Skip to the main content.

8 min read

Super Bowl Commercials: 15 Great Uses Of Music

Super Bowl Commercials: 15 Great Uses Of Music

Last week, our co-founder, an original founder of TuneCore and an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music and Brown University, outlined how brands and agencies can maximize the value of music in a commercial.

This week, coincidentally enough, millions of people across the world tuned in for the "Super Bowl of Commercials," where they were met with new music, nostalgic music, and also football.

Read on for a breakdown of our 15 favorite uses of music in Super Bowl 51 commercials, listed in order of their appearances during The Big Game.

1. Ford



Who's Responsible: Global Team Blue (GTB)

When Did It Air: Between the coin flip and kickoff

Song: Nina Simone - "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"

Our Thoughts:

This spot does what any memorable, long-format spot has to do: it immediately captures attention, keeping viewers curious about what's going on. The wide-ranging parade of so many of Ford’s awesome technologies (not to mention the shot of the gorgeous new Ford GT), gives the brand an air of a cutting-edge sensibility. The use of the Nina Simone song adds a dose of soulful humanity, a nice juxtaposition to the high-tech content of the ad. Well done.

MAX Contributor: John Maxwell (Sales Engineer)

2. LIFEWTR (PepsiCo)



Who's Responsible: Hustle, Chicago (R/GA)

When Did It Air: Between the first and second quarters

Song: John Legend - "Love Me Now"

Our Thoughts

John Legend has one of those voices that is immediately recognizable, and it worked beautifully for this ad. Rather than focusing the ad on the product itself, Lifewatr paints a picture of its values and what it stands for as a brand: Finding inspiration through art – both in the literal sense, and the everyday art of life. From the opening beats, which mimicked the sound of raindrops, to the intertwined sounds of thunder, and Legend’s notoriously raw, emotional lyrics and voice…the music played a critical role in helping to drive the brand’s narrative. I thought this ad was very well done, and married the music & brand message in a way that should appeal to both fans of the brand and artist.

MAX Contributor: Rosemary Waldrip (Director of Marketing)

3. Yellow Tail



Who's Responsible: Havas Media

When Did It Air: Between the first and second quarters

Song: Unknown

Our Thoughts

According to Ad Age, Yellow Tail's inclusion in Super Bowl 51 was the result of "individual local ad buys across 70 markets, including the top 30." This allowed the wine brand to circumvent "Anheuser-Busch InBev's exclusive category rights," and simultaneously illustrates Yellow Tail's dedication to delivering its message to the world's largest audience. That message? Wine can be fun, too. The DJ-ing kangaroo and upbeat music supplement the partying theme prevalent throughout the commercial. However, the key word here is supplement, as music isn't the focal point until the last few seconds. Still, it sets the mood, and it's always playing.

MAX Contributor: Brian Reitz (Marketing Manager)

4. Buick



Who's Responsible: EngageM-1 (Publicis)

When Did It Air: Second quarter, immediately following a LeGarrette Blount fumble

Song: Matt & Kim - "It's Alright"

Our Thoughts:

Buick uses Matt & Kim's song to highlight excitement, something we can attest to having seen Matt & Kim perform in November. Just as the team in the commercial scores a touchdown, the song kicks in with Buick in the background. "It's Alright" is used continuously by Buick to target a Millennial mindset. They want consumers to understand this is not your Grandma's Buick, but a sleek, trendy car that you want to drive.

MAX Contributor: Jarred Goldner (Artist Relations)

5. T-Mobile



Who's Responsible: Publicis

When Did It Air: Second quarter, following a Patriots timeout

Song: Justin Bieber - "Children"

Our Thoughts:

T-Mobile’s ad starts with a very familiar face – the Biebs. Justin Bieber proceeds to explain the history of celebration moves in football and ends with the announcement of the #UnlimitedMoves contest. About 20 seconds into the spot, his song “Children” starts playing in the background. The spot is unique in its utilization of not only Bieber’s song, but also his personality as a spokesman for the brand. What’s interesting is the song truly is in the background (without lead vocals), so the focus is on the story of the ad and on Bieber. For this reason, the song choice is somewhat irrelevant to the specific story being told in the ad because it doesn’t add any emotional context. Regardless, it still made sense.

