While resident NFL fans Anthony and Aaron were watching the American Football on Sunday, we also had one eye on the off-field spectacle that is the most hotly anticipated set of ad breaks of the year.

Despite an average cost of $4.5m for a 30-second slot, the biggest brands on earth yet again shelled out for a small slice of what will most likely be the most watched TV of 2015.

We’ve put together a quick run-down of our favourite Superbowl Sunday campaigns, with a special nod to one ad that backfired spectacularly.

Another tear-jerker from Budweiser


Just as Coca Cola and John Lewis have become the unofficial sponsors of Christmas with their signature festive campaigns, Budweiser has established a reputation as one of the most talked about advertisers of the Superbowl weekend.

This year was no different, with an eye-moistening 60-second slot about a rescue mission for a lost dog. Revisiting the BFF Clydesdale horse and Labrador puppy from last year’s effort, the video already had 20 million views on YouTube by Monday morning, having launched three days before Sunday’s kick-off.

Though it’s another great example of reinforcing brand values in an authentic, indirect way, I do wonder why the @BudweiserPuppy Twitter handle wasn’t also given a run-out. The official account of the Budweiser pup clocked up almost 10,000 followers on the back of last year’s slot with just 192 posts, and would have been a great way of continuing the user engagement with this year’s viewers.

Don’t steal Liam Neeson’s gold

It’s no secret that mobile is the future – and not just in PR and marketing. There’s no slow-down in the uptake in using mobile devices to carry out routine tasks in most of our daily lives, and the success of mobile has had a seismic effect on digital marketing in almost every sector you can think of.

App developer Supercell illustrated just how big mobile really is with their ad, featuring a disgruntled Liam Neeson riffing on his iconic Taken monologue.

While celebrity cameos in both adverts and video games are nothing new, the fact that Supercell lured one of today’s premier action movie actors stars to take part in a 30 second advert for a free to play game shows just how big the mobile app market really is. It wasn’t the only mobile game to take up a slot either, which is unsurprising for an industry that generated a reported $25 billion in revenues.

If there’s something to take from the advert, apart from avoiding AngryNeeson52 online, it’s that mobile device users needs to be a one of the main considerations for marketing professionals, in everything from website design to planning PR strategy.

Mr White’s lesson in how to tap in to pop culture

“Dadvertising” is the buzzword attributed to many of this year’s ads, with fathers and families the main focus of fairly earnest campaigns from Dove, Toyota, Nissan and McDonalds. As this round-table discussion from US broadcaster MSNBC detailed, the adverts represent a more sophisticated attempt to appeal to family-orientated Americans.

The dadverts weren’t the only example of tapping in to contemporary views and popular culture though. The rise of Netflix has allowed TV addicts to binge on shows, resulting in new-found audiences for the likes of The Office, Friday Night Lights and, most of all, Breaking Bad. Online insurer Esurance cashed in on the success of the latter with a comic ad featuring the villainous Walter White moonlighting as a pharmacist.

Esurance showed just how to strike a balance between a memorable, fun campaign that reinforces brand values, resulting in a great response to the ad on social media. Unlike another major US insurance company…

Nationwide get it horribly wrong

The glaring flop from the five-hour spectacular was this mawkish effort from insurers Nationwide.

Having won some kudos earlier in the evening with a cheerful advert featuring comedienne Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon, which you can see here, the company’s second advert, featuring a dead child talking about the life experiences he’ll never have, was at best misjudged.

Citing accidents in and around the home as the number one cause of child deaths in America, Nationwide hastily issued a statement on Sunday evening claiming that “the sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”

The explanation didn’t stop a huge backlash on social media though. On Monday morning, Nationwide was trending alongside (spoiler alert) Patriots match winners Malcolm Butler and Tom Brady, but for all the wrong reasons. Business insider cited two-thirds of all Nationwide mentions as being negative. The advert’s accompanying #makesafehappen hashtag was also overtaken by wags mocking the well-intentioned advert.

Credit where it’s due though to the Nationwide comms team in swiftly issuing a credible explanation for the advert, as well as informing critics of a spike in traffic to makesafehappen.com, which gives advice on how to increase home safety. “We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions” read the statement – clearly the insurers were prepared for a backlash, though surely more thought should have gone into such upsetting content at a time that millions of families are celebrating America’s Game.