Well, now that memories of the long-anticipated game are being replaced by new Olympic ones, we can all attest that about the only similarity between this year’s Super Bowl and last year’s was that the favored team was the Patriots (sure, they came up a little short, but you can’t win ‘em all). And while the ads in 2017 took on a post-election political tone, most brands decided to take a break for 2018 and return to basics after a tumultuous year.

As many of this year’s ads continue to air through the Olympic games, let’s do a little brand-association test to see which ones you can link back to the brand they represent, shall we? I mean, it’s only been about two weeks so this should be easy, right?

But hold the Fritos for a moment — before we dig in, let me ask you this: how many of you actually remember the top ads from last year, let alone the brands they represented? Does the live Adam Driver ad for Snickers ring a bell (it was a dud that kept on dudding)? That Hyundai’s documentary-style ad filmed during the game with “off the field” highlights? The 84 Lumber recruitment spot that Fox Sports first rejected for its anti border wall theme? And whatever happened to those Tostitos party bags with the built-in breathalizers? Any of those sound familiar? Heck, even Heinz’s “SMunday” PR campaign took a nose-dive after the big event, collecting just 71,000 of the 100,000 signatures needed to petition Congress for the Monday after the game to be declared a holiday.

OK, back to 2018. This year was a return to tradition with a mix of humor (well, attempted at least) with a dash of humanitarianism and a host of celebrity peddlers thrown in. Most brands decided to play it relatively safe in a year overwrought with controversy, which may have been a wise idea given the projected $5 million investment for every 30 seconds of air time.

So here goes. Following is a list that features some of the creative highlights — all you have to do is think of the brands they represent. I’ll provide a list with links at the end (no peeking) so you can see how you did… Or really, how THEY did considering their enormous investment in media and production expenses:

  1. Our first brand touted their “Made in America” theme with a spot that featured the construction of their new Bolingbrook, IL plant.
  1. This not-so-creative spot regurgitated footage of one previous celebrity endorser after another with an apparent attempt to capitalize upon them yet again in a strung-together segment that fell short of nostalgic.
  1. Brand number three used some clever toilet humor to introduce Dave, who — unlike the rest of the guests at your viewing party — apparently lacks a certain aromatic quality when it comes to biological function.
  1. This car company suggested that by driving in circles as fast as you can, and backwards, you could reverse time (as well as about a half century of hard, rock star living) to “feel something again.”
  1. The duo of Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth fooled audiences with the spoof of a sequel to a 1980’s movie franchise for this country’s tourism bureau.
  1. Can you name the organization that had Odell Beckham, Jr., Eli Manning and teammates re-enacting the iconic dance sequence from Dirty Dancing?
  1. This truck brand got punny with an underrated spot featuring a rabbi, a priest, an imam, and a monk who have a run-in with a bunch of nuns over team unity.
  1. Conversely, this truck brand probably did better with its Viking-themed spot than it did with another that included voiceover of a sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr. that was deemed controversial.
  1. This beer brand also caught some heat for investing over $5 million in media and production expenses to self-promote its donation of water for disaster relief rather than investing those funds in, well, disaster relief.
  1. One of this year’s big winners was this household brand that smartly leveraged the equity of its parent company’s broader brand portfolio in a series of spots that made every other ad leave viewers guessing if it was actually just another one of theirs.
  1. And for the bonus round, this car company hired three separate agencies to create different segments that ranged from another iconic movie reference (and product placement teaser to — wait for it — an upcoming sequel) to an anti-manifesto themed, er, manifesto.

All right, it’s time to prove how closely you were paying attention (not to mention how well your memory still functions). More to the point, however, it’s time to evaluate how effective these brands actually were at generating brand awareness. The above exercise certainly reiterates it’s not as easy — or as easily sustained — as it seems, even for the most well-known brands. And when the investment is this high, ROI must be carefully assessed.

Now why don’t you tell us your favorites and why you think they’re successful? We’d love to hear from you… Until next year!

NO cheating!


1.) WeatherTech, 2.) Pepsi, 3.) Febreze, 4.) Kia, 5.) Tourism Australia, 6.) NFL, 7.) Toyota, 8.) Dodge, 9.) Budweiser, 10.) Tide, 11.) Jeep


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