What is a Super Bowl ad? Typically a Super Bowl ad refers to the ad of a brand that has paid lots of money to air its ad on network television during the Super Bowl, a/k/a The Big Game.

Apparently there are some NFL guidelines CBS had to follow as it began to receive offers of $5 Million for airing thirty second spots, so there is some control exercised by the NFL, it appears.

Not sure how Fiat avoided the NFL ban on “male enhancement products” ads last year — or may a car company allude to another’s banned product and avoid the ban itself?

As we, and others, have written about before, the NFL gets a little crazy about others using the words SUPER BOWL in advertising without the advertiser being an official sponsor.

But, does the appearance or reference to the words “Super Bowl” in an advertisement automatically make it a Super Bowl ad?

To be clear, the NFL doesn’t have an absolute right to forbid all possible use of or reference to the Super Bowl mark or event — especially when nominative fair use may apply.

Word to the wise, don’t try to navigate this fair use question on your own, even if you’re just planning to use the words, knowing you can’t use the logo.

So, what about ads that aren’t broadcast during the Super Bowl, they might be printed or aired leading up to the Big Game, are those Super Bowl ads too?

Would anyone believe the NFL has approved them? Or, do they merely reference another brand, the Super Bowl, in their advertisement, without resulting in any likelihood of confusion?

This gem arrived in my inbox during the course of the week, leading up to Super Bowl Sunday:


What do you think, fair use, or off sides penalty? And, how about this one?


Last one, was it necessary to avoid use of the Super Bowl mark here and replace with the infamous Big Game instead?


How many letters do you suppose the NFL sends out in the two months following the Big Game?

If you’ve received one, we’d love to here from you, maybe we’ll share your story . . . .

Back to the other kind of Super Bowl ads, some of my favorite “official” Super Bowl ads from Super Bowl 50 were these, in no particular order:

  • Heinz Ketchup’s “Weiner Stampede” — my family loves dogs, what can I say? (USA Today’s AdMeter liked it too: #2);
  • Dorito’s “Ultrasound” — this was hilarious, having been in the delivery room four times, and lacking necessary focus at times, no doubt, but never once distracted with a bag of Dorito’s, at least that I recall anyway (USA Today’s AdMeter liked it too: #3)
  • Honda’s “A New Truck to Love” — can’t resist sheep singing my favorite Queen tune (USA Today’s AdMeter liked it too: #7)

And, I tend to agree with the worst five Super Bowl 2016 ads, according to USA Today’s AdMeter. I’m not sure the Super Bowl is an event where the folks expect to see boring pharmaceutical or laundry detergent ads.

So, which ones did you enjoy?

  • Martha Engel

    My best: Audi’s astrounaut ad. Fantastic production and a stellar way to bring back the brand after their rough year last year.
    My worst: Mountain Dew. The puppy-monkey-baby was flat out revolting.
    Also, isn’t the talking animals thing played out? Because it seems like we should be able to be more creative then animals acting as humans. I mean at least there were talking razors.

  • Wes Anderson

    Not my favorite year for SB ads, but I will say I really enjoyed Audi’s “Commander” ad for the R8 V10. The David Bowie soundtrack was a nice (perhaps unexpected?) homage as well. And in spite of its placing among the “worst” commercials you have to admire Xifaxan for going all-in with a cheery (if occasionally troubled) large intestines mascot.

  • I liked three: (1) NFL’s own “Super Bowl Babies” ads; (2) Amazon echo with Alec Baldwin and Dan Marino and (3) Apartments.com with Jeff Goldblum and The Jefferson’s references.
    I agree with Martha that the worst was the Mountain Dew puppy-monkey-baby and this was also tied with the Valeant irritable bowel syndrome ad with the pink intestine mascot.

  • Tim Sitzmann

    My favorite was the Toyota Prius car chase commercials: just the right amount of self deprecating humor. Of course, I still don’t think I’ll ever buy a Prius, but that mostly is because of these Minnesota winters.
    I won’t make jokes about Priuses any more, though, so maybe the commercial was a success.

  • Jessica Gutierrez Alm

    I liked Axe’s Find Your Magic ad. I’m just happy to see Axe finally moving away from their ridiculous “if you use this, women will throw themselves at you” marketing. This ad was still full of testosterone and masculinity, but from a more modern and inclusive standpoint. It seems like a smart move that will appeal to a wider audience.

    The Heinz wiener dogs were pretty adorable too.

  • David Pabian

    I agree with Tim on the Prius commercials. I thought they were spot on. Martha is absolutely right about the puppy-monkey-baby commercial. It took me quite a while to even understand what was happening, and I’m still not sure I do. I wouldn’t have remembered it was a Mountain Dew commercial if Martha hadn’t mentioned it, which is not the best thing in an advertisement. Normally you want your customers to associate your name with it. I found the Budweiser commercials with Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen really interesting. It seemed to be a shift away from their previous ads. Perhaps they’re trying to rebrand a bit in an era of microbreweries and eat local movements.