For those not inclined to read about football, you can jump ahead four paragraphs where I talk about the commercials. See you there.
It didn’t look like it was always going to be thus. The Baltimore Ravens dominated the game for the entire first half, going into the halftime show up 21-6 over the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco’s only points came from kicks, not even making it into the end zone until more than midway through the third quarter. The second half began with Baltimore receiving the opening kick and then instantly running the return down the field for 109 yards into the end zone and bringing the score to 28-6. For a game that was not supposed to be a route, it was shaping up to be one.
And then! AND THEN! Even folk who don’t watch football know what happened next – a power outage caused the field to go “dark” for more than 30 minutes. While TV stations vamped, players tried to throw the ball around just to stay loose and Twitter utterly exploded, someone somewhere was likely having a major coronary just trying to figure out how to get the power back on. All the progress that the city of New Orleans was hoping to show they had made since the last time the entire country stared breathlessly at the Superdome under much different circumstances suddenly was in danger of being brought out for another round of collective cultural hand-wringing.
The Good Times, they did not roll.
Nonetheless, come back on it did, but it may as well have illuminated an entirely different game. “Momentum”, that frankly mythical yet somehow strangely present fuel that every game seems to run on had completely shifted. Baltimore was no longer running literal rings around San Francisco and the 49ers delivered 17 un-answered points to bring the game to 28-23 at the end of the third quarter. With only 15 minutes of play left, we suddenly had a real game.
I’ve written before that the point of the Super Bowl is to be flashy – it’s not about grinding away on the gears of good ball, it’s about dazzling all the corporate sponsors and creating some pizzazz. In that way, the final quarter lived up to its hype. The score was tight, the plays energetic. Each drive literally could change the outcome of the game and with the clock dwindling, it seemed like anything could happen. In the final minute and a half of play, Baltimore managed to stop San Francisco from getting into the end zone and retained their lead only barely, 34-29 despite a block that many 49ers fans saw as an illegal hold. With few tactical options, Baltimore allowed San Francisco to score an additional three points (complication reason – for the uninitiated, let’s just say it was because the move ate up valuable time) in the hopes of punting a final return with only 8 seconds left, believing that their defense would be able to stop San Francisco from accomplishing what Baltimore themselves did only two quarters earlier. It was a gamble that paid off and Baltimore won the Super Bowl for only the second time, defeating a team that had yet to lose a Super Bowl game it played in.
ATTENTION NON-FOOTBALL FANS! YOU CAN START READING HERE!
So yes, the game was exciting, but we all know that the commercials are a vital component. (Oh yeah, Beyoncé was there for something, too.) It was the usual mixed bag, of course, with a surprisingly touching Clydesdale commercial forming among the best of the offering and unfortunately having to mix it up with the insulting, juvenile worst. (I’m speaking of pretty much anything put together by the GoDaddy.com team.)
However, the most effective advertisement for a product wasn’t any of the glossy, high concept live action clips that interrupted the game every few minutes – it was this pitch-perfect, utterly timely Oreo ad that you would have only seen if you happened to be on Twitter or Facebook while the game was playing. Or you are now like the rest of the world and have seen retweeted and liked a million times over.
Simple in design, epic in scope. Also, damn. Now I'm hungry.
Whole marketing graduate theses are going to be written about how Oreo got their ad up and into the public consciousness without even paying money for it and in such a way as to make everyone remember the product. And don’t laugh – that’s pretty hard to do. Think about all the commercials you saw last night – how many of them do you remember what they were schilling for?
The blackout alone will ensure that this Super Bowl gets mentioned in highlight reels for the next fifty years, but even if you weren't the type of person to enjoy watching the game, you still likely found something that was entertaining beyond talking with fellow party-goers over the crab dip. Until next year, then! Only 212 days until the start of football season!