Super Bowl Ads Offered Unique Opportunities for Top Talent

Timothee Chalamet
Courtesy of Cadillac

Stars ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Timothee Chalamet to Michael B. Jordan to Daveed Diggs to Matthew McConaughey all appeared in Super Bowl ads this past Sunday.

But other than the obvious financial benefits, what motivation is there for a major celebrity to appear in an ad during the biggest football game of the year these days?

“On some levels, it’s very prestigious,” says Carol Goll, head of global branded entertainment for ICM. “If you’re going to do one ad in your life — and a lot of these people aren’t people you typically see in a lot of endorsements — the Super Bowl is a great place to do it because the creative is so good and it’s reaching such a huge audience.”

Goll went on to say that other factors that can drive stars to participate in ads on game day are “passion for the product,” as well as the prestige of being asked to participate when few big-name stars get such a chance. “When the opportunity comes up, it feels very special to the artist,” she says.

Of course, cash is also king. One top Hollywood dealmaker at the intersection of talent and brands said the average A-list start commands at least $5 million for a Super Bowl spot — but this year, compensation leaned toward $7 million and above for select spots. The elevated price tags were the result of anomalies in the routine celebrity endorsement space.

First, according to two players in the space, was the caliber of talent willing to come off of scripted films and TV series and play in the commercial space. Chalamet is Hollywood’s hottest male commodity, more prone to high fashion editorial photography than selling electric cars. His deal with General Motors, anchored in the beloved nostalgia of Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands,” guaranteed a cultural moment outside of the game itself. Will Ferrell, who hasn’t endorsed a product in nearly two decades, came out of the gate with an assist from Awkwafina. Talent agency UTA helped lure out clients Chalamet and Ferrell, with GM being repped by UTA Marketing. Drake, who hasn’t repped products in anyone’s name but his own since his 2015 campaign with Sprite, showed up for State Farm.

“The gravitas you saw in those ads is partly due to talent you don’t see in this mix every year,” said another top agent. “This wasn’t just Matthew McConaughey behind the wheel of a Lincoln.”

Another factor was, of course, the chaos of 2020. While many brands have been forced to sacrifice as a result of coronavirus, marketing budgets were among the first to be slashed along with workforce reductions and furloughs.

“Those budgets came back to normal, or something like it, right around the time Super Bowl Planning started,” said one marketing executive speaking on the condition of anonymity. There was also a feeling among numerous marketers that the time was finally right to deliver product-specific messages and levity, after months of corporations devoting resources and ad space to speaking out against the social and racial injustice movements that sprung up in the U.S. months of the Trump administration.