Three Names to Remember from Super Bowl 51

I suppose my house is fairly typical in the way we look forward to the Super Bowl and all its rigmarole. We make more than our fair share of chili and guac, and nab front row seats on the sofa for the football, the half time show and (oh, yes) the commercials. This year Super Bowl 51 did not disappoint. Like you, we witnessed the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the first big game ever to stretch into overtime, a record-breaking, bar-raising victory for Brady; and the renaissance of the keytar. Yowza!

I’ve been tuning in for the big night for years (and years and years). I’ve danced the Super Bowl Shuffle without irony. But for the first time this year, I paid attention to something new — the importance of names in Super Bowl ads. Not celebrity names. Brand names.

In some spots, the brand name was given short shrift, relegated to a quick tag at the end or even omitted altogether. Some of the most engaging stories leave us to guess at who stands behind the message. When a direct line to the brand gets lost in the theatrics, consequently so is any equity bump from their hefty media investment. That strikes me as a wasted opportunity.

On the other hand, I believe several ads stood out in the way they proudly played up and played off of their brand name in the creative. Here are three of my standout faves.

NINTENDO

First, Nintendo took advantage of the event to unveil a new gaming system under the sub-brand name Nintendo Switch. I was struck by how well suited the name Switch is to this soon-to-launch device. At LPK, we use the “fit” test to help us determine the power of a new name. Is it a good fit to the brand? Does it fit to the product? Fit to the target consumer, etc. I see the name Switch as a strong fit to the product experience and a good name overall. Switch is equal parts handheld and home console. It merges Nintendo’s historically separate product platforms into one (a switch from the past), offering motion control, handheld game play, and gaming on the big screen. It is also a strong fit to the consumer. Switch helps telegraph that Nintendo isn’t just iterating on an existing system. They are rolling something radically new out for fans, who are always hungry for the next new thing. It’s not a DS upgrade. Not another Wii. This is totally new. The brand name does a solid job of telegraphing what the product is; what it does; and why gamers should care. The name is descriptive. The ad story is literally. And consumers will have zero doubt why they now want one of their own.

Watch the Nintendo Switch ad.

BUSCH

Second, Busch beer slowed down the pace to say, hey, there is nothing new or different going on here — you’re welcome. It’s interesting to note that even though Busch is clearly a family name — a founder’s name — it’s no longer treated as such. To make the name fit to the brand’s consumer even better, over time Busch has evolved a family name to be an experiential one. It now works as a mnemonic for the crack-open-a-cold-one experience, something that arguably better resonates with the target than the heritage equity of the brand’s namesake. In this stripped-down, straight-shooting spot, the brand connects their name to the familiar mnemonic in a new, exaggerated way. Not bad. No other brand allocated anywhere near that much air time to the “sound” of their brand name. Busch wisely took the opportunity to focus on the bedrocks of Busch beer: the taste, the crisp coldness and the name with its befitting onomatopoeia.

Watch the Busch ad.

BAI

Then there was this celebrity-studded gem from Bai. Pronunciation is always just as important as meaning when it comes to picking your brand name. The brand Bai went all-in on meaning with the name for their antioxitant drinks (according to their website, it’s both a Chinese word for “pure” and an acronym), but got a pronunciation challenge in the bargain, at least for some in their audience. Is it “bay”? Bah-ee? Bay-eye? This Super Bowl ad comes to set the record straight with all the candor and conviction of Christopher Walken. Bai is perhaps my favorite because the story, a pun on the name, is so entertainingly executed. And while your curiosity may not have led you to find out “bai” in Chinese can describe “pure” or “white;” or that the brand’s acronym expanded is Botanical Antioxidant Infusions; or that the NSNC single released way back in 2000; you won’t soon forget how it’s pronounced. Bye, bye, bye.

Watch the Bai ad.

SB51 is a wrap. Pats win. Leftover chili is in the freezer. While some brands will get the lift they were looking for from their Super Bowl investment, others won’t. These three brands used their opportunity to share stories that amplified the brand name in order to drop a little of that Super Bowl octane in the brand equity tank. Watching all of the great content this year, my advice to brands (and to the advertisers who pull off such buzz-worthy creative) is this: don’t hide your name in your drama. Be proud of it. Put it out there front and center to best capitalize on the opportunity. And if you’re not proud of your name or it isn’t working for you, get a new one. We can help.

Yuri Bredle

Yuri Bredle is a Copy Director at LPK, where his work as a writer and brand builder spans everything from upstream brand strategy to storytelling on the product. When not focused on brand equity, he loves to unplug and hike, bike, climb or camp. Talk with him about brands or the great outdoors at yuri.bredle@lpk.com.

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