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Super Bowl commercials: Winners and losers from the big game

Cheetos and Amazon were among the companies that scored with their ads, but a few commercials fumbled.



February 8, 2021 / 12:15 PM / MoneyWatch

Top Super Bowl ads from USA Today’s Ad Meter

Top Super Bowl ads from USA Today’s Ad Meter 05:23

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers weren’t the only winners of Super Bowl LV on Sunday, with a handful of advertisements scoring points in the annual brand showcase. Among the most effective commercials, according to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management: Amazon’s humorous Alexa ad and Chipotle’s spot about environmentally friendly agriculture.

Brands spend millions for 30 seconds of airtime during the game, which typically reaches more than 100 million viewers. But after a challenging year that included the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice demonstrations and an attack on the U.S. Capitol, some advertisers played it safe, with a few even opting out of this year’s Super Bowl.

The brands that did run ads mostly opted for light humor, avoiding mention of the pandemic or other other crises. The big winner this year was Cheetos’ ad, which features actor Ashton Kutcher asking his wife, actor Mila Kunis, if she’s seen his bag of Cheetos. Despite her orange-tinged fingers and face, she denies she’s the thief, while Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” provides the soundtrack. The spot succeeded because it provided a clear, on-brand message, the Kellogg School said.

Cheetos | It Wasn’t Me SUPER BOWL LV OFFICIAL VIDEO by Cheetos on YouTube

“Cheetos is the winning ad this year with its ‘It Wasn’t Me’ spot because it had very strong branding and played off its known attributes to leverage its equity in a simple and clear message,” said Derek D. Rucker, a business professor at the Kellogg School, in a statement.

Another winner was Amazon’s Alexa commercial, which depicts a woman imagining Alexa transformed into actor Michael B. Jordan, according to Kellogg’s rankings, which rates the commercials on their strategic effectiveness, such as distinction and attention.

Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Alexa’s Body by amazon on YouTube

But overall, this year’s crop of ads wasn’t particularly distinctive, relying on “safe ads with light humor,” according to Kellogg School business professor Tim Calkins. “But it was good to see some brands aim for more empowering messages. Still, we didn’t see any major breakthroughs or ads that we’ll be talking about for years to come,” he added.

To be sure, the business school rankings are scored differently than popular opinion, given that the Kellogg School is rating the ads on how effectively they support a brand or its message. Among the ads that scored well with consumers were Rocket Mortgage’s spots with actor Tracy Morgan, according to USA Today’s Ad Meter.

Certain Is Better | Tracy Morgan, Dave Bautista & Liza Koshy | Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Commercial by Rocket Mortgage on YouTube

Its rating system also gave high marks to Amazon’s Alexa ad and M&M’s spot featuring actor Dan Levy.

M&M’S Super Bowl 2021 (featuring Dan Levy) – “Come Together” :30 by M&M’S Chocolate on YouTube

There’s some evidence that consumers weren’t wowed by the fresh crop of Super Bowl ads, with Twitter mentions of Super Bowl Ads were down more than 60% from a year earlier, according to social media analytics firm ListenFirst. Even though Pepsi didn’t air a commercial in the game, it benefited from its sponsorship of the halftime show, which featured The Weeknd, ListenFirst said.

One of the more unusual spots was a 5-second ad for Reddit. The company tweeted on Sunday night that it “made a bet on ourselves tonight” and wondered if people would pause to read the text-laden spot. The ultra-short ad, which claimed Reddit was spending its “entire marketing budget on five seconds of airtime,” went praised underdogs in an apparent nod to the GameStop saga and the small traders who congregate on its WallStreetBets subreddit.

We made a bet on ourselves tonight – will it have been worth it? TBD.

But if a 43-year-old quarterback can lead his team to victory over opposing players half his age, maybe a few of you will take the time to pause a 5-second ad.

Anything is possible.

— Reddit (@reddit) February 8, 2021

“Amid these bigger ads, Reddit may have gotten the most bang for its buck, as the brand turned a 5 second regional buy into a robust online conversation about their values,” said Jonathan Cohen, director of content and communications at ListenFirst, in an email.

Below are the commercials as ranked by the Kellogg School’s grading system. Unlike after past Super Bowls, no ads got an “F” this year.

Grade A

  • Cheetos
  • Amazon
  • Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade
  • Doritos 3D
  • Indeed
  • Reddit
  • Tide
  • M&M’s
  • Chipotle

Grade B

  • ABI
  • Rocket Mortgage
  • Dexcom
  • Uber Eats
  • State Farm
  • Huggies
  • Intuit Turbotax
  • Michelob Ultra Seltzer
  • Michelob Ultra
  • Cadillac
  • T-mobile
  • Vroom
  • Fiverr
  • Dr. Squatch
  • Hulu (Disney Bundle)
  • E-Trade
  • Hellman’s Mayo

Grade C

  • NFL
  • Scott’s Miracle Gro
  • Jimmy John’s
  • Mountain Dew
  • Robinhood
  • Pringles
  • Microban
  • Logitech
  • Disney
  • Doordash
  • Oatly
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Bud Light
  • GM
  • Toyota
  • Paramount+
  • Mercari
  • Stella Artois
  • Crown Royal
  • Inspiration4
  • Verizon
  • United Wholesale Mortgage
  • Jeep
  • Corona

Grade D

  • Klarna
  • WeatherTech
  • Guaranteed Rate
  • Skechers
  • Squarespace
  • Draft Kings



Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl: Release Date, Trailer, News, and More

Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl is a Super Smash Bros. clone bringing all of your favorite Nickelodeon characters together to fight it out. Here’s what we know.



