Industry Analysis



Evidence suggests that Super Bowl commercials with returning characters and spokespersons can be, and usually are more successful than their previous versions. However, the success of a commercial depends on several other factors. The ones that are successful have usually built upon the success of the previous commercial, or the story of the returning character, or creatively leveraged the familiarity of the returning character. Five examples of successful Super Bowl commercials with returning characters have been provided below.

1. WeatherTech’s Scout the “Lucky Dog”

  • Scout the “Lucky Dog,” a Golden Retriever, featured in WeatherTech’s (an automotive accessory company) 2019 and 2020 Superbowl commercials.
  • According to UnrulyEQ, a “content testing and targeting solution that uses emotional data to supercharge campaign impact,” the “Lucky Dog: 2020 WeatherTech Super Bowl Commercial” was the fifth-best SuperBowl commercial in 2020, based on KPIs measured by the firm. “Its EQ score was 5.8, with scores of 42% for emotional intensity, 48% for brand favorability, and 36% for purchase intent.”
  • The 2020 commercial had an average rating of 5.93 and ranked 13 on USA Today’s Ad Meter, outdoing the 2019 commercial, which had an average rating of 5.5 and ranked 29th.
  • A dog in a commercial may not be recognizable to aid recall a year later. However, we included this example as the “Lucky Dog” 2020 commercial identifies Scout as the same dog in the WeatherTech’s 2019 Super Bowl commercial, aiding recall.

2. Sprint’s Paul Marcarelli

  • Sprint’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 Super Bowl commercials feature their regular spokesperson Paul Marcarelli. In the 2018 Super Bowl commercial, Sprint introduced “Evelyn,” an intelligent robot, that also featured in its 2019 Super Bowl commercial, alongside Paul Marcarelli.
  • The 2018 commercial had an average rating of 5.74 and ranked 20 on USA Today’s Ad Meter, better than 2017’s commercial that ranked 33 and scored an average rating of 5.41.
  • However, the 2019 commercial performed relatively poorly even though it featured Bo Jackson, in addition to Paul Marcarelli and Evelyn (the robot). The 2019 commercial had a rating of 4.45 and ranked 52 on USA Today’s Ad Meter.

3. Tide’s Mr. Clean

  • Mr. Clean, a character that been around for 50 years, made his SuperBowl debut in a sexy avatar in 2017. The 2017 Super Bowl commercial was ranked 6th on USA Today’s 2017 Ad Meter and scored an average rating of 6.77.
  • The 2017 Super Bowl ad “Cleaner of Your Dreams” was also a part of Tide’s 2018 “It’s Yet Another Tide Ad” commercial, with David K. Harbour, the brand’s spokesperson featuring in them. The ad was ranked 17 by USA Today’s Ad Meter and scored an average rating of 5.94.
  • Mr. Clean is also featured in the P&G 2020 Super Bowl commercial “When We Come Together.” The commercial was the top-trending commercial during the Super Bowl event, according to Google Trends data.

4. NFL Babies Commercial

  • Data suggests that “that a city’s Super Bowl title results in a spike in births nine months later.” These babies, born 9 months after the Super Bowl, are known as “Super Bowl babies.”
  • In 2016, “to honor the concept of ‘Super Bowl babies,’ the NFL rounded up people of all ages who were supposedly conceived the night their parents’ team won the Super Bowl and stuck them in a video parodying Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose.’ The commercial scored an average rating of 5.71 and ranked 12th on USA Today’s Ad Meter.
  • In 2017, NFL returned with another Super Bowl baby commercial that performed better than the one in 2016. The 2017 commercial has a rating of 6.48 and ranked 8th on USA Today’s Ad Meter. The “Super Bowl Baby Legends” commercial featured babies that looked like “Super Bowl heroes of the past.”
  • Reason for inclusion: while the babies in the 2016 and 2017 are different, and the 2017 commercial is more of a returning theme, the central characters in both years are Super Bowl babies, who are essentially seen as the same.

5. Persil Pro Clean’s Peter Hermann

  • Persil ProClean’s Super Bowl commercials between 2016 and 2019 “saw the ‘Younger‘ star Peter Hermann reprise his role of the character ‘The Professional.’
  • The Persil Super Bowl commercial (featuring Peter Hermann) between 2017 and 2019 did better than the 2016 commercial:

Research Strategy

We began looking for Super Bowl commercials with returning characters or spokespersons, beginning with the 2020 Super Bowl and going backward. We were able to identify five in the period 2016-2020, excluding Bud Light, Planters, and Flo from Progressive. We have included examples that either indicate a jump in performance or no decline in performance on returning.

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.


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