TV & Streaming

How brands used music and sonic logos in their Super Bowl ads this year

Several leaned into nostalgia with their song choices.
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Francis Scialabba

4 min read

For Kansas City Chiefs fans, the loudest sounds of Super Bowl LVII were probably their post-game celebrations, and Rihanna fans might still be humming “Umbrella” after her halftime performance.

Super Bowl advertisers got in on the noise too, whether through jingles, sonic logos, artist partnerships, or iconic songs from the past.

As brands seem to increasingly prioritize sound as part of their marketing strategies, a few themes emerged during this year’s game, where several brands used sonic logos in their commercials.

Jingle all the way

Sonic logos are essentially signature sound bites for brands, but there's no strict definition, making them somewhat hard to define.

Case in point: Sonic branding agency amp counted 17 brands using them, and CX platform Disqo recorded seven. Measurement and analytics company EDO found nine brands using sonic branding in general, including T-Mobile, Kia, Disney, and Tubi, all of which amp and Disqo also reported used sonic logos in their ads.

Last year, 12% of Super Bowl ads used sonic logos, according to amp. This year, the number was up to about 19%.

“Lots of brands that are investing in space during the Super Bowl are really making sure to use their audio logo… because they know it’s a space that’s going to get a lot of eyes and ears,” Dexter Garcia, co-founder and chief of strategy at audio branding agency Audio UX, told us. “They want to maximize that to the highest potential.”

Of the 55 brands that advertised in the Super Bowl analyzed by amp, only 16, or about 29%, had a sonic logo prior to the game. Of that subset, 11 used it in their Super Bowl ad.

For the ones that didn’t, “it’s a missed opportunity,” Bjorn Thorleifsson, amp’s head of strategy and research, said. Data indicates that could be the case: EDO found that on average, ads with sonic branding outperformed those without it by 43% in 2021 and by 64% in 2022. (EDO measures performance by tracking online engagement with a brand or product immediately following the airing of an ad.)

Mat Zucker, co-lead of consulting firm Prophet’s global marketing and sales practice, also said he thought some brands “missed an easy opportunity” to use audio to their advantage, including Pringles, which left its signature “pop” sound out of its ad, as well as Pepsi.

“In a teaser spot for Pepsi Zero Sugar featuring Ben Stiller and Steve Martin, the commercial signature was a refreshing can-opening sound,” Zucker said. “Yet I didn’t hear the device used in the main game spots with Stiller and Martin in front of billions of people. Why only get people to laugh if you can inspire them to also drink?”

Throw it back

Other brands opted to leverage artists in their ads instead of sonic branding, Garcia noted, like Doritos, which featured Jack Harlow, Elton John, and more singers in its spot.

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Throwback tunes were prevalent in commercials: Michelob Ultra used “I’m Alright” (aka the Caddyshack theme song), TurboTax used “The Safety Dance,” Kia used the theme song from the Rocky franchise, Busch Light teamed with Sarah McLachlan to poke fun at her song “Angel,” and T-Mobile took us back to Grease with John Travolta.

Of the 62 Super Bowl ads analyzed by amp, the largest share (about 47%) used licensed music. About 39% used custom music, about 10% used stock music, and about 5% used no music at all.

“Very little contemporary music played backdrop to so many of the ads, which left many feeling safe and not edgy or contemporary as seen in previous years,” Jason Cieslak, president, Pacific Rim, at global brand experience firm Siegel+Gale, said. “My takeaway is the creative professionals tasked with bringing their clients’ hefty marketing investments to life were intimidated by contemporary sounds given the halftime performer.”

Others suggested that all the nostalgic jams could have played in some brands’ favor. Disqo found that about 31% of this year’s ads played on nostalgia, and those that did saw higher overall performance and more brand lift compared with the ads that relied on humor.

Thorleifsson said nostalgic songs are the “quickest way for emotional connection,” adding that this year’s song choices fell in line with other nostalgia-driven trends. Siegel+Gale’s group director of strategy, Lisa Kane, concurred.

“From Google Pixel to Uber One to TurboTax, brands used music to strike a chord across Gen Z who are actively channeling the 90s in fashion to millennials who came of age listening to the music of the late 80s and the 90s,” Kane said. “As one of those elder millennials, I know a lot more ads than usual made me smile and want to pay attention.”

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