Are SB Marketers Shortchanging Brands By Relying So Much On Celebrity Ads?


Super Bowl advertisers may be shortchanging their brands by relying so heavily on celebrities, according to new research from System1 Group.  

The ad testing firm assessed consumers’ emotional reactions to Super Bowl ads from the past four years (2020-2023) and found that commercials featuring brand characters consistently outscored celebrity spots for appeal, brand recognition and commercial impact. 



See, you’re not the only one who cried tears of joy when Planter’s revived Mr. Peanut after subjecting him to such a violent death a few years back.  

Ads with brand characters and branded situations (e.g., Snickers “you’re not you when you’re hungry” setups) averaged 3.8 Stars, yet only 10% of ads used them.  

By contrast, 39% of ads featured celebrities, and averaged only 2.7 Stars.  

System1 scores ads for brand impact on a scale of 0 to 5.9 Stars.  

Also, brand characters outscored all other ads by a similar margin. And brand character ads registered greater immediate sales potential than celebrity, music, sports and non-celebrity ads. For example, brand characters averaged a 1.38 Spike Rating, vs. 1.24 for celebrity ads, demonstrating a significantly higher propensity to spike sales over 10 days. 

Despite the big budgets and creative attention dedicated to Super Bowl commercials, System1 found their brand fluency (strength of brand recognition) is lower than that of typical US ads.  

Since 2020, the average brand recognition score for Super Bowl ads has dropped from 85 to 83, while the score for general US ads is 85.  

According to System1 the issue is that advertisersaren’t introducing their brands early enough or making them central enough to the ads. 

Take last year’s M&M’s Super Bowl ads, for example. Early in the game, when M&M’s pretended to change up their candy mascots by replacing the hardshell chocolate characters with actress/comic Maya Rudolph, their ad received a low 1.0 Star Rating. Emotional response trended negative. Later in the game, when M&M’s aired an ad with their candy characters front and center, they received a 4.8 Star Rating, the second highest of any of the 2023 Super Bowl ads.  

“Almost 20% of viewers leave Super Bowl ads not being able to recall what brand the ad was for,” says System1’s Jon Evans. “This is causing serious wastage. Can you explain your creative idea without mentioning your brand, service or product? That’s a red flag.” 

System1 tested the 308 Super Bowl ads airing between 2020 and 2023 with 46,200 respondents in the United States, then consulted its database of over 150,000+ ads for comparisons.

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