(CNN) — As advertisers considered the delicate balancing act that this year’s Super Bowl required – striking the right tone amid a period of stark cultural and political divisions and a public health crisis – many leading brands chose not to participate.
That was not an option for CBS and the National Football League, who worked hard, very hard, to evoke a sense of togetherness and normalcy in coverage, in a mostly polished broadcast that played out without some of the usual basics, including they a great crowd.
Addressing the media ahead of Super Bowl LV, the CBS announcing team expressed a desire to “treat it like just another game.” But let’s face it, that’s not possible for the Super Bowl at best – most games don’t have seven hours of hype before the game – and this year’s broadcast had a higher degree of difficulty.
The Super Bowl draws millions of viewers who care little about the game itself, and are featured for experience and ads in what remains the best media marketing showcase, with advertisers paying approximately $ 5, 5 million for every 30 second commercial. As always, the host network also sought to leverage the millions of trained eyes on television to promote a variety of assets of its parent company, ViacomCBS, most notably the streaming service Paramount +. If even a fraction of the spectators return, that qualifies as a huge victory.
So what worked best and what didn’t, in the context of a very unusual Super Bowl? Here are some disappointing highlights from the game’s coverage, as well as some of the pre-game moments:
Before Jackie. CBS aired a witty video, hosted by Viola Davis, on the history of black players in the NFL, but what really caught the eye was presenter James Brown’s pregame indictment of NFL owners, calling their record a hiring black coaches and administrators from “pitiful.” It might not sound like much, but it always takes something of value for a network to scold the NFL, given the value of those football contracts.
Jim Nantz and Tony Romo played the game. The commentary team did their best to stay focused on the field after Nantz introduced the broadcast celebrating the idea that “we all came together to see this game as one.” Romo also continued his magical act of identifying trends early and frequently, including how penalties were playing a huge role in the outcome early in the match.
Near the end, Nantz delivered a refreshing and honest assessment of what viewers just saw. ” The game did not live up to expectations,” he said.
A message from the Chief. Commercials don’t really belong in this conversation, but nothing tackles the politics of the day better than Jeep’s ad with Bruce Springsteen, who delivered a low-key but sobering message about unity and common ground. “Fear has never been the best of who we are,” Springsteen said poignantly. For some, a commercial might not be the ideal place to tackle that, but it was the most direct attempt to recognize the dark clouds that have swirled over the United States in the run-up to the game.
Amanda Gorman scores again. Frankly, there was room for skepticism that the poet, who dazzled at the presidential inauguration, was also included in the Super Bowl, but her ode to essential workers provided the perfect embellishment for the festivities leading up to the start.
Brady’s group. Another Super Bowl victory for Tom Brady, 43 – a senior by professional sports standards – is a great story, and before the game, Nantz called the battle of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Brady “the script. definitive”. Yet surprisingly, the commentators exhibited unexpected restraint for most of the night, capturing the moment without exaggerating it until Brady’s triumph became inevitable.
The NFL’s anti-racism public service announcement. The NFL offered a strong public service announcement regarding its financial commitment to a campaign against systemic racism, but the failure to make any reference to Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who has not found a team in the league, felt as a glaring mistake.
The halftime headache. The Weeknd’s halftime show was incredibly visually saturated, in a way that distracts from the music rather than enhances it. The presentation could have looked better in the stadium, but it was something of a mirror house experience on television, evoking an idea of what the halftime show would look like if David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick ran it.
Vince Lombardi returns… for an inspiring talk. For no particular reason, the NFL put out a creepy computer-generated version of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach to give a poignant speech on how to overcome adversity. The coach himself would have benched whoever came up with the idea.
The failures of the study team. The CBS studio team made some notable mistakes, starting with an unnecessary Nickelodeon kids’ channel-like version of the halftime highlights. Yes, it was fun, but a case of corporate synergy that went too far. Before the game, there was also a forced transition from Alicia Keys’ powerful performance regarding racial justice to the game itself. “Sports have been used as a platform to advance the social scoreboard,” Brown began, before moving on to a breakdown of teams. Of course, that’s not an easy transition, yet it felt jarring.
Paramount Minus. It is understandable that ViacomCBS wanted to promote its streaming service, but those commercials that brought together varied talent from its various channels happened too often and were too irritating. The result turned Paramount Mountain into a grain of sand.
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