Courtesy of Hellman's
Mayo Cat clip from Hellman's Super Bowl ad stage_presence

Super Bowl Food & Bev Commercials Mostly Underwhelmed This Year

Feb. 13, 2024
Editors Andy Hanacek and Maggie MacHale believe too many of the Big Game’s food and beverage commercials missed the mark, wasting a hyped-up audience looking for legendary spots.

Let’s face it: Super Bowl commercials really, truly matter to almost as many viewers as the game itself. In fact, for marketers whose companies shell out the big bucks (some said that this year’s price tag was $7 million for a 30-second spot), the Super Bowl represents an “advertising big game” in many ways as well.

This year, I expected companies to step up even stronger than normal, given the viewership boost from the NFL’s newest fans — Taylor Swift fans who may have been introduced to the game for the first time this season while following the global pop megastar’s relationship with Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce.

However, I felt genuinely disappointed in the commercials across the board this year. There have certainly been better years for the commercials, and maybe it’s just me getting old and nostalgic (as I mentioned last year, BRING BACK BUD BOWL!) for some of the legendary Super Bowl commercial entries. I will say, however (even though I didn’t mention it below), Budweiser bringing back the Clydesdales and their canine friends is always OK in my book.

I like to experience the commercials on gameday, so I did not watch any of the pre-Super Bowl “sneak peeks” — except for one. After seeing a news release criticizing Uber Eats for making light of peanut allergies in their spot, I went to watch that commercial in the days before the game (but more on that later).

To bring some additional insights to the table, I asked Maggie MacHale, Food Processing’s digital editor, to also analyze and share her thoughts. We looked at each of the food and beverage companies’ commercials, as well as those adjacent businesses (think, restaurants and delivery services, for example), and then we also shared our favorite overall commercial, regardless of industry served.

It may be telling that, while we agreed on several that missed the mark, there wasn’t a single commercial that we both enjoyed — maybe we’re too critical? You can be the judge of that. Enjoy!

Food & Beverage CPG Commercials:

Doritos Dina & Mita

MacHale: Es Dinamita! Well, maybe just okay in terms of commercials. Featuring the young television star, Jenna Ortega, this one checks all the boxes to be a semi-decent Super Bowl commercial. It was one of the only aired that brought conversations up amongst my watch party, with the slight chuckle here and there. Who doesn’t love two grandmas hunting a guy down for a good snack?

Hanacek: I didn’t hate this commercial, but it was just too long and too pedestrian for me. The only real laugh for me came when Dina and Mita are momentarily distracted by the baby, and that was more of a slight snicker than a true laugh. Maybe too much “stereotypical action film” tropes for me. And, of course the abuelitas would be walking away from an explosion at the end a la those Michael Bay films. Of course. Note: That stopped being cool in 2002 and stopped being funny as a parody in 2003.

Hellman’s Mayo Cat

MacHale: It was great to get a break from the other bad commercials with this one, featuring former Saturday Night Live stars Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson. The main upside to this commercial is the buzz that was all over TikTok the morning after the game. Mayo Cat, known by its owners as Chipmunk, is the sibling to Squirrel the Cat who has a page of over 221,000 followers. It’s a cute cat — can’t say no to that — but it didn’t have much else to offer.

Hanacek: OK, Hellman’s, what gives? Two years with the same approach and message? Two years with Pete Davidson being unnecessarily weird/creepy? And a viral cat? Maybe because I’m a dog person, but Mayo Cat felt played out and didn’t resonate with me this year. To quote Jon Hamm in last year’s commercial script, with regard to Davidson, “He really is everywhere,” and I’m totally over it. I’m a “tangy zip” guy anyway, sorry (full disclosure, my wife likes Hellman’s … but she’s also a Cubs fan).

Bud Light Easy Night Out (Bud Light Genie)

MacHale: The premise of this wasn’t new, genies granting wishes is a heavily repeated trope. What brings it to my top favorites list is the smaller jokes it featured. It was a great commentary on the world of modern dating. I don’t think the Gemini woman fully understands what a genie is. One clever highlight was the fast-paced ending, resulting in the cast present at the game.

Hanacek: This commercial just tried to cram too much randomness into 60 seconds (which is the spot that aired in my market … there’s a 90-second version that crams even MORE in). In the fight to regain lost market share, Bud Light might have been better off simplifying and sticking with the basics of fun for everyone, cutting out some of the extraneous silliness (bicep guy, invisible guy and T-Rex, for example).