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Ever wonder which one of your favorite Nickelodeon characters would come out on top in a fight? Nickelodeon just announced a new Super Smash Bros-like fighting game, Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl, which will give you a chance to see which cartoons are the ultimate fighters.

While the idea of a Nickelodeon-themed fighter is a little silly, players in the fighting game community are keeping an open mind and believe the new title could be a legitimate competitive experience. The Super Smash Bros. series has been wildly successful after all. Is there really much of a difference between Isabelle from Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the Wii Fit Trainer squaring up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and a showdown between Spongebob Squarepants and Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Not really! Of course, the popularity of the game will ultimately come down to the quality of the game — balanced characters, serious mechanics, and a robust player base.

All of that will be figured out post-launch. Until then, here’s everything we know about Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

Further reading

Release dateCharacters fighting in Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will be released sometime in fall 2021. We haven’t been given an official release date, but the pre-order information at Target lists the release date as October 5 right now.

PlatformsMichelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will be released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. It’s great to hear that the title will be available on all major consoles, including both current- and last-gen consoles — you’ll be able to beat up some old-school cartoons no matter your platform preference.


The Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl trailer gives us a montage of the game’s premier characters, as well as a bit of gameplay footage. It also teases “many more surprises,” so who knows what we’ll get when the game actually launches.

It’s being developed by Ludosity and Fair Play Labs, and published by GameMill Entertainment.

GameplayNickelodeon characters fight on a ghost ship in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

From what we get in the announcement trailer, it looks like gameplay in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will look really similar to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Four characters at a time will duke it out in arenas themed after Nickelodeon’s various shows until someone comes out on top. Each character will certainly have their own custom moveset that is true to their on-screen adventures. (We’re totally expecting Spongebob to have an OP bubble-blowing ranged attack.) According to reports, some additional moves can be unlocked for each character, although it’s unclear how that mechanic will work at this time.

The game will include 20 Nickelodeon-themed fighting stages at launch.

What characters are in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl?Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks fight in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

Obviously, you want to know if your favorite Nickelodeon character made the cut. Here’s a list of confirmed launch-day characters and what Nickelodeon series they’re from:

  • Michelangelo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  • Leonardo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  • Nigel Thornberry (The Wild Thornberrys)
  • Powdered Toast Man (Ren & Stimpy)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants (SpongeBob SquarePants)
  • Sandy Cheeks (SpongeBob SquarePants)
  • Patrick Star (SpongeBob SquarePants)
  • Oblina (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters)
  • Lucy Loud (The Loud House)
  • Lincoln Loud (The Loud House)
  • Helga (Hey Arnold!)
  • Reptar (Rugrats)
  • Zim (Invader Zim)
  • Danny Phantom (Danny Phantom)

MultiplayerNickelodeon characters fight on a floating village map in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will be playable in single-player or multiplayer, both local and online. Like any fighting title, multiplayer is going to be the focus, and the player base is going to be key to the game’s success. There’s no word on what online matchmaking will look like or if there will be any sort of ranking system at this point.

Is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl cross-platform?Nickelodeon characters fight on an Asian temple themed map in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

No word yet on whether or not Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will be cross-platform. We’re hesitantly optimistic that the game being released on all major platforms means that crossplay between them all might be worked out, but there’s been no official mention of it so far.

DLCOne of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting with Helga Pataki in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

If Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl follows the same path as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there will likely be DLC characters and stages available down the road. Although we’ve got quite a list of fighters so far, there are definitely other Nickelodeon characters we’d love to see make an appearance.


While the game doesn’t have an exact release date yet, a pre-order option has popped up at Target and lists the release date as October 5, 2021. We expect to see pre-orders at Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop soon.

Pre-order at Target

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Netflix, Shonda Rhimes Extend Deal to Include Feature Films, Gaming and Virtual Reality Content

Under the terms of the expanded deal, Netflix and Shondaland will produce feature films in addition to potential gaming and VR content.



Netflix and Shonda Rhimes are extending their creative relationship, inked in 2017, beyond television to feature films and gaming.

Under the terms of the expanded deal, which encompasses Rhimes’ Shondaland Media and her longtime producing partner Betsy Beers, Netflix and Shondaland will exclusively produce, stream and distribute feature films in addition to potential gaming and virtual reality content.

