Like most Americans I spent way too many hours on Sunday watching the pre-game, THE game, and of course the post-game festivities. Not to mention the other cool programming designed to take advantage of our collective propensity to stare at the TV on Super Bowl Sunday, like Super Bowl ads & Lady Gaga. I mean... I had no chance to do anything else.
This year’s game was spectacular. A potential blowout with missed extra points, 2-point conversions, first overtime in Super Bowl history, the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever, amazing catches, the continuation of a dynasty, etc. etc.. Did I mention the greatest Super Bowl comeback EVER? Plenty of analysts have written and will continue to write about the meaning of the game itself. Go read that stuff but this post is centered on the non-game elements my friends.
I parked myself on the couch several hours before kickoff, overly salted chips in one hand and a tasty cold (gluten free) beer in the other.
I was game and I paid attention to what I was watching; no multi-device multi-tasking and no channel flipping. Super Bowl Sunday programming including commercials aired during the game offer each of us a chance to remember what matters most to each of us. In this way the programming is kind of like a mirror. Hang on, i’m getting to the really good stuff.
One can learn a lot about someone by understanding what they noticed while watching. What follows is a list of 10 moments I experienced during the greatest Super Bowl ever (and I don’t say this lightly, I’m a Jets fan living in New Jersey…):
#1. The Walking Dead
Woke up and to my delight AMC was airing a marathon of Seasons 1 and 2 of “The Walking Dead.” This is my favorite show for a few seasons now. The show deals with life, death, love, hate, anger, community, and all aspects of the human condition. Though I settled in a few minutes late into Episode 1, Season 1… I watched the remainder of the episode transfixed. Rick has no idea what’s coming…neither did we! I had the same feeling while watching Season 1, Episode 1 of The West Wing on Netflix earlier in the year.
Profound moment during Lady Gaga’s interview with Michael Strahan during the Fox Super Bowl Pregame. While describing the importance of her performance and the meaning she ascribes to it, Gaga said, “We have 13 minutes with the world.” WOW. Did Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter for The West Wing, The Social Network, and Steve Jobs write that for her?
#3. The Navy Seals
During the Fox Super Bowl Pregame, a short segment about Dan Quinn’s use of team building initiatives from Navy Seals training. Culture and accountability are key elements of how the Seals can successfully perform impossible missions. A great reminder as I continue my professional development as a leader and continue driving the NA Cxense team and culture.
#4. Mr. and Mrs. George Bush
Politics aside, I thought the pregame coin toss was special with George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush getting a standing ovation. They’ve both been in the hospital recently. Houston has been their home. As a President and statesman, he is throwback to more civil political times. That said, a few interesting commercials to get your blood boiling: Avocados from Mexico (tariffs), American Petroleum Institute (oil), and Airbnb (travel ban). We can’t get away, even on Super Bowl Sunday.
#5. Manly Commercials
I’m a man, many men watched Super Bowl LI. This was not lost on advertisers. There was a buffet of products appealing, presumably to men - commercials about greying hair, nagging sports injuries, and a buffet of fast food including but not limited to chicken wings and fried chicken and chicken chalupas, hamburgers, pizza, and french fries. And, I can’t mention all of that food without a shout out to heartburn medications and the need to alleviate toilet smells. Marketers know men better than we know ourselves.
#6. Morgan Freeman
Celebrity pitchmen rock. Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, and Peter Fonda can sell ANYTHING. I don’t even think Peter Fonda opened his mouth. Morgan Freeman really is the voice of God.
#7. The Bottled Water War
I new about the soda and beer wars. But I hadn’t thought about the bottled water war in quite some time. But, I can’t even remember the names of the brands that showed commercials. #fail
As a former IBMer I see the immense value that Watson can bring to society and the business world. That said, the H&R Block advertisement with Watson was fascinating as a marketer. To paraphrase the ad, “We’ll use AI so you don’t miss out on any deduction to which you are potentially entitled.” Humans leveraging AI as the defining feature of a service. Spectacular! This commercial made TurboTax look like Humpty Dumpty…
It feels as though every commercial in the second half was either for 1) a voice command device, or, 2) a cell phone. The Amazon Echo and Google Home commercials taught me that I will be a better father with happier kids if we ask their respective devices playful questions. The cell phone commercials reminded me that brand equity is important to me….is a cheaper monthly plan with unlimited usage really possible??
Those drones…were…. awesome…and a little scary. The future impact of drones (positive and negative) on our daily lives cannot be understated. Bravo Intel. And, Lady Gaga...was the perfect performer to pair with the drones. Her music has some futuristic elements, she put on a good show, sang while flipping in the air, and danced all while changing her outfit (4?) a few times. My son sat silently for 13 minutes… 13 minutes of silence from a 5 year old. Marinate…
Spectacular game, spectacular ads & performances. Which brings me to my last point here (or possibly my only point), great content must meet consumer demand. There is a solid reason why a 30 second slot costs $5mm USD +. People are expecting a great experience. Over 111 million people watched the Super Bowl. Thats 111 Million impressions per second for each ad!
It’s all about the experience.