M&M’s Almost Champions Ring of Comfort:

MacHale: There was nothing spectacular about this year’s M&M’s commercial. It featured the wonderful Scarlett Johansson alongside past losers of the NFL Super Bowl, but the cast couldn’t make up for a bland idea executed lamely.

Hanacek: For the old-school football fan that I am, I loved getting Dan Marino, Bruce Smith and Terrell Owens to joke about their “almost champions” status (polished by the sighs of almost winners, ha ha ha!). Adding Scarlett Johansson to the mix was funny, but it felt a teeny bit forced and almost patronizing to the non-football audience, as though they wouldn’t understand that these three players had “almost won” the Super Bowl but never did. A solid, not spectacular entry this year for M&M’s.

Pringles Mr. P

MacHale: We get it, Chris Pratt, the voice of Mario in The Super Mario Bros and Emmet from the Lego Movie, featured as Owen in Jurassic World, Andy from Parks and Rec, on and on and on, is everywhere. Now, apparently, he’s Mr. P. I can at least appreciate that they are taking note that it feels like no major motion film can be made without him, and Pringles wants a bite of that.

Hanacek: As Maggie said above, Chris Pratt is everywhere. So I guess he was bound to take on a buster of a project. Especially since he doesn’t do much in this commercial, let alone much that is funny. I take back what I said about Pete Davidson above. If you go to the Web site shown on the movie billboard at the end, Kellanova (Pringles’ parent company) asks if they should make the Pringles movie or not. I clicked No. Sorry, Pringles, I’ve seen all I need to see of Mr. P.

Nerds Unleash Your Senses:

MacHale: Nerds is trying to get on the bandwagon of relating to younger audiences, and who can blame them? It is candy after all. Featuring TikTok star Addison Rae and a rather discomforting gummy cluster, they succeeded in gathering the attention of younger audiences. I just won’t be eating Nerds gummy clusters for a bit with that image in my head.

Hanacek: I’d be interested in trying this candy, but it’s not because of the commercial. It falls into the bucket of “been there, done that” for me, with the decades-old callback to the movie “Flashdance” being utilized yet again (and twice in this Super Bowl, thanks to T-Mobile and Jason Momoa). I feel like there could have been so much more done around bringing Nerds and gummy candy together. Nerds are iconic, but here they’re relegated to a couple clips of them running toward the stage and then a boring splashdown.

Coors Light Chill Train:

MacHale: Coors Light returned with the Chill Train for another year. It was nothing that stood out to most audiences, including myself. New, fresh ideas are appreciated for commercials and Coors just missed it this year.

Hanacek: Really, we have the Coors Light Chill Train but conductor LL Cool J “forgot to play the song” until the end? The song is part of what makes the Chill Train great! And, honestly, the beginning of the commercial made me think this was going to be a Dr. Pepper Fansville commercial, so that didn’t work too well. The commercial wasn’t special to me, with the exception of one moment. Nice jab having the Chill Train blast through a beach scene reminiscent of Corona beer commercials. Bonus points for that slight dig on a competitor.

Michelob Ultra Superior Beach:

MacHale: Lionel Messi had a great year in 2023. Even those not involved with the World Cup know the name and the skill around this talented athlete. Yet, celebrity names don’t always bring you far, especially when your audience is probably there to watch football. No, not that kind, American football.

Hanacek: You know what would have been better than Lionel Messi schooling everyone and everything on the beach with a soccer ball while waiting for the bar to tap a new keg of Michelob Ultra? Having him so badly wanting that beer that he COULDN’T wait — resisting the temptation of kicking a soccer ball all over the beach. Michelob missed the net widely on this one.

Drumstick Doctor on the Plane:

MacHale: It had a lot of potential, the face of Erik Andre in the beginning had us all on the edge of our seats for a hilarious ad. Yet, it never came. It turned out to be a waste of a good comedian, so bad it was almost funny.

Hanacek: So, two commercials this year can harken back to the movie “Flashdance,” but this comedic commercial couldn’t channel its inner “Airplane!” — the best “passengers sick on a plane” movie ever? Come on! Was the price too high for Julie Hagerty, the best stewardess ever? No line and follow-up like, “a Drumstick, what is it?” If you don’t like “Airplane!,” then how about “Snakes on a Plane,” at least? Plenty of options here, all missed. Paging Dr. Umstick; Dr. Umstick, your flight is departing.

