This trend was perhaps most evident in 2014’s most viral Super Bowl campaign. With over 43 million views as of Monday morning, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” plays off the success of last year’s “Clydesdales.” While “Clydesdales” focused on the bond between horse and trainer, “Puppy Love” gives viewers a glimpse into the heartwarming friendship between horse and puppy.
In addition to watching the ad, viewers are responding to it in droves. With over 157,000 tweets and 1.3 million Facebook shares, likes, and comments, it is far and away 2014’s most shared Super Bowl campaign.
Doritos’” Crash the Super Bowl,” another top-viewed campaign, also riffs off a past success. While the creative content itself may be new, the campaign’s format is the same one the brand has used since 2006, giving fans the opportunity to produce their own Doritos Super Bowl commercial and relying on viewers’ votes to determine which ad will run during the game.
With a format that relies so heavily on viewer participation and engagement, it’s not surprising that “Crash the Super Bowl” has consistently performed well. Between 2009 and 2013, the various yearly installations of the campaign generated a total of almost 150 million views. This year’s version clocked in at 16 million views.
Storyline and format are not the only elements that were recycled in 2014. Brands brought back (or continued to use) spokespeople from their previous Super Bowl campaigns. Danica Patrick, for instance, was back for GoDaddy’s “Bodybuilder,” and David Beckham reprised his starring role for H&M’s “#Covered or #Uncovered.” These campaigns have already reached 1 million and 2 million views, respectively.
This emphasis on the retro also saw actors playing the characters they made famous in older movies and TV shows. Kia, for instance, teamed up with Laurence Fishburne, who reprised his role as the Matrix’s Morpheus. While not one of the game’s most-viewed campaigns, Kia’s ad performed well on social media and has been shared, commented on, and liked on Facebook over 130,000 times.
Oikos went a similar route in reuniting spokesman John Stamos with his “Full House” co-stars, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, in a campaign that has already generated over 6 million views (a record for the brand).
Whether it’s revitalizing past campaigns, sticking with well-liked celebrity sponsors, or tapping into nostalgic popular culture references, advertisers are looking to the rearview mirror for inspiration. This tactic may have worked this year, but viewers have come to expect Hail Marys from advertisers. In fact, it’s become a huge part of why people tune in to the game at all. So this, of course, begs the question: going forward, how much longer can Super Bowl advertisers continue to look toward the past?