The Taylor Swift effect in star-studded Super Bowl ads line-up

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Taylor Swift, center celebrates with friends after the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. The Chiefs won 25-22. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Frank Franklin II
Taylor Swift, center celebrates with friends after the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. The Chiefs won 25-22. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Frank Franklin II Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

The Super Bowl may be the biggest event on the American sporting calendar but this year, its popularity has been supercharged by the inescapable effect of Taylor Swift.

Swift has been in the audience for 12 NFL games this season, in support of boyfriend Travis Kelce, who plays tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

As soon as the Chiefs qualified for Super Bowl 58, speculation had reached fever pitch over whether Swift would take a break from her Eras World Tour to cheer Kelce on from the sidelines of the year’s biggest game.

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Once it seemed likely, the game was on for the second sport played annually at the Super Bowl: the ads. With an average TV audience of 115 million people for the 2023 game, this year’s ad rates came in at $US7 million for a 30-second slot during the lucrative half-time berth.

Cetaphil
Cetaphil Credit: YouTube

The usual beer companies, car makers, movie studios and junk food peddlers were abound, but the Swift influence was definitely noticeable, especially for any brands eager to reach the Time Person of the Year’s core fan group of girls and young women.

Women-centric brands including e.l.f. cosmetics are advertising for the first time during the Super Bowl while Dove is returning to the game after a two-decade absence.

One skincare brand, Cetaphil, had built an ad clearly with Swift in mind, without ever mentioning her by name or playing her songs. The ad features a father and teen daughter watching the Super Bowl at home and is replete with symbolism associated with Swift.

The dad is wearing red-and-white jersey with the number 89, which was the year Swift was born and is the name of one of her albums, and he gifts her a jersey with the number 13, famously Swift’s favourite number. The pair are also wearing the type of handcrafted bracelets that have become a hallmark of Swift’s Eras tour.

The only line of dialogue in the ad is an announcer’s voice on TV, who says, “Well, folks, there she is, it’s the most famous fan of the game”.

There is also an ad for the upcoming action comedy film The Fall Guy, which stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. At the end of the spot, there is a scene of Gosling’s character in a car and listening to Swift song “All Too Well”. He has tears running down his face.

Blunt’s character knocks on the window and asks him, “You’ve been crying to Taylor Swift?” to which he replies, “Doesn’t everyone?”.

Swift’s presence at the Super Bowl was watched on with as much interest as the antics on the field. She flew in from her tour in Japan on her private jet, which was spotted in Los Angeles on Saturday. She arrived at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium on Sunday afternoon with a red jacket – the Chief’s colours – and went to the VIP suites.

Her companions in the box included Kelce’s family, her family plus famous friends Blake Lively, Lana Del Rey and Ice Spice. Paul McCartney popped in at one point.

In the second half of 2023, Gen Z and millennial women’s favourability towards the NFL spiked 11 per cent, according to the research company Morning Consult. Swift and Kelce first confirmed their courtship in September. Kelce’s NFL jersey saw a 400 per cent spike in sales that first weekend, and he added 300,000 followers to his Instagram account.

One survey, by Lending Tree, found 13 per cent of Americans were more interested in the NFL because of Swift.

Of course, Swift isn’t the only celebrity associated with this year’s Super Bowl. Big stars are frequently featured in one-time Super Bowl ads, and paid handsomely, usually in the seven-figure range.

Some can go higher, including Ben Affleck who last year commanded close to $US10 million for his involvement in a Dunkin Donuts ad, which led to single biggest sales day in the brand’s history, according to CNN.

And Affleck is back with another Dunkin ad this year, playing an exaggerated version of himself trying to become a pop superstar.

The e.l.f. cosmetics ad is a Suits reunion with stars Gina Torres and Rick Hoffman facing off in court in front of Judge Judy. Co-star Sarah Rafferty is the note-taker while Jury Duty break-out Ronald Gladden cameos as one of the jurors.

There was another Suits re-team in the T-Mobile ad with leads Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht and a host of other famous faces including Laura Dern, Bradley Cooper, Common and Jennifer Hudson “auditioning” for the telco’s higher status plans. Cooper gets to show off his juggling skills alongside his mum.

Christopher Walken is in a BMW ad in which he is confronted by people across town, including Emily in Paris star Ashley Park, imitating his distinctive speech pattern. Usher pops up at the end.

Reunions were a big theme of the Super Bowl ads. Nick Offerman appeared in Aubrey Plaza’s ad for Mountain Dew, playing off her trademark deadpan delivery.

Scrubs besties Zach Braff and Donald Faison were joined in T-Mobile home internet ad by Jason Momoa as the three recreated the Flashdance frolic.

Arnold Schwarznegger and his Twins co-star Danny Devito came together for an ad for insurance company State Farm.

Tina Fey had support from her 30 Rock friends Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer in ad for Booking.com, which also featured Glenn Close riding on a horse. As you do.

Perhaps the best reunion of all was a forgettable one. Jennifer Aniston played a version of herself who couldn’t recall David Schwimmer and their 10-year run on Friends in an ad for Uber Eats.

Skincare brand CeraVe made use of its name by hiring actor Michael Cera front their commercial in an abstract send-up of perfume and luxury goods ads. It even had a dolphin.

There was a Chris Pratt ad for Pringles that threatened he would continue his streak of mediocre films with a Pringles movie. God help us. Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese did an ad for Squarespace with his daughter Francesca which made fun for his propensity for long movies.

The other celebrity ads included Jenna Ortega for Doritos, Kris Jenner for Oreos, Lionel Messi and Jason Sudeikis for Michelob, Scarlett Johansson for M&Ms, Ken Jeong for Popeyes, Peyton Manning and Post Malone for Bud Light, Cardi B for NYX Cosmetics, Ice Spice for Starry, and Vince Vaughn, Tom Brady and Wayne Gretzky for BetMGM.

In the crowd at the game were long-time Chiefs fan Paul Rudd, as well as Gwen Stefani, Jon Hamm, Jay-Z, Beyonce and their daughter Blue Ivy, Miles Teller, Lady Gaga, Mark Wahlberg, LeBron James, Jared Leto, Kendall Jenner, Gordon Ramsay, Justin and Hailey Bieber, Shaquille O’Neill, Janelle Monae and Martha Stewart.

Usher led the halftime show while Reba McEntire, Andra Day and Post Malone also performed.

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