A media expert’s take on 2023 Super Bowl advertising

February 17, 2023

Evan Bartholomew
The Super Bowl may be one of the biggest games of the year, but it is also one of the biggest advertising events of the year. Here's one of our media expert's take on this year's Super Bowl ads.

A media expert’s take on 2023 Super Bowl advertising

The 2023 Super Bowl has come and gone. While some may still be talking about the questionable fourth quarter penalty, or Rihanna’s pregnancy reveal, our experts, in true fashion, are focused on the ads of the big event. What were the biggest themes? How did brands approach this year’s Super Bowl? What was the best ad? Here is Collective Measures associate media director Evan Bartholomew’s take on the 2023 Super Bowl advertising scene.


What theme did brands seem to follow within their ads? 

Ads in the 2023 Super Bowl can be summed up in one word: safe. Brands steered clear of provocative or controversial content. Intermittent themes of nostalgia were present that brought the fun or entertainment. For example, Alicia Silverstone appeared playing her role from the 1995 film Clueless in an ad for Rakuten and T-Mobile revived the partnership of Turk and J.D. from the fan-favorite Scrubs with John Travolta to a tune from Grease. Why was this a top theme? With another year of uncertain times ahead, I think consumers are looking for comfort. Nostalgia reminds them of the better days and is a tried-and-true way of garnering a few laughs from the audience. I think brands leveraged this to connect their product to the same feel-good feelings that consumers experienced when seeing their favorite character or hearing a beloved old song to build strong brand association. 

What was my favorite ad? 

The Miller and Coors bar fight was a surprising twist for a Blue Moon ad. However, this playful beer war narrative was a strategic approach. Why? All three brands are owned under the Molson Coors beverage company. So, it does not matter if consumers cannot remember which beer is which, because the Molson Coors-owned products will win regardless. I thought this was a clever approach that played off of the noisy clutter within the beer industry while using the opportunity to stage yet another “fight” — but with all really on the same side.

What ads most surprised me?

To me, there were two surprising ads this year. During the first ad of the game, the NFL announced its “Sunday Ticket” package will be moving to YouTube/YouTube TV. This update was notable for advertisers, as the largest major U.S. sport moving its all-access offering to a digital platform could open greater opportunity to surround the NFL in the digital space. However, it does bring into question how they will position their ad offerings for next year. I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I am very interested to see how it will evolve.

Second, it was interesting to see Workday in the mix of Super Bowl ads as a B2B player. Their ad was a distinct callout to business HR decision makers, but a Super Bowl spot garners massive reach. This contradiction made it very surprising to see a B2B brand aim for a fairly refined audience. Pair that with the massive investment a Super Bowl ad requires and I was left questioning if this was the best approach and use of media dollars. 

What’s next for brands? 

There were a handful of newer brands to the Super Bowl ad scene, such as Rémy Martin, e.l.f. Cosmetics, and The Farmer’s Dog. It will be interesting to see how these brands follow up their advertisement. With a Super Bowl spot eating up quite a bit of budget (up to $7MM/spot this year), how will they sustain impressions and frequency for the rest of the year? It’s risky to assume the Super Bowl ad will propel any newer brand to a household name. So, I will definitely be keeping a close eye on how these brands will sustain visibility after their moment in the spotlight.