Reese’s Cups Big Game Commercial

MacHale: Initially, the joke was perfect. No one likes change, especially to one of the best candies on the market. The drama was elevated perfectly to a Super Bowl commercial, but it really didn’t need the consistent back and forth. If only it had been about 15 seconds shorter, featuring the classic orange background with our trusty narrator summing up the rest, then we may have had a winner on our hands. Short and sweet would have done the trick!

Hanacek: The candy sounds intriguing, because I’m a caramel fan. But the commercial tried way, way too hard, in my opinion. Especially when you consider that Reese’s commercials for the better part of the last year or more have been focused on the candy itself on an orange background, as used for half of this commercial. Sometimes, keeping it simple and staying with what works — with a slight tweak — does the trick. And that would have done so here too.

Mountain Dew Aubrey Plaza Having a Blast

MacHale: The dark-humored, monotone Aubrey Plaza is perfect for this idea, so we can’t shift the blame to her for the lack of entertainment. Mountain Dew didn’t use her sarcasm and attitude to its full potential, allowing the joke to fall flat. Her characters are known for finding fun mundane, not everyday annoyances. They couldn’t decide between the mundane or the exciting to be having a blast around while trying to fit her humor in. Also, it was a great series, but Game of Thrones needs a break from acting as a commercial trope.

Hanacek: I like Aubrey Plaza; I liked her character on Parks and Recreation and the delivery/schtick it created for her. But, well, other than maybe a line or two here, this commercial didn’t particularly work for me. Just another rehash of old material. Even Nick Offerman coming in at the end couldn’t save this one for me. Because, I hate to say it: Even his character needs a break too.

Oreo Twist on It

MacHale: It was silly and lighthearted, with comedy that would land well with anyone, even those that may be a diehard fan of the Kardashian family. There is the sense that there could have been a better idea out there, though. Is it a twist of fate or a coin toss? The main idea was bogged down by the fast pace and multiple narratives, letting us get lost and losing the point.

Hanacek: Clever at times, silly at others, the 30-second version is better than the longer version. I’d call this one a marginal winner rather than a loser. In other years though, with a better field of competitors, this one would probably rank lower on my list, mostly because the pacing was a bit too slow at times too, even in the shorter version.

Oikos Hold My Oikos

MacHale: Was I watching a show on Hulu or the Super Bowl? Nothing about this separates it from any other commercial I would be watching at any other time of year. The banter was original and entertaining, but as soon as the next commercial came on, I forgot this one even happened.

Hanacek: I will give Oikos credit here that this commercial was better than last year’s Deion Sanders family reunion commercial, which felt more about Deion than the yogurt. And this had potential, with Martin Lawrence and Shannon Sharpe starring. But it wasn’t as funny as I’d hoped it would be. Even the jabs at the end were rushed. This felt like something we could have seen all season long but maybe wasn’t Super Bowl worthy.

Lindt Lindor Life is a Ball

MacHale: Lindt, are you sure you weren’t trying to tell us that life can be a little dull? When thinking of the tag line “life is a ball,” we might want to see more excitement, more joy rather than causal pleasure. Sure, a chocolate commercial probably doesn’t want to show cliff jumpers or enthralling soccer matches, but candy doesn’t have to have a point according to Charlie Bucket. The commercial felt old-fashioned, a few years behind on what grabs attention and works as a marketing strategy.

Hanacek: Boy, did Lindt miss out here, especially with the use of the first 30 seconds ONLY of the Perry Como song “Round and Round.” The song really kicks into gear after the 1-minute mark, but Lindt had none of that. So, that made for a really pedestrian commercial. Lindt’s commercial run-time didn’t stick ’round long enough for it to get great.

STōK Cold Brew Anthony Hopkins Inner Dragon

MacHale: While it’s an overdone idea, the serious actor prepping for some ridiculous role that by no means needs to be taken so seriously, the addition of Anthony Hopkins was something refreshing. Known for his stoic, rather dark roles, it plays on the theme of taking yourself less seriously. STōK used poetics and almost Shakespearean language to bring an entertaining side to coffee.

Hanacek: This was a small treasure of a commercial, but not one I easily remembered for this review, to be honest. And, frankly, the humor of Anthony Hopkins taking acting super seriously even when he’s acting as a mascot, feels like it’s been done before somewhere, to where it took the edge off a bit here. And the punchline of the irony of cold brew fueling the fire-breathing dragon was OK at best. This was another, however, that felt like it could be used throughout the NFL season rather than just the Big Game.

