The Super Bowl isn't just the most important NFL game of the year, it's also the biggest night for brands to bring their most creative advertisements to a vast television audience.
Over the past few years, augmented reality has shared the Super Bowl stage as well, with advertisers increasingly integrating the technology into their campaigns.
For the Super Bowl LV, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs faced off on the field, big brands leaned on AR more than ever before.
Verizon, working in partnership with the NFL, provided "AR holomoji," which are volumetric video captures of players celebrating big plays, throughout the season. On Sunday night, Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin took center stage with his AR doppelganger. Available through the NFL app, the experience is limited to Verizon 5G subscribers with an iPhone 12.
The halftime show is also a big non-football moment of the game each year. For the 2021 edition, presenting sponsor Pepsi gave fans an AR portal to experience The Weeknd's performance in their homes.
Built on 8th Wall's web-based AR platform, fans were able to visit the Pepsi Halftime website to access the experience via their mobile browsers.
Beyond the realm of pop music, Cheetos actually brought AR into its broadcast ad directly. When the spot, starring real-life couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher with singer Shaggy, ran in the second half, viewers had the opportunity to scan their TVs with Snapchat (iOS and Android) and, thanks to Snapchat's Shoppable AR e-commerce platform, fill out a form to "steal" a bag of Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix in the form of a coupon mailed to their homes.
Of course, since the ad was already on YouTube (and embedded at the end of this post), those who are familiar with how image recognition targets work were able to scan the ad before its broadcast.
Speaking of Snapchat, brands took over the Lens Carousel for the big game. In addition to Cheetos, the NFL, Verizon, Uber Eats, Mountain Dew, Indeed, and Doritos sponsored AR experiences that tied into the game or their marketing campaigns for the night.
Augmented reality is already popular with advertisers, but it is also still a growing technology. Before long, it may be as commonplace in Super Bowl ads as '90s nostalgia and tear-jerker pathos.