Speed Reads

The Hollywood Super Bowl

Why were the Super Bowl ads packed with celebrities? 3 theories.

You may have noticed, if you watched Super Bowl LVI, that just about every one of the multimillion-dollar commercials featured at least one A-list celebrity, often more. There were reunited TV and movie casts and even a memorable spot with real-life couple Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost sharing a comically dystopian version of their life together where Amazon's Alexa keeps things very real. 

"It's a delightful departure from last year's ad slate, which featured somber messages from everyday people coming together during the pandemic," says Sara Fischer at Axios. But why did companies hire seemingly every living TV and movie actor to hawk their good and services this year?

1. Advertisers are looking ahead to a post-COVID world
Advertisers are projecting light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and nothing's shinier than stars. "The Super Bowl featured positive, upbeat advertising," Northwestern University marketing professor Tim Calkins told The Associated Press. "For the most part there was no mention of the pandemic, COVID, or masks." Yeah, "we're not going to see all this COVID stuff like we did before," Georgetown University's Ronald Goodstein told Reuters. "People are tired of thinking about all that." 

2. New products need familiar faces
About 40 percent of the ads during this Super Bowl were from new advertisers, and a lot of those ads were for emerging products — sports betting and cryptocurrency exchanges, mostly, but also electric cars. 

"Celebrities are particularly useful when the brand they're paired with is something consumers have never heard of or don't understand," Lorraine Ali writes in the Los Angeles Times. "If even Larry David buys into crypto," for example, "who are we to question it?" Ty Burrell and a spacesuit-wearing Matthew McConaughey "were able to grab the attention of potential Greenlight customers" and Salesforce clients, respectively, she adds, "even if they (still) don't know" what Greenlight is or why McConaughey was "waving at office workers and farmers alike" from a hot air balloon.

3. Star power still sells
The Super Bowl is "the last remaining occasion when millions of American viewers are willing to do what their parents or grandparents had to: watch commercials," Ali writes. "To hold our attention, Super Bowl LVI leaned hard on star power," at the stadium and in the ads. For example, USA Today reports, the highest-rated Super Bowl ad this year, from Rocket Mortgage, "leaned on the lively charisma of Anna Kendrick" and a bunch of Barbie dolls.