Star-Studded Bai Bai Bai

First off, who doesn’t wish they can hear Christopher Walken dramatically recite lyrics all day!? Okay, okay. This was successful because it was hilarious, light-hearted fun, and a blast from the past that resonates with anyone who’s lived through the 90s. Millennials might not completely get the pun, but this commercial also subconsciously teaches the correct pronunciation of Bai, which most people previously pronounced as “bay”. Laughs and name recognition with two A-list celebrities? That’s a winner.

Budweiser’s Story

I believe that the relevancy and importance of this story are what make this commercial near perfect. You may have heard me say a million times that “it’s all about the story your brand tells.” Pull up a chair and take notes because this is impeccable story telling. It shows Budweiser’s roots and their founder’s journey. More importantly, it’s a relevant story to tell because of what’s going on in American politically. Budweiser’s story isn’t rudely poking fun at a political leader (like some other commercials did), but rather maturely showing the importance immigrants have made and the definition of living the American Dream.

T-Mobile’s Dynamic Duo

Out of all of T-Mobiles celebrity-filled and seriously “ugh”-inducing (the dominatrix one in particular) commercials, this was the best. Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are the best unlikely duo in a long time and they personify “uncarrier”. The commercial’s marijuana puns had little to do with T-Mobile, but this was some lighthearted comedy that stuck out to me. I don’t see the other U.S. carriers being this edgy or in tune with the younger customer base. It works for all the 20-somethings that are most likely watching the Super Bowl and possibly unhappy with their current cellphone provider.

Honorable Mentions

Some of my other favorites were the Skittles commercial where the kid through Skittles through the window, the Avocados from Mexico commercial, and Mr. Clean’s attempt at making cleaning sexy again. They were all great in their comedic efforts, but ultimately took a backseat to others because they weren’t as memorable or powerful with their core audience.

Any time a brand can positively stick in your head it’s success, but when a brand can relate to their audience with relevance and fight for them? That’s a game winner.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Tell me in the comments your favorite Super Bowl LI commercials and why.

Garett Southerton

For over 15 years Garett has been helping brand businesses and individuals through digital platforms including websites, visuals, and marketing strategies.

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