Starry It’s Time to See Other Sodas

MacHale: What? I don’t understand, two lemon lime sodas (or is the other lime lemon?) as partners, and the past boyfriend exploding like a carbonated can? Nothing about this makes sense, and I got an uncanny feeling with the soda characters, a little case of Roger Rabbit. The idea was there, switching brands can be difficult, but the execution was missing with the character design and script.

Hanacek: I’m sorry, but this one featuring Ice Spice “seeing” the Starry mascots and running into her “ex-lemon-lime soda” was just weirdly put together and weird at the end. And the mascots’ running commentary didn’t help the continuity. I think that viewers would have understood what was going on without the “he’s so vulnerable” types of lines thrown in there. I don’t mind the concept, I think the execution failed.

Food & Beverage Adjacent Commercials:

Popeye’s The Wait is Over:

MacHale: Wings aren’t a new invention, but some humor can be appreciated when comparing them to the modern technology. It can be hard to keep up! The electric scooters and self-driving cars are everywhere, and it all seems great until I have to save my own robot vacuum from getting stuck under the kitchen counters. This commercial scored in relatability to most audiences with a talented comedian Ken Jeong at the helm.

Hanacek: I really liked this one for the comedic timing and the humor (“the Sailor Man?”), but man, Ken Jeong’s character has been frozen since 1972, and the commercial showed the robot vacuum, labradoodle, self-driving car and massage chair TWICE each! I feel like this hit well but could have created so many more laughs. One of the best this year for me, but not an “all-time great” in my opinion, unfortunately.

Dunkin Donuts Dunkings:

MacHale: This commercial was rather lackluster. The pacing felt off and the music featured was just bad. I may have missed the point of the entire commercial, but a lot of the jargon and references went right over my head.

Hanacek: Matt Damon completely saved this commercial for me. I understand that Ben Affleck’s song was supposed to be bad, but it wasn’t even funny-bad. And I still struggle with Affleck when he does his own Boston accent, I just don’t know why. J-Lo telling Tom Brady he could stay at the end of the audition also elicited a chuckle from me.

Uber Eats Don’t Forget:

MacHale: Before airing, this commercial featured a man eating peanut butter and forgetting that the main ingredients are peanuts, which he appears to be having an allergic reaction to. Not only from the allergist board, but from someone who suffers from food allergies, it might be time to put deadly-allergy jokes on the back burner when more than 33 million Americans have food allergies. It was a good call to remove it before the official game, but the damage may already be done. It may also make users of the delivery service cautious about ordering from the app with the image of such a severe reaction. I don’t want peanuts in my food orders.

Hanacek: Solid final result, but a couple marketing lessons to be learned here. (1) Pre-releasing your Super Bowl commercial is not a substitute for, say, a focus group. (2) If you’re a company handling food in any way, making light of a foodborne illness or food allergies is akin to an airline showing a plane crash in a commercial: Just don’t do it. (3) You can think of plenty of funny things people forget and make a good commercial without making light of a health issue, and the edited version of the commercial proves it.

Here's hoping that next season brings a commercial slate as good as this year’s actual football game ended up being!

Maggie’s Favorite Commercial This Year:

Duolingo Do your lesson, no buts: The language-learning app has grown in popularity over recent years for its targeted audience growth and social media presence. Many people who have taken the step to learning a new language know of the oddly threatening green owl. Duo, the owl, has a past of ominous and passive-aggressive push notifications that held up to their presence online with this … uncomfortable … ad. During the five-second TV spot, active Duolingo users also received a push notification, “No buts, do a lesson now!” This shows the way for fantastic new marketing strategies and attention grabbers in the future, so I can only hope more companies follow in the wake. I’m going to go practice my Spanish now.

Andy’s Favorite Commercial This Year:

CeraVe Michael Cera-Ve: The 30-second version, frankly, is perfect on its own, though the long-form 60-second-plus version doesn’t detract. From the moment Michael Cera says “…and human skin is my passion, which is why I developed this,” I was laughing. As the commercial went on, I was wondering how CeraVe was going to relay the punchline. The boardroom with the dermatologists, marketers and other executives stone-faced after viewing Cera’s commercial presentation capped off what I thought was the best commercial this year. It might not be an all-time top 10, but this year overall, as I mentioned, felt truly underwhelming.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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