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Super Bowl commercials feature celebs such as John Travolta and Serena Williams. Here’s how they contribute to an ad’s success

Super Bowl commercials feature celebs such as John Travolta and Serena Williams. Here's how they contribute to an ad's success


Super Bowl commercials feature celebs such as John Travolta and Serena Williams. Here’s how they contribute to an ad’s success

Morgan Hines
Ad Meter 2021: Our favorite Super Bowl ads starring mans best friendsAd Meter 2021: These animal Super Bowl ads will make you laugh and cry.SportsPulse, USA TODAYIt’s not uncommon or unexpected to see well-known celebrities in advertisements — especially in Super Bowl commercials. Brands include actors and actresses, professional athletes, comedians and other celebrities in their Super Bowl ads – hoping to harness celebrity influence behind their products during one of the most widely viewed and highly anticipated television events of the year.This year’s Big Game spots have a price tag of nearly $5.6 million for 30 seconds of airtime. And brands are looking to make an impression on the national audience well before people start making trips to the refrigerator during breaks in the action.And the array of well-known celebrities that will grace television screens across the nation Sunday night is lengthy – even lengthier than usual, according to Charles Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova School of Business. “In a typical Super Bowl, my own research has found 36% of Super Bowl ads use celebrity endorsers, and that’s going to be even higher this year,” Taylor told USA TODAY.USA TODAY Ad Meter: Become a panelist and rate Super Bowl commercialsWhat are big brands doing for Super Bowl commercials this year?Anheuser-Busch has a few campaigns slotted to run during the Super Bowl, including ads for brands Stella Artois and Michelob Ultra that are stacked with big names.The Michelob ad, which showcases the importance of finding joy on the way to winning, features a slew of athletes, including Serena Williams, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Brooks Koepka, Peyton Manning, Billie Jean King, Usain Bolt, Arnold Palmer, Mia Hamm, Willie Mays and Wilt Chamberlain. Meanwhile, the Stella Artois ad is focused on Lenny Kravitz and centers on investing our energy on people and moments. Other brands have also released commercials that feature one or more celebrities. Scotts Miracle-Gro, for example, has a lineup that includes John Travolta and daughter Ella Travolta, along with Martha Stewart, Emma Lovewell, Kyle Busch and Leslie Baker. Bacardí launched a global campaign around the Super Bowl featuring Meek Mill and Leslie Grace in a music video meant to promote the rum brand. And Cheetos put a spin on Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” featuring the singer and celebrity couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. General Motors features Will Ferrell in a comedic ad about its Ultium battery system, which also includes Awkwafina and Kenan Thompson.Does including celebrities make Super Bowl commercials more effective?The short answer is yes, according to Taylor. Often, including a celebrity in an advertisement can help its success by driving a metric such as interest or sales upward – as long as the right conditions are met.”A lot of times it can work, but it really needs to be the right celebrity,” Taylor explains. “There’s research that shows that the fit of the celebrity with the product is important.”Michael Jordan or LeBron James putting their influence behind a pair of basketball shoes for an advertisement, for example, can be successful given the two basketball stars’ knowledge of equipment to play. Jordan in a spot for vacuum cleaners, on the other hand, isn’t as logical a fit and may not perform as well.But sometimes, a big enough celebrity can do the trick – regardless of their alignment with the featured product. Taylor referenced an ad released earlier this week from Squarespace featuring Dolly Parton.”It can gain attention, too, because everybody knows who Dolly Parton is,” Taylor said, noting that the tactic to use a celebrity that famous could make an ever bigger impact this year in particular. “Especially during COVID, there’s a comfort with the familiar and the person you know something about.”Advertisers, Taylor added, are careful with their investments. “If (ads featuring celebrities) didn’t work, then people wouldn’t keep hiring celebrities.”While Taylor said there aren’t hard numbers on an advertisement’s success – especially with different measures of that success – he estimates that around 75% of ads that include celebrities work for the companies that employ them.How do celebrities decide to put their influence behind an ad campaign?Lenny Kravitz told USA TODAY that the connection with Stella Artois for its campaign on investing our “2.5 billion heartbeats” happened “pretty organically” after the brand reached out to him last year. The philosophy behind the ad and the idea that if we each are born with that many heartbeats then we are all billionaires – and that we shouldn’t “waste the fortune within us” as Kravitz says in the ad, is something the Grammy winner could get behind.”From the first conversation, I liked the vision,” he said. Lara Krug, vice president of marketing for Stella Artois, said in a statement that the ad’s message is particularly poignant after a year spent trying to connect with each other in new ways.”The campaign is about making the most of the time we have. It’s an appropriate reminder, not just for this year, but really for every year,” Kravitz said.When Kravitz teams up with a brand, he said, he is hands-on throughout the process. “This was no different,” Kravitz said. “There was a dialogue and exchange of ideas between us. We had great chemistry as far as the creative direction went and made a piece that feels like much more than an advertisement.”Serena Williams, too, felt like she could support the message behind Michelob Ultra’s “Happy” video when signing on to take part in the campaign, which focuses on the brand’s provocation: “are you happy because you win, or do you win because you’re happy?””The world really knows me as someone that puts a lot of time and work into my game, but what they may not know is that I perform my best really when I’m happy, and I’m a firm believer that winning is only worth it if you can enjoy the journey leading to it,” Williams told USA TODAY.Her process when approached by a brand for a campaign is the same each time. Williams asks herself whether she uses the product in question. If the answer is yes, she said, then they can move forward with a conversation.”For me, it needs to be authentic,” she said. And the Michelob Ultra ad’s campaign’s spoke to her.Finding joy along the path to winning Williams said, is something she had to learn to do.”I thought that was a really interesting concept that they wanted to focus on that,” she said.The “little moments” off the court – which can include products that she said are “balanced” like Michelob Ultra – lead to joy and happiness that help her to stay successful while on the court. “Enjoying the moments along the journey is as important as the journey itself,” Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for Michelob Ultra, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re partnering with some of the greatest athletes of our generation: to remind us all that joy and happiness are not a distraction but instead, a key ingredient to winning and success.”Contributing: Rick Suter, Ad Meter

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