Every Super Bowl, there’s an ad or a moment that doesn’t sit well with the internet. For better or worse, everyone’s glued to the game’s viral moments—watching and waiting to see if a brand or public figure messes up. This year was no different.
That Martin Luther King Jr. moment
Before the game even started, the NFL used a speech by King to segue into the game. The scene cut to the field, where minister Bernice King; Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga.; and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young were standing and waving to the crowd for the coin toss. People were dismayed that the NFL dared to use Martin Luther King Jr. while former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick—who in 2016 kicked off a continuing controversy by kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality toward black men—still hasn’t found a team willing to give him a chance to play again.
The outrage continued as another clip showed footage of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell touting “community and social justice moments” in Atlanta.
The great corn syrup debate
Bud Light’s first 60-second spot in the game called out Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup, and we’re not sure the brand knew the debate it was starting. People were confused why the brand would choose to promote that fact of all things.
Naturally, Miller Lite responded on Twitter, and other brands joined in as well.
Spongebob’s surprise appearance at halftime
When Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants, died last year, fans of the show wanted the Super Bowl to somehow include everyone’s favorite yellow sponge.
It wasn’t just a moment on Twitter either. A petition on change.org to have “Sweet Victory,” a fictional song included during the show’s parody of the Super Bowl called the “Bubble Bowl,” gathered more than 1.2 million signatures.
However, it wasn’t clear if Maroon 5 would incorporate Spongebob into the show, though the Mercedes-Benz Stadium tweeted a Sponegebob gif in December, and the band even teased the sponge in a tweet on Jan. 13.
When a short Spongebob animation ran during the show, fans were immediately ecstatic.
But not everyone was pleased.
Kia’s ad that makes you wonder who it was even celebrating
The Kia ad “Give It Everything” celebrated the community of West Point, Ga., where the car company has a plant. The 90-second spot then told the story of “The Great Unknowns Scholarship,” a fund to “help young people in need get a foothold in higher education.” The fund was created by funneling money the brand would’ve normally used to pay a celebrity to appear in a Super Bowl ad.
People were of two minds on the ad, with some celebrating the message and others wondering why a kid was front and center.
The 17-year challenge
CBS decided to spin the viral meme dubbed the “10-year challenge” into the 17-year challenge. Some of the images showed how much players have changed in that time, including Rams QB Jared Goff, who went from tween to adult. People on the internet, including CBS’ sportscasters, joined in.
And, of course, brands joined as well.
Try again next year, brands.
For all the latest Super Bowl advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl LIII Ad Tracker. And join us on the evening of Feb. 3 for the best in-game coverage of the Super Bowl commercials anywhere.
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