The Best Commercials from the Big Game: The Brands that Took Home the ‘W’ in our Book

Writing by Design shares their favorite "Big Game" day ads.

The Best Commercials from the Big Game: The Brands that Took Home the ‘W’ in our Book

Sunday was one of our favorite days of the year… the day big brands showcase their creativity through commercials cleverly written and produced for TV’s most-watched live event, reaching nearly 100 million people who tune in to watch the Big Game.

In case you missed it, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 31 to 20 on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. And Shakira and Jennifer Lopez gave an energizing performance during the official Pepsi Halftime Show with guest appearances from JLo’s 11-year-old daughter Emme and fellow Latin artists Bad Bunny and J Balvin.

But now back to the real reason we all (OK, most of us) tuned in—the commercials! As a marketing agency that writes scripts for commercials and assists giant companies with positioning and launching their new products, we’re kind of tough critics.  

There were many standouts: Michelob ULTRA’s Jimmy Works It Out, P&G’s clever “When We Come Together” ad featuring a variety of their brands (P.S. the ad was directed by fans) and T-Mobile’s ad featuring “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson (and his mom, Doris Hancox!), so we thought we’d have some fun showing you just “what’s in the writer’s head” as we evaluate our top picks.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite commercials and what made them stand out in our eyes.  

  1. Oil of Olay “Make Space for Women” (Patti’s pick)

Since Writing by Design LLC is a woman-owned business, it’s no wonder this one topped this female entrepreneur’s list of favorites! Clearly targeting my Gen X demographic (yes, TV show anchor and fellow journalist, Katie Couric, I saw you and knew who you were!), this ad utilized a lineup of famous and accomplished women to “launch” a message of support for the empowerment of women everywhere. From Taraji B. Henson (who happens to play one of my favorite female characters in the hit show, “Empire!”) to Canadian YouTuber Lilly Singh (aka, “SuperWoman”) to astronaut Nicole Stott, this commercial had me at liftoff.

What we think the insight was: With a much higher percentage of women now tuning in to watch the Big Game than ever before (and some even playing and coaching the game, too!), this beauty giant wasn’t going to miss a second of prime ad space in showcasing its own support of women, and sending a message of inspiration to the millions of women viewers it had in its clutch. The time was ripe for them to boost the brand’s goodwill in supporting the advancement of women not only in their careers, but in their future careers in STEM as well.

Features they highlighted: This wasn’t a typical product ad, so it really didn’t have to support any features, per se. However, it was an ad that would likely fare well in shedding a halo over EVERY Oil of Olay product if measured on a good-feeling-ometer. The spot highlighted that “there was plenty of space for women” and that when “we make space for women, we make space for everyone.” Inclusivity at its best. Thanks, Oil of Olay, for recognizing and applauding women (like me) who work hard every day at advancing women in the workplace. I applaud you for this ad!

Benefits they included: Again, since it wasn’t a product-focused ad per se, this wasn’t about touting benefits of a skin care product. It was about the larger emotional benefits brought to consumers via ALL their products – products that inspire women to be and do (and look) their best every day. And, with every tweet and retweet of the message, the brand helped to pay it forward for younger women with a real investment in STEM careers, funding $1 for every tweet to Girls who Code, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to close the gender gap in technology by creating an enormous pipeline of women in engineering careers. Cool, right?

  • WeatherTech® Praises University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Jess’s pick)

Scout first stole our hearts when he made his television debut during last year’s big game, helping WeatherTech showcase its PetComfort® line of products. So when the WeatherTech founder and CEO’s loveable golden retriever returned this year with news of a heart wrenching cancer diagnosis, it’s safe to say we were all glued to the screen.

Diagnosed in the summer of 2019 with hemangiosarcoma (an aggressive blood cancer), 7-year-old Scout was given just a 1% chance of survival and no more than a month to live. That is, until he was paired with the cutting-edge researchers and veterinarians at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Under their care, Scout underwent chemotherapy and radiation, reducing the size of his tumor until it was almost entirely gone and returning to his happy, healthy self.