MAX Contributor: Kendall Mason (Artist Relations)

6. Bai



Who's Responsible: Created In-House

When Did It Air: Second quarter, following a Devonta Freeman touchdown

Song: NSYNC - "Bye Bye Bye"

Our Thoughts: 

In my opinion, this was one of the better commercials this year, in no small part because of how it made use of the song. Christopher Walken slowly recites the lyrics of "Bye Bye Bye" to the camera, giving viewers a hint of what to expect. About midway through, you realize what's happening. The song and celebrity status create instant brand awareness and add credibility to Bai, tying the brand to the famous song. The connection here is brilliant. Every time consumers see the product from here on out, they will recognize it and know how to pronounce it. It also doesn't hurt to have two very well known endorsers, especially when one of them, Justin Timberlake, sang the song used to drive the point home.

MAX Contributor: Jarred Goldner (Artist Relations)

7. Michelob Ultra (AB InBev)



Who's Responsible: FCB Chicago

When Did It Air: Second quarter, after Robert Alford returned a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown

Song: Gary Portnoy - "When Everybody Knows Your Name" (aka the theme song from Cheers)

Our Thoughts: 

When the first quiet piano notes of the Cheers theme song began, I was overcome with feelings of nostalgia, camaraderie, and the need to refill my drink. This song was the perfect choice to celebrate the new generation of active beer drinkers, one that finds camaraderie on a bike seat, not a bar stool. By pounding pavement, not pounding shots. At the “barre,” not the bar. There is a new social life that is formed around fitness, where new friends support and inspire, where everybody knows your name. For Michelob Ultra, this song was a brilliant choice to link the social shift in drinking occasions, and continue to celebrate the active fitness community.

MAX Contributor: Katie Asner (VP, Business Development)

8. Lexus



Who's Responsible: Team One

When Did It Air: Second quarter, during the Two Minute Warning

Song: Sia - "Move Your Body"

Our Thoughts: 

Within the first few seconds of the Lexus ad, we hear a catchy beat with juxtaposed images of the new Lexus LC and a dancer/contortionist. Sia’s track “Move Your Body” is perfectly timed with unique choreography. In-between dance moves we get flashes of different features of the car, showing off its design. The song works in that it’s upbeat and new(ish), demonstrating Lexus’ desire to be cutting-edge and establish itself as a lifestyle brand. This makes sense given the new Lexus experiential stores (Intersect). Notably, the advertisement uses a relatable Top 40 song rather than something more avant garde and unfamiliar, like Syd, The xx, or Bonobo (who all have new releases out right now).

MAX Contributor: Kendall Mason (Artist Relations)

9. Wendy's



Who's Responsible: VML

When Did It Air: Second quarter, during a quick injury timeout

Song: Foreigner - "Cold as Ice"

Our Thoughts: 

As the camera pans down a long stark hallway full of Frozen burgers the beginning of Foreigner's "Cold as Ice" can be heard in Wendy's Super Bowl spot. The familiar song immediately grabs your attention, and, before the lyrics begin, you've already made the connection: those "Othr Guyz" use frozen beef. In this spot the music does a lot of the heavy lifting. Not only are Wendy's competitor's burgers "Cold as Ice," but Wendy's competitors are also sacrificing quality, as Lou Gramm points out in his signature style. Music is crucial to the messaging in this commercial and without it, it couldn't be effective.

MAX Contributor: Casey Dennehy (VP, Business Development)

10. NFL



Who's Responsible: Grey New York

When Did It Air: Immediately following the Lady Gaga And Pepsi Halftime Music Experience

Song: Chicago - "You're The Inspiration"

Our Thoughts: 

If you recall the "Super Bowl Babies Choir" ad of last year, the premise of the NFL's "Super Bowl Baby Legends - Who's Next?" spot should come as no surprise. As it turns out, data suggests that the Super Bowl-winning cities typically see an uptick in birth rate roughly nine months after bringing home the Lombardi. Coincidence? Given the decision to run the spot featuring Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" in conjunction with a collection of babies donning the attire of recognizable football personnel, the NFL seems to think not. It is difficult to say this spot has depth, though one could argue the subtle presence of innuendo. One could also argue that the musical/lyrical themes presented complement this surface-level understanding.

MAX Contributor: Patrick Russell (Campaign Manager)

11. Mr. Clean (Procter & Gamble)



Who's Responsible: Leo Burnett Toronto

When Did It Air: Third quarter, After Atlanta went three-and-out for the first time this postseason

Song: Original song 

Our Thoughts: Women want him. Men want to be him. Even if I didn't embed the advertisement, you'd know I was talking about Mr. Clean, the paragon of human form. In this commercial, Procter & Gamble shows that women in 2017 love a hunk who doesn't mind getting a little dirty. This spot includes a vivid R&B tune, because, well, you know. What's interesting, though, is that instead of licensing a Barry White track or another classic "Well, You Know" song, P&G commissioned an original work. This approach is cheaper, but riskier. It pays off here.

