Twitter’s ‘Wild Thoughts’ on Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance

Quilt.AI
Quilt.AI
Published in
5 min readFeb 21, 2023

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Brand Insights in 3 Sentences: Rihanna’s halftime show at the Superbowl divided viewers, but it certainly revealed a few truths about both her and society today. The performance showcased her marketing genius and reminded us how beloved her music is by fans, and people’s obsession with celebrity pregnancies. Brands should take note of how Rihanna (and the NFL) utilized her celebrity and trends to maximize her performance for themselves and their brands’ benefit.

Rihanna’s highly-anticipated return to the stage kicked off with her being suspended almost a hundred feet in the air, clad in a crimson outfit at Super Bowl LVII. Before this performance, she hadn’t performed solo in 7 years, which fueled further excitement for the show

While most people on Twitter felt that Rihanna absolutely killed it, some felt that the show left much to be desired. Using Sphere, we took a look at some of the hottest topics of conversation around her performance.

The topic that sparked the most chatter online was, of course, her surprise pregnancy announcement. Rihanna, in true Rihanna fashion, broke the news in the coolest way possible by revealing her bump right at the start of the show. This set the internet ablaze, with the word ‘pregnancy’ appearing in top phrases found in our analysis, and commenters offered their opinions on all sides.

Most comments were positive, which applauded her for delivering a killer performance while breaking the record for being the first pregnant halftime performer at the Super Bowl. They also praised her for showing that expectant women could still be accomplishing their dreams and thriving and breaking stereotypes of how they are often portrayed in the media.

As every performer knows, however, there’s no pleasing everyone. Some naysayers felt that the show didn’t live up to its hype, citing a lack of energy or excitement as factors. A handful of people also shared their possibly harmful comparison of Rihanna’s “lazy” performance to other physical tasks women have been able to do while pregnant. They felt that her pregnancy was no excuse for what they deemed an underwhelming show.

Rihanna is arguably as successful a businesswoman as she is a singer, proven by her cosmetics brand, Fenty Beauty. Now worth a whopping $2.8 billion dollars since its launch in 2017, Rihanna certainly didn’t miss the opportunity to plug her brand to 113 million people around the world. In a savvy marketing trick, she whipped out her Fenty Beauty setting powder for just a second and sparked a huge jump in search interest for her brand.

It wasn’t entirely just the singer’s efforts though. The beauty brand capitalized on her anticipated show by creating campaigns and products leading up to it. They launched the limited edition “Game Day’’ Collection in January, which was soon followed by Rihanna’s sister brand Savage x Fenty launching their own Super Bowl-inspired apparel collection, which included Cara Delevigne’s viral “RIHANNA CONCERT INTERRUPTED BY A FOOTBALL GAME, WEIRD BUT WHATEVER” slogan tee. The Fenty social media and marketing team were also building hype with their beautifully designed graphics and pop up events around the country, and ready with their live tweets during her performance.

The entire promotional campaign by Rihanna and her brands was a brilliant example of how to leverage celebrity and influence authentically. Some celebrity-backed brands sometimes don’t align with the person they’re named after and seem like a way just to cash in on their fame, but Rihanna’s brand feels 100% Rihanna, from the products to the copywrite. She was very clear about her motives for starting the brand and posts consistently about her products on her own platform. The message is clear: Fenty = Rihanna, so her Super Bowl campaign didn’t feel discombobulated or pushy at all, it simply felt like an extension of her performance.

Unlike other halftime shows of recent years, Rihanna did not bring out any guest stars. Her repertoire of hits spans over 15 years, so she certainly had enough songs to carry her own. For many viewers, it was nostalgic to see some of their favorite songs being performed live after all this time. It elicited a range of emotions in them, from bittersweet to joy, which was represented through the top hashtags used.

This seemed to be a similar theme carried on from last year, as well as other key moments during this year’s Super Bowl. Super Bowl LVI’s halftime show brought viewers down hip hop memory lane, while this year’s Super Bowl ads tapped into references from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Some of those included Alice Silverstone reprising her character from the cult-90s movie “Clueless” for a Rakuten ad, and John Travolta singing “Summer Nights” from Grease again for T-Mobile’s Home Internet Service.

Pop culture and mainstream media mirrors the mood of the country, to some extent. After the few difficult years we’ve had and an impending recession looming, people are searching for comfort, familiarity and a reminder of the simple things. Therefore, companies like the NFL, are sticking to feel-good content as the safest approach to connect with their consumers.

The Super Bowl halftime show is arguably just as big of a deal as the game itself, and selecting the right performer is key for its viewership. They have to be relevant and popular enough to prompt people to tune in, regardless of whether or not they watch football. Regardless of how people may have felt about Rihanna’s performance, the consensus was that Bad Gal Riri deserved to be on that stage, joining all the legends that came before her

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Quilt.AI
Quilt.AI

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