Mobile Wars and Border Doors: The Ads of Super Bowl 51

February 7, 2017

What started as a snoozefest turned into the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, earning New England Patriots QB Tom Brady his coveted fifth ring and FOX an extra $20 million in ad revenue.

Oh yeah, the ads: the other half of Super Bowl Sunday that makes it hard to catch a bathroom break. Brands had another strong year of online engagement, garnering 240 million Facebook interactions, 150 million Instagram interactions and 27.6 million tweets globally. With an average of 111.3 million viewers, that can only mean one thing: Those viewers had a lot to say.

The commercial landscape was bound to find controversy in post-election turmoil, but overall, the political messages were inclusive. Even Lady Gaga played it safe during her halftime show, and viewership spiked. So what was everyone posting about?

Here’s a look at some of the most socially savvy advertising plays from Super Bowl 51.


Let’s get down to business: #SB51 was a big year for T-Mobile. The carrier aired four commercials throughout the game, resulting in some great memes and putting top competitor Verizon on blast.

The first spot featured Justin Bieber channeling his inner Mr. Six:

Next up was the dream team of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, which was all that and a can-of-bisque:

The last two ads featured Kristen Schaal going 50 shades of creepy with Verizon.

While Verizon didn’t snatch up any airtime at this year’s Super Bowl, the competitor initially went aggressive in an online campaign against T-Mobile and Sprint but mostly ended up playing defense.

84 Lumber

Viewers wondered if commercials would take a strong political stance on game day. Then came along the 90 seconds deemed “too controversial to air” by FOX.


The spot—which is currently trending at #1 on YouTube with over 4 million views—was edited down to a 45-second preview during the game that encouraged viewers to “complete the journey” online.

Oddly enough, the symbolic look at immigration allows viewers to take both sides: the commercial was reportedly inspired by Trump’s promise that his border wall would have a “big, beautiful door.”

Buffalo Wild Wings

In 2013, Buffalo Wild Wings was among the winners of clever tweeting during the infamous “blackout bowl”:

This year the brand successfully went bizarre. A pre-game spot featured two eerie, hairless suits revealing the chain’s control over NFL Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre.

The first-ever Super Bowl overtime played out well for B-Dubs, whose #HitTheButton campaign asserted their mysterious power over sporting events. Oh, and Snoop Dogg extended his reach even further by getting in on the conspiracy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Tying a movie trailer into the Super Bowl is no simple task. Of course, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 made it look easy using fun GIFs and branded emojis.

While the galactic heroes didn’t even use #SB51 in any of their posts, the trailer still racked up more than 40 million views on Facebook and 13,000 retweets.

And as for this Junior Blaster’s favorite Super Bowl spot? The one that had me screaming at the television, much to my roommate’s chagrin?

Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 2 Teaser

The surprise teaser for the new season of the Netflix favorite gave Eggo a stellar opportunity for engagement. The waffle brand has been on fire on Twitter, nodding at the series’ Upside Down and even flirting with Zac Efron.

What was your favorite ad from the big night? Let us know!