Here’s what tech companies are advertising this Super Bowl Sunday: Crypto, EVs and the metaverse

Most tech companies are featuring celebrities in their ads this year, while Meta is tapping into the metaverse.

Illustration of football helmets with tech logos on them

Here’s a look at some of the biggest themes you can expect from tech companies’ ads.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Creators, celebrities, avatars and crypto enthusiasts are all getting their red carpet moment during Super Bowl LVI. They won’t be on the football field, of course, but tech companies will spotlight them during commercial breaks. Crypto companies will be particularly front and center this year, but a slew of other tech companies will tap into the rise of creators and the ambiguous metaverse in their ads.

Per Front Office Sports, 30-second spots are going for $7 million. If that figure is correct, this year would be the most expensive for Super Bowl ads ever. At least a dozen tech companies have signed up for an ad anyway, including Meta, Amazon, Expedia and Verizon, and slots for those commercials have sold out.

Jef Loeb, a brand strategist for the marketing firm Brainchild Creative, said the Super Bowl is the “single most efficient media buy” ever. “The number of impressions delivered in that period of time is unmatched by any other standard, by any other media opportunity out there,” Loeb told Protocol.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest themes you can expect from tech companies’ ads this Super Bowl Sunday.

Bring on the celebrities

When in doubt, toss a celebrity into the mix. Uber, Squarespace and Amazon are all featuring a star-studded cast in their commercials this year. Jim Carrey will appear as Verizon’s favorite cable guy, Lizzo will drop a new track in Google’s ad and Zendaya will play the main character in Squarespace’s seashell-themed video.

Uber came out with a 15-second teaser of its Uber Eats Super Bowl commercial, which features Trevor Noah bringing a stick of deodorant to his armpit, then, on second thought, taking a bite out of it. There are no rules in Super Bowl commercials.

Alexa has been the star of Amazon’s commercials for a few years now. This year, the company will present Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost in their first on-screen debut as a couple. Alexa will apparently pretend to be a mind-reader in the 90-second commercial.

In case you’ve forgotten about the metaverse…

Meta is here to remind you that it is still a thing. Or at least, it's a thing Meta is working on. The company is promoting its Oculus headsets with the help of an animatronic band led by a dog. The dog loses its bandmates throughout the commercial, and is only reunited with them in Horizon Worlds. The commercial is quite a shift from last year, when the company formerly known as Facebook promoted Groups during game breaks.

The metaverse critics are participating in the Super Bowl, too. Salesforce tapped Matthew McConaughey to play an astronaut who comes back down to Earth. “It’s not time to escape. It’s time to engage,” McConaughey says as he floats down on a hot air balloon. “All the others look to the metaverse and Mars. Let’s stay here and restore ours,” he says later. In case that’s not on the nose enough, he’s also wearing a badge that says “Team Earth.”

Car companies are all-in on electric

Car commercials are a longtime staple of the Super Bowl, and this year they’re going electric. General Motors, Kia, BMW and Nissan all plan to highlight their electric vehicles during the commercial break, with the help of “Schitt’s Creek” star Eugene Levy, a robotic dog and the song “Here Tonight.”

In Nissan’s commercial, Levy and Brie Larson walk down a red carpet toward their new Nissan Z, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek Pinault star as Greek gods Zeus and Hera in BMW’s commercial. GM seems to be the only one talking specifically about how EVs are better for the planet with the help of Dr. EV-il from “Austin Powers.” Which, sure.

Get out of your home

The travel industry has a message this year: Get moving, you cabin fever-having lunatic. Expedia and Booking.com are both using their ads to get people traveling again.

Booking.com is airing its first Super Bowl ad ever this year, and CEO Glenn Fogel said the company is trying to tap a “tremendous amount of desire to travel.” “We think this is a great time to reintroduce Booking.com and bring forward this lighthearted idea of travel,” Fogel told CNBC. The company will feature actor Idris Elba in the commercial on Sunday, and separately on that day, it’ll raffle off a vacation giveaway.

Expedia, on the other hand, will highlight Vrbo in its commercial. Jon Gieselman, the president of Expedia Brands, told The Wall Street Journal that its commercial will emphasize experiences over things. “The Super Bowl spot asks that question, ‘Do you want to invest in more stuff, or experiences?’” Gieselman said.

Or just open TikTok

Instacart hasn’t announced a Super Bowl commercial, but the company said it is launching a campaign with TikTok creators leading up to game day. Instacart partnered with six TikTok influencers to promote their party plans and favorite dishes for the game. The company is encouraging people to interact with their content by using the hashtag #hereforthesnacks.

Instacart is also offering deals on snacks ahead of the game. Between Wednesday and Saturday, customers can get a discount on a different snack or drink, depending on the day.

Policy

Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Policy

The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Latest Stories
Bulletins