The Super Bowl® is not just the biggest football game of the year, but it’s also one of the most active nights when it comes to social media. From comments to predictions to reactions live and in real time, social media is the true “second screen” running alongside the NFL’s marquee matchup.
Beyond just the game, there’s the halftime show, national anthem and, of course, the commercials. This year, the game really delivered, with the Kansas City Chiefs ultimately beating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in an intense matchup that was close throughout. As for the rest of the entertainment, there was plenty that drew huge reactions from people on social media.
Diving into Emplifi’s social media tracking data, here are the four biggest social media stories that came out of the event (note: all times shown below are in EST):
1. The game moments that moved the needle
The main event was the game itself, and the social media consensus through most of the night was that this was one of the most exciting ever. It wasn’t without controversy, though.
The late penalty call against the Eagles
The biggest moment that drew a ton of comments was a holding penalty with less than 2 minutes left, giving the Chiefs 1st-and-goal, leading to an anticlimactic finish.
Social media discussion of the game built up throughout the day and stayed pretty consistent almost to the end of the game. The holding call happened just after 10 p.m. EST, and you can see that’s the only time all night that negative sentiment (approx. 71,000 mentions at the time of this article) spiked to roughly the same level as positive (approx. 76,000 mentions). Many people didn’t think the call should have been made at that point in the game, and it led them to react strongly.
Sorry but I don’t like that call! Not for the Super Bowl man! 🤦🏾♂️— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 13, 2023
Toney's 65-yard punt return, which led to a touchdown
It wasn’t just controversy that fired up social media posters, though. There were a couple of big performances that drew a lot of positive attention from people who were watching the game.
The first came when the Chiefs’ Kadarius Toney returned a punt for 65 yards to the Philadelphia 5-yard line in the third quarter. Not only was that the longest punt return in Super Bowl history — and set up a Chiefs touchdown shortly after — but it also came just a few minutes after Toney scored on a 5-yard catch that gave the Chiefs their first lead of the game.
As a result, Toney was getting plenty of love on social media, in particular from fans and some media.
Didn’t hear Kadarius Toney’s name for three-plus quarters then:— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 13, 2023
1) Decoy flare to setup pass to Juju
2) TD catch
3) Longest PR in Super Bowl history
Toney had special playmaking ability and playmakers change games. That’s what Toney just did.
Jalen Hurts ties the record for rushing TDs
That wasn’t the only history made this year.
For the Eagles, quarterback Jalen Hurts made several first downs running the ball, many times on quarterback sneaks up the middle. While he threw for an impressive 300+ yards, his three rushing touchdowns also tied a Super Bowl record.
2. Rihanna and the halftime show
One of the most anticipated moments of the night was the halftime show with Rihanna returning to the stage after seven years without a live music performance. She dressed in all red with a team of dancers in white, and they descended from floating platforms down to the stage when it started.
The sentiment was largely positive around Rihanna and her performance. On the charts above, it’s clear to see that positive mentions significantly outweighed the negative ones.
And it wasn’t just Rihanna’s performance that drove the social media conversation. The news that she was pregnant with her second child, something many viewers didn’t know about it when the night began, also made her "baby bump" a big topic of social media talk following her performance.
3. Some brands got major attention for their ads
For marketers, the Big Game is a chance to get tens of millions of eyeballs on their commercial, so major brands tend to bring their A-game when it comes to creating something special. Every year, there’s seemingly endless analysis of which brands nailed it and which ones didn’t.
Social media gives us the chance to see that reaction come in live as it’s happening, and we saw a lot of interest in various brands over the course of the game.
Apple got the most mentions during the game, though a good bit of that is tied back to its sponsorship of the halftime show. Brands that created commercials that gained significant attention include:
Bud Light, with a commercial featuring Miles and Keleigh Teller dancing to on-hold music while waiting for customer service.
Tubi, which we look at a little lower
Doritos, with their “Triangle” commercial featuring Jack Harlow and Elton John (among many others)
Pepsi, who aired two separate commercials featuring Ben Stiller and Steve Martin.
Dunkin’, which we also dive into lower.
Tubi ran into a bit of controversy with theirs – though it was largely the good kind – as their commercial confused a lot of people into thinking someone was switching the TV off the game.
Meanwhile, Dunkin’ went in a different direction to make some social media waves, returning to the tried-and-true formula of bringing in familiar faces to sell their products. In their big commercial, actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez – recently married for the second time – made a hilarious guest appearance, with Affleck manning the Dunkin’ drive-through.
One more brand that got plenty of positive attention for its commercial was PopCorners, which had some of the most popular brand video tweets of the night as they gave away $10,000. But they weren’t done there, as they brought in the stars of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” for a reunion of their characters.
POPCORNERS | If you're going to do a Breaking Bad reunion, this is how you do it. Popcorners hits some familiar series beats (in a family-friendly fashion, naturally) well enough to make the absurdity of the product injection totally enjoyable.#BigGameReviews #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/ecr2DBxO84— Adweek (@Adweek) February 13, 2023
4. Chris Stapleton brings tears with the National Anthem
The National Anthem is always a big moment at the Super Bowl, and this year was no exception. Americana artist Chris Stapleton was selected to sing, and the sentiment around his performance was almost universally positive. Many suggested it could be among the top Super Bowl National Anthems.
Some social media posters even noted tears from fans in the crowd. And it wasn’t just fans, either. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni showed up on screen feeling some kind of way about Stapleton’s rendition — becoming one of the most talked about moments of the night.
Emplifi is not a sponsor for the Super Bowl. The findings presented in this article are based on publicly available data that were compiled and analyzed using the Emplifi platform, and are intended for educational purposes only. All data included in this article are current as of the time that it was posted.
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