Super Bowl LVI: Don’t Change That Channel, the Commercials Are On

The ad world’s biggest day of the year might be the Blackest ever with commercials featuring Zendaya, John Legend and Idris Elba.

When it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, the game itself might be the main event, but we all know it’s really about the commercials. And after last year’s low-key affair, this year, companies returned to form with big-budget, celebrity-filled ads.

NBC sold all of its 30-second spots, which went for $7 million this year. So all those cryptocurrency ads, even the one that was just a bouncing QR code, weren’t cheap. We just hope that NBC got paid in real, actual money. And now that you have a price point to work with, let’s take a look at some of the best commercials from Super Bowl LVI.

First things first, we got a few new movie trailers this year, but are any of them going to entice us enough to return to theaters? Yes, we finally got a glimpse at Jurassic World: Dominion, but unless those dinosaurs eat Chris Pratt, it’s a pass. Marvel Studios also offered a new look at Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Chiwetel Ejiofor returns as Mordo, who wants to punish Strange for constantly breaking the rules. Someone really should, because he’s always casting dangerous spells that backfire. But if we’re being honest, we’re just here for Wanda Maximoff finally getting to go full Scarlet Witch.

We also got an official trailer of Nope, but here’s the thing: All I know about this movie is that it’s written, produced, and directed by Jordan Peele, and stars Judas and the Black Messiah’s Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun. And that’s all I need to know. Plus with Key & PeeleGet Out and Us under his belt, Peele has earned my complete trust and faith.

The trailer indicates it might involve aliens, but it could just as easily be another weird alternate universe. I guess I’ll just be here guessing until July 22. Even if it’s not a groundbreaking masterpiece, there’s no doubt it will be interesting and unique.

Next up is Peacock’s The Prince of Bel-Air reboot, Bel-Air, which our very own Jay Connor, Senior Editor of Culture and Entertainment, calls “the game changer Black Hollywood deserves.” It’s no secret I’m a big fan of the show myself. It’s so good, and everyone needs to support it as much as possible. The only thing missing is the classic theme song. However, Will Smith takes care of that in this spot, where he collaborates with fans on a new remix.

Artists from around the world submitted videos of their versions, and it all came together in one big tribute to the original, which also serves to promote the new drama. I know he’s an executive producer on the show, but shoutout to Will for being so supportive of Bel-Air, because plenty of stars in this same situation have shown nothing but disrespect and contempt.

Now let’s go on to some of the best Black-led Super Bowl commercials, which brought no shortage of huge celebrities, including Idris Elba, Kevin Hart and Lizzo.

The unquestioned winner of the night was Google Pixel’s Real Tone. What the hell, Google!? Why are you making me feel real feelings during the Super Bowl!? That’s not what we agreed to. I get to eat junk food, watch the game, enjoy Mary J., and make fun of the stupid commercials. Except here, Google takes a moment to tell the stories of Black people who consistently find themselves with bad photos, because the world never knows how to light them properly. Every time they take a photo, they are constantly othered. With Lizzo’s voice soaring in the background, they finally have beautifully perfect photos, thanks to the Real Tone feature on the Google Pixel.

Yes, it’s an ad for a phone, but it’s also a real subject that Black people deal with every day, and all the gorgeous shades of our culture were celebrated on the biggest stage by the biggest tech company.

Next up is Squarespace’s “Sally’s Seashells,” which, considering the monster 2021 that Zendaya had, it wasn’t exactly shocking to see her featured in a Super Bowl ad. I’m not going to claim I loved it, but on the plus side, I also didn’t hate it. In fact, it seemed fitting for an actress who always has multiple projects brewing to play a character with multiple hustles. This commercial also included voice-over narration from Andre 3000. He’s always been an unpredictable artist who goes against the grain, so narrating a Super Bowl ad starring Zendaya seems right on-brand for him.

As for, I appreciate the online travel agency basically saying, “we’ve got Idris Elba, that’s enough.” They’re not wrong. Why spend tons of money producing an ad, when all you have to do is show Idris Elba on vacation? It took me a minute to remember that it was even a commercial since I was… focused on other things. However, for $7 million, it’s not going to be the most memorable ad of all time. Frankly, until just now, you’ve probably already forgotten it.

Everyone who shops at Sam’s Club knows two things. 1) The hot dog and soda combo is awesome enough to deserve its own commercial and 2) Don’t ever sit on the furniture, they take that very seriously. That said, Sunday featured Sam’s Club’s first big game ad, so snaps to them for getting a superstar like Kevin Hart to help execute their vision. But here’s the thing, the prospect of Hart yelling at me while I’m shopping is enough to make me switch to Costco.

The annoyance of everyone in the store was very authentic. At this point, the oblivious yelling guy is Hart’s regular schtick. He does it in all his commercials, so this one pretty much runs together with all the others.

Headspace also got in on the Super Bowl festivities, and with the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day coinciding, it just makes sense for John Legend to help you with your self-care. The Grammy Award-winning singer offered to sleep with viewers, but not in that way, creeps. He’s happily married. He’s partnered with Headspace to help users improve their sleep habits. A 30-second ad isn’t long enough for him to talk about narrating special sleep stories or curating a sleep playlist, but he did have time to keep saying viewers could sleep with him.

It’s clear the spot was trying to play off the romantic persona of Legend’s music, but it just came off a little weird.

“After a Valentine’s Day full of giving to our loved ones, we still have to save some love and care for ourselves,” John Legend said in a statement. “Self-care starts with a good night’s sleep. We all need it, and I’m excited to partner with my friends at Headspace to share my Sleepcast and sleep playlist with the world.”

Lastly, there comes a time in every young man’s life when they know they’re stronger than their father. Of course, NFL legend Deion Sanders and his son Shedeur would take it to ridiculous levels while encouraging you to eat Oikos yogurt. For an ad featuring Prime Time and his equally charismatic son, I wanted something more dynamic and worthy of placement on the big game. This felt like an ordinary commercial that comes on while I’m watching Sportscenter, and won’t actually be remembered as a Super Bowl ad.

Every year, the big game features hits and misses. It’s not that this year had more misses than others, however, it felt like the commercial lineup was hurt by the influx of crypto ads. I dare you to pick one company that stood out from the others.

I also hope NBC got a discount on all those Law & Order and The Endgame spots because they were endless.

Nathan Odige