“When Ted and I decided to break the traditional network TV business model to move Shondaland to Netflix, we were both taking a leap into the unknown,” said Rhimes in a statement. “Today, Shondaland at Netflix is creatively thriving, profitable as an asset and engaging audiences around the world with stories that fearlessly challenge viewers and keep them highly entertained all at once. Ted, Bela and the entire team at Netflix have been tremendous partners during every step of the process, supporting my creative vision and showing a continued dedication to the innovation that has made Netflix such a powerhouse. The Shondaland team and I are thrilled and excited to be expanding our relationship with our content partners at Netflix.”

Additionally, Netflix will invest in and offer the “financial and technical infrastructure to support Shondaland’s mission to create DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility) programs that can increase industry workplace representation for underrepresented groups both domestically and in the UK,” per the streamer.

The renewed, expanded deal comes on the heels of the global popularity of Shondaland’s Regency-era romance “Bridgerton,” which Netflix says was viewed by 82 million member households in the series’ first 28 days on the service. The series, based on the novels by Julia Quinn, is currently in production on Season 2 and has already been renewed for a third and fourth season. A Queen Charlotte origin-story limited series is also in the works, which will feature the stories of a young Violet Bridgerton and Lady Danbury. Rhimes is writing and exec producing alongside Beers and Tom Verica.

Also on tap from Shondaland are the limited series “Inventing Anna,” set for 2022, and Debbie Allen documentary “Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.”

“Shonda makes shows that get the world talking, and we’ve seen the power of her creative vision to translate in any language,” said Netflix’s head of global TV Bela Bajaria. “Shonda’s a brilliant businesswoman and a terrific partner and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with her for years to come. On a personal note, I’m especially invested in the mentorship and pipeline programs we will support, as I’ve seen firsthand how the power of mentorship can transform careers and lives — and I’m excited by the possibility of what that can look like in Shonda’s hands.”

Rhimes and Shondaland are repped by ICM Partners and the law firm Gendler and Kelly.

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Mohegan Gaming, FanDuel announce sports-betting, online gaming partnership

Retail sportsbook to open in temporary Mohegan Sun location in September with permanent casino location set for winter.



Mohegan — Partners Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment and FanDuel Group announced Wednesday they’re poised to roll out retail and online sports betting, online gaming and daily fantasy sports in Connecticut this fall, “pending all licensing and regulatory approvals.”

The partnership will enable bettors throughout the state to place wagers on professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey and other sports via FanDuel, which also will provide online casino gaming under the Mohegan Sun brand and operate daily fantasy sports in Connecticut.

“We’re excited to work with FanDuel, one of the leading sports-tech entertainment companies in the U.S., to bring the brand’s innovative sports betting and iGaming solutions to Mohegan Sun Connecticut,” Ray Pineault, MGE’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Our partnership is a priority for Mohegan Digital, as we look to grow and enhance our casino, sportsbook and online operations in Connecticut — and beyond.”

Mohegan Sun and FanDuel expect to open a temporary sportsbook location at the casino in September and anticipate opening a permanent sportsbook there this winter. The temporary location will feature four live betting windows and 16 self-service betting terminals.

The sportsbook at Mohegan Sun has the potential to become the largest FanDuel sportsbook in the United States, according to Amy Howe, president of FanDuel Group.

“When we combine the retail sports betting experience with the opportunity for online sports betting and iGaming, Connecticut is going to be a key state for us as we look towards the start of football season,” Howe said.

Sports betting, online gaming and daily fantasy sports were authorized in Connecticut by legislation Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law in May. The law granted the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes the right to offer the new gaming options at their respective gaming facilities — Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino — as well as online. It also allows the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to provide in-person and online sports betting and fantasy sports as well as online keno and online sale of draw-games tickets.

The tribes and the lottery cannot introduce the new gaming options until the state’s amended gaming agreements with the tribes are approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which has jurisdiction over tribal gaming. State and tribal officials have said they hope to have sports betting in place for the Sept. 9 start of the NFL season, a target that may prove overly optimistic.

Foxwoods announced a partnership with gaming operator DraftKings last December in anticipation of legislative approval of sports betting, online gaming and fantasy sports. The Mashantuckets are opening a new casino sportsbook, DraftKings at Foxwoods, in an area formerly occupied by a casino brewpub.

The lottery has yet to announce a sports-betting and online gaming vendor.

MGE, which recently announced the formation of Mohegan Digital, a new division overseeing the new gaming offerings, has restructured an agreement with Kambi, a European operator MGE previously had hired to launch MGE’s sports-betting operations in Connecticut. The restructuring enabled MGE to partner with FanDuel, according to Mohegan tribal officials.

FanDuel Group, which bills itself as “the premier gaming destination in the United States,” has a portfolio of brands involved in gaming, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, advance-deposit wagering and TV/media, including FanDuel, Stardust and TVG. Based in New York, it has a presence in all 50 states, and offices in California, New Jersey, Florida, Oregon, Georgia and Scotland.


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