Instead of featuring a single WeatherTech product, CEO David MacNeil used this year’s entire $6-million ad spot as an opportunity to thank the UW-Madison team and request donations to support their groundbreaking research which has the potential to save millions of pets’ lives. As a proud UW-Madison grad, I think that’s pretty doggone amazing.

What we think their insight was: Sadly, almost no one has been spared the pain of watching a loved one fight cancer, and a pretty good portion of Americans know what it’s like to call a furry, four-legged pet a member of the family. MacNeil had a pretty good idea this commercial would resonate with people across the nation, and with almost 900,000 views before it even officially aired for the big game, he was clearly right.

Features they highlighted:  WeatherTech products took a back seat for this ad, shifting the spotlight instead to the School of Veterinary Medicine’s team of doctors and researchers. But with enough brand presence still intertwined in the commercial’s message, it’s safe to say the positive recognition gained could have a pretty significant payoff.

Benefits they included: Hope. Thanks to cutting edge research taking place at institutions like UW-Madison, we have reason to believe a frightening diagnosis doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds.

  • New York Life’s Love Takes Action (Kayde’s pick)

Life insurance isn’t exactly an easy subject to discuss but having it—and making sure those you love are set when something happens to you—is worth the temporary discomfort of discussing your departure from this earth.

New York Life’s “Love Takes Action” commercial hit home for me first for its ability to educate viewers by defining types of love, making this word-geek very happy, and secondly in how beautifully the ad tied in the four types of love to all life stages (especially agape love, oh was I holding back tears).

The ad team did a great job of giving everyone something to connect to and a reason to watch the ad. From the sibling love, the bond between a child and grandparent, and the love shared between friends to romantic love, making sacrifices to show love and the love of an adult child caring for an elderly parent, New York Life snagged attention and had you wondering just who the ad was for until they clearly made their tie-in during the last 15 seconds.

What we think their insight was: People in all stages of life want to make sure their loved ones are well taken care of—now and into the future—and they want to have an active role in providing that care.

Features they highlighted: New York Life has been helping people act on their love (and get it right) for more than 175 years.  

Benefits they included: Whether you’re looking back at your life or ahead at the future, you can be confident knowing you got it right, you did good, and you protected and took care of those you love. 

  • JEEP resurrecting Groundhog Day featuring Bill Murray (Kristin’s pick)

With the Big Game happening on February 2—Groundhog Day—one brand took full advantage of the day. Cleverly launching at 6 a.m. on Groundhog Day to coincide with the classic 1993 film, “Groundhog Day,” the JEEP ad reprised beloved actors Bill Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky, bringing back all the motion picture’s déjà vu feelings.

In “Groundhog Day”—if you are unfamiliar with the film—actor Bill Murray plays Phil Conners, a TV weatherman determined to cover the annual Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Day celebration and return to his life as quickly as possible. To his dismay, he finds himself reliving the same day over and over again.

This time around, JEEP highlighted the fact that getting stuck in a time loop isn’t so bad when you’re driving the 2020 JEEP Gladiator. The explorer brand archetype was displayed proudly in this ad with JEEP focusing on their commitment to freedom, authenticity and adventure.

What we think their insight was: With the on-screen message of “No day is the same in a JEEP Gladiator,” JEEP tied back that even if you are forced to relive every day like Phil Conners, JEEP is the adventure brand that paves the way for its owners to have extraordinary experiences every time they step behind the wheel.

Featured they highlighted: The Big Game day commercial didn’t come out and list the features of the 2020 JEEP Gladiator, but by watching you could observe the car’s cargo-bed, four-door cab, large off-road tires and sturdy exterior.

Benefits they included: The 2020 JEEP Gladiator’s capability in snow and handling of serious off-road conditions showcase its ability to take riders where they want to go.

Now it’s your turn! Which ad from the Big Game was your favorite?