MAX Contributor: Brian Reitz (Marketing Manager)




Who's Responsible: Created In-House

When Did It Air: Fourth quarter, after the Patriots kicked a field goal to make the score 28-12

Song: Original song (See Below) Commercial Song Response



Our Thoughts: 

Wix's Super Bowl spot does a great job of taking something seemingly boring like web design and making it as exciting as a blockbuster action film. The music is key in giving viewers this cinematic feeling and serves as a bridge to tie an action-packed restaurant fight scene to a chef making a killer web destination. The music sets the tone and enhances the action. Similarly, the music shows us that making a web page can be just as life-changing, if not more than delivering a roundhouse kick to the face of a well-dressed gangster.

MAX Contributor: Casey Dennehy (VP, Business Development)

13. Amazon Echo



Who's Responsible:Unknown

When Did It Air: Fourth quarter, after the Patriots kicked a field goal to make the score 28-12

Song: The Temptations - "My Girl"

Our Thoughts: 

The Amazon Echo ad is brilliantly simple. It packs a punch of emotion and wit in just 10 seconds. The use of “My Girl” by the Temptations is clever in that it’s used to not only convey the emotion of a father's pride in his daughter, but also to demonstrate the ease of using the product itself. The song choice is successful being that it’s recognizable and nostalgic, which could lead anyone to relate to the joy and tenderness of a parent/child relationship. The distinct choice to play the song for only the last three seconds is part of what connects the dots of the ad – that in an instant you can play a song that pops into your head and perfectly captures the essence of the moment you’re in, sort of like creating a soundtrack to your life.

MAX Contributor: Kendall Mason (Artist Relations)

14. Nintendo Switch



Who's Responsible: VML

When Did It Air: Fourth quarter, during a quick injury timeout

Song: Imagine Dragons - "Believer"

Our Thoughts: 

Imagine Dragons, one of the hottest rock bands of the last few years, released their new single via a Nintendo commercial. This is noteworthy because it shows how even the biggest acts in the world often utilize brand partnerships and sponsorships for increased exposure. And Nintendo does the song justice. The synchronization of characters’ movements with musical sounds in the ad indicate that Nintendo began its creative process with the song in mind. Moreover, the lyrics of the song reference being made into a "Believer," which goes hand-in-hand with visuals that showcase consumers becoming "believers" in Nintendo's product. This advertisement is a textbook example of brands and artists collaborating for mutually-beneficial results.

MAX Contributor: Brian Reitz (Marketing Manager)

15. Mercedes-Benz



Who's Responsible: Merkley + Partners

When Did It Air: Fourth Quarter, after Danny Amendola scored a touchdown that put the Patriots within one possession

Song: Steppenwolf - "Born To Be Wild"

Our Thoughts: 

In this clever Easy Rider-tribute spot directed by the Coen Brothers, Steppenwolf’s classic rebel anthem, “Born To Be Wild” immediately becomes its own character in the story (it’s literally the only song available in the biker bar jukebox). Now, had I not seen the sneak peek coverage of this ad prior to the big game, I might’ve been tricked into thinking it was an ad for Harley-Davidson…but that would've been too obvious. And I think it’s just that element of surprise that made this song work for the spot. It highlights the fast, sleek, performance side of the luxury brand, featuring the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster, and evokes a quirky, yet balanced sense of rebellion and style.

MAX Contributor: Rosemary Waldrip (Director, Marketing)

If you're a brand or agency interested in learning how MAX helps you accomplish your marketing goals, click here.

If you're an artist or label and you want to see how MAX gets music heard, click here.

Let us know in the comments if you think we missed any great uses of music in this year's Super Bowl ads. Or tell us that we're right and you love us. Up to you. Thanks for reading!

New call-to-action

MAXtape Live with Jarred Goldner

MAXtape Live with Jarred Goldner

Welcome to the very first episode of our MAXtape Live podcast!

Read More
Lupita Infante × McDonald's

Lupita Infante × McDonald's

GRAMMY-nominated Regional Mexican artist Lupita Infante is partnering with McDonald’s to engage Hispanic Gen Z audiences through music.

Read More
Los Lobos ✕ AARP

Los Lobos ✕ AARP

AARP is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the connection between music and brain health with GRAMMY-winning rock band Los Lobos.

Read More