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News and Analysis: Super Bowl LIII Edition
This past weekend, the New England Patriots took on the Los Angeles Rams in the 53rd Super Bowl. The Patriots won as usual, beating the Rams by a paltry score of 13-3, an NFL record for the lowest scoring championship game in the Super Bowl era.
Meanwhile, the halftime show, featuring Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi, drew the lowest ratings in a decade. Though the halftime show has been no stranger to controversy, this year’s show was controversial from the get-go, as many potential performers protested the halftime show over the Colin Kaepernick scandal, which started in 2016.
The victorious Patriots won their 6th Super Bowl since 2001 thanks to the only touchdown of the game, but not without some scandals of their own along the way. A spygate and deflategate later, and a perfect storm for social media activity came to port. Let’s dive into the highlights, memes, and takeaways from this year’s Super Bowl:
If we’re being honest, a large portion of the Super Bowl’s appeal is the commercials. From Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” to Apple’s ”1984,” some of the most iconic ads ever run started during a Super Bowl.
This year featured a variety of pop culture icons and musicians. Chance the Rapper made a song for Doritos, while 2 Chainz made a rap for Expensify. Cardi B, Lil Jon, and Steve Carell made an appearance for Pepsi, in a spot spoofing the classic question, “Is Pepsi Okay?” The NFL even aired a commercial, featuring their biggest stars playing a pick-up game at the NFL awards.
Beyond the TV ads, however, the real story seemed to be about the influencers. GoDaddy, one of the usual suspects on the Super Bowl ad roster, ditched their annual Super Bowl spot, while ratcheting up their influencer marketing efforts. Meanwhile, according to our insights tool, there was a huge spike of sponsored posts featuring the phrase “Super Bowl” on social media on Super Bowl Sunday and the day after.
A search for sponsored posts mentioning the phrase or hashtag "superbowl."
Accordingly, there was a spike in organic posts on Super Bowl Sunday as well, specifically on Twitter. Reactions to the game, the ads, and memes were abuzz. Speaking of which, the memes performed just as well as the commercials – and even better than the Rams.
When the whole world tunes into a game that didn’t even have a touchdown until the fourth quarter, they’re bound to get bored. And what do bored people do during a boring football game? Make memes, of course!
This year’s Super Bowl was particularly meme-worthy. For starters, the halftime performers teased a tribute to the recently passed Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the iconic cartoon show, Spongebob. One of the most popular episodes featured the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom singing a song called “Sweet Victory” during a halftime show of a big game.
Adam Levine, Travis Scott, and even the NFL suggested there would be a feature during the game. Spongebob and “Sweet Victory” was indeed tributed, but only for three seconds during Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” introduction. Needless to say, social media was not happy.
SPONGEBOB GOT SHUT OUT BY SICKO MODE. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO BOYS pic.twitter.com/sMrhcH2fv9
— Quote (@Quote117) February 4, 2019
And one from Reddit’s popular subreddit, R/Prequelmemes:
But Spongebob didn’t seem to mind:
So honored and humbled! Thankful for being included and for all our fellow sea creatures 💛💛 pic.twitter.com/F8lesQvDBz
— SpongeBob (@SpongeBob) February 4, 2019
But others wanted more than just a mention:
when i saw spongebob during the halftime show but they didnt do the song: pic.twitter.com/VgcLJ8qFm2
— CreepyPastaJr. (@CreepyPastaJr) February 4, 2019
Yet some found the tribute more exciting than the divisive halftime show:
— Jon (@MrDalekJD) February 4, 2019
For context, Spongebob screenshots are often used for memes on Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. Regardless of the outcome, the event would inevitably lead to memes. That it was disappointing only made them funnier.
Spongebob aside, the halftime show’s lackluster reception spawned even more memes. For one thing, many were keen to point out that Adam Levine could take his shirt off onstage, while Janet Jackson was infamously blacklisted for it. Meanwhile, many poked fun at anything they could, from Adam Levine’s tattoos:
I knew Adam Levine shirtless looked familiar
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 4, 2019
To Adam Levine dancing to “Sicko Mode”:
— Stephanie McNeal (@stephemcneal) February 4, 2019
To Adam Levine barely playing his guitar:
View this post on Instagram
Really, they just made fun of Adam Levine.
While he took the brunt of the meme hurricane that ripped through the big game, Tom Brady and the Patriots weren’t spared either. The Onion, as it is wont to do, went for the jugular, writing several satirical articles about Bill Belichick being dragged back to hell, texting Ram’s Coach Sean McVay photos of dead animals, and more.
Super Bowl Sunday is undoubtedly the biggest ad spend day of the year. It’s an opportunity that no brand who can spare the expense will turn down. However, the evolution of influencer marketing, and the undeniable reliance of pop culture on social media, offers more brands access to the Super Bowl spoils than ever before. The spike in posts, both sponsored and organic, indicates that many brands were quick to jump on the bandwagon. And as GoDaddy shows, some are even foregoing commercials all together, in favor of a more comprehensive digital strategy.
The memes are an inevitability, as the global peanut gallery guffaws at the spectacle. While they are in some ways a temperature gage of public reception – whether it’s an ad, a halftime show, or Adam Levine’s tattoos – they are ultimately all in good fun. And if nothing else, they prove that even during the Super Bowl, America’s eyes are still glued to their social media feeds.
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