Some of the biggest trends in technology were represented on the Super Bowl advertising slate this weekend: electric vehicles, online wagering, digital assistants, and crypto.
Electric vehicles were only a small piece of US car and truck sales last year, but automakers are under pressure from the government to boost the EV sector. And while the big game is always buffeted with car ads, in 2022 all but two of those ads featured electric vehicles.
Boston doesn’t have any of the big EV startups. But it’s well on its way to building a significant presence in battery technology with local companies including Factorial Energy, Ascend Elements, and SES.
A few of the big Super Bowl advertisers have been helping fund the Boston battery scene. General Motors ran an EV-themed ad starring Mike Myers as Dr. Evil and a spