Big brands that have in some cases sat out for years the TV advertising frenzy around the biggest US sporting event — the Super Bowl — are returning Sunday and spending big amid record ad prices. It’s been a bumpy couple years marked by pandemic-era restraint and political polarization, but the American football championship offers an increasingly unequalled viewership too big to pass up.
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Companies such as General Motors, PepsiCo and Facebook parent Meta Platforms are betting millions of dollars that nostalgic Super Bowl ads, many featuring 1980s and 1990s celebrities or music, will connect with viewers during Sunday’s big game.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Salma Hayek and Mike Myers will pitch new electric vehicles for BMW and GM. Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Rodman and William Shatner want you to work out at Planet Fitness. And others, such as Kevin Hart and Andy Richter, will promote Sam’s Club and avocados from Mexico.
With the average 30-second Super Bowl ad costing about $6.5 million, advertising executives and experts say such ads are attempting to reach key age demographics — millennials, Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers — while providing a little oasis from Covid-19 pandemic concerns and divisive politics.
“Nostalgia is a really good way to tap into positive memories that large portions of viewing audience will have,” said Mitchell Olsen, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. “It’s an opportunity to attach your brands with some of those positive associations.”
The ads are riding a wave of reboots from Hollywood studios and streaming services ranging from “The Karate Kid” and “Top Gun” to “Saved by the Bell” and “The Mighty Ducks” — all entertainment titles from the ’80s and ’90s.
There’s also the music, which may have some viewers thinking about dusting off their cassette tapes.
Songs from artists such as Salt-N-Pepa (“Push It”), Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and Simple Minds (“Don’t You [Forget About Me]”), among others, are sure to have viewers who pine for the ’80s humming along. Even this year’s halftime show, which stars rap icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Eminem, is tracking this vibe.
“The ’80s and ’90s are having a massive resurgence now,” said GM Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl. “There’s a huge familiarity.”
GM, for a second consecutive year, rebooted a 1990s film for a Super Bowl ad. Last year the automaker resurrected “Edward Scissorhands,” a movie from 1990, for a Cadillac ad and this time around Mike Myers is reclaiming his role as Dr. Evil in an “Austin Powers”-themed commercial from the spy comedy trilogy, which debuted in 1997.
Paying millions on nostalgia for bygone times is a gamble, experts say, that may not connect with younger viewers. That’s why, at the same time, advertisers like GM are attempting to drum up hype on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, among other social media…
Read More: GM, Meta and Frito-Lay lean into nostalgia