TV & Streaming

In the 2022 Super Bowl, some celebrities outshined the brands they promoted

That’s according to search data analyzed by measurement firm EDO, at least.
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· 5 min read

Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus definitely graced the screen during the Super Bowl…but what brand were they talking about? And Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd earned some laughs while sharing a bag of…which crunchy snack?

Therein lies a potential problem with the star-studded Super Bowl ads: Are these celebrity shills getting more attention than the brands they’re promoting?

It’s a hard question to answer. But according to data from measurement and analytics company EDO, many of this year’s Super Bowl ads led people to search for the featured celebs at higher rates than the brands themselves.

Dolly Parton climbs in search…T-Mobile less so

Parton and Cyrus are a prime example of this scenario. Parton’s name generated an additional 53.6 million searches above her average search volume in the moments after her first Super Bowl ad aired, making her the highest-ranked celebrity on EDO’s search index list, CEO Kevin Krim told Marketing Brew.

EDO calculates these spikes primarily by analyzing internet searches, the vast majority of which are from Google. The duration of the spike on a normal night of TV is usually only a few minutes, he said, but it takes closer to 15 minutes for searches to return to a normal volume during a big event like the Super Bowl.

Cyrus racked up an additional 179,000 searches after her first ad ran.

By comparison, T-Mobile—that’s the brand they were touting, by the way—generated an additional 31,000 searches. T-Mobile actually ran two ads with Parton and Cyrus, and saw about 135,000 searches after the second, but still fewer than both Parton and Cyrus, respectively.

So what happened? Krim theorized T-Mobile might’ve gotten fewer searches because it wasn’t using the airtime to debut a new, tangible product. Instead, it had Parton and Cyrus evangelize about its 5G service, a concept Americans have heard about for years, but one that many likely can’t describe.

T-Mobile did, however, outshine Scrubs co-stars Zach Braff and Donald Phaison in its “Duet” Super Bowl ad, which featured the actors singing about its home internet service.

Other brands that saw fewer searches than the famous faces of their ads include:

  • Verizon Wireless (799,000 to Jim Carrey’s 17.7 million)
  • Rocket Homes (301,000 to Anna Kendrick’s 426,000)
  • Amazon (238,000 to Scarlett Johansson’s 53.3 million and Colin Jost’s 857,000)
  • Planet Fitness (133,000 to Lindsay Lohan’s 135,000)

In total, 22 of the ads analyzed by EDO, some of which ran shortly before or after the game, saw more celebrity searches than brand searches. In three instances where multiple celebrities were used, the brand beat out one star but lost to others.

Car brands hit the gas on celebs

Nissan, Toyota, Chevrolet, FTX, Salesforce, BMW, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Rakuten, Hyundai, Avocados from Mexico, WHOOP, and Intuit (for one of its two ads), are some brands that managed to outshine the celebrities who starred in their ads.

You’ll notice a trend here: Automotive companies accounted for five of the 15 brands that saw more searches than their celebs.

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Nissan had a stacked cast that included Brie Larson and Eugene Levy, Toyota recruited three famous “Joneses”—Tommy Lee Jones, Rashida Jones, and Leslie Jones (plus Nick Jonas)—to riff on their last names, and Chevy got a couple of Sopranos alums to pitch its Silverado EV. So how did these car brands manage to avoid being overlooked?

Krim said it could have something to do with the way the cars were incorporated into the ads. “The use of the celebrity needs to be authentically integrated into the creative message, the brand message,” Krim said, adding that brands also need to make sure they’re heavily featuring their products if they want their celebrity ads to perform well.

“Nissan was an excellent example of that,” Krim said. “It was jam-packed with celebrities. It was a fun idea, but they were also showing you a redesigned sports car that is nostalgic for a bunch of people of a certain age,” the redesigned Nissan Z, alongside the 2023 electric Nissan Ariya.

Why Uber Eats bets on uber-famous ad casts

Uber Eats padded its Super Bowl commercial with stars including Jennifer Coolidge, Nicholas Braun, Trevor Noah, and Gwyneth Paltrow—perhaps not surprising for a brand that has within the past couple of years also worked with A-listers including Elton John, Lil Nas X, Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, and Simone Biles, to name a few.

All in all, the brand made its own mark on Super Bowl viewers: Uber Eats saw an additional 162,000 online searches in the moments after its ad aired, more than Coolidge, Noah, and Braun individually. Paltrow, however, saw an additional 359,000 searches in that time.

The food delivery app used its Super Bowl ad to promote a new aspect of its service, according to Dave Horton, ECD and partner at Special Group US, the agency behind the Uber Eats ad.

The goal was to announce Uber Eats’ expansion into the alcohol and convenience verticals and “let people know that they now deliver anything and everything far beyond where they started with restaurant food,” Horton told Marketing Brew.

The campaign uses comedy to address a logical flaw with the brand’s name: the fact that Uber Eats now delivers items that aren’t meant to be, well, eaten. Cue Coolidge wondering whether she can eat a roll of aluminum foil, Braun chugging dish soap, Paltrow biting into her own brand’s candle, and Noah cracking a light bulb with his teeth.

It’s all very self-deprecating, said Special Group ECD and partner Matthew Woodhams-Roberts, as are the celebrities who participated. The ad copy was written specifically for these celebs, Horton added, “so it doesn’t feel like you can just plug in anybody.”

“They help create the story,” Woodhams-Roberts said. “They create conversation. People are excited to see them. It’s not just a spokesperson that you’re getting, but you’re actually creating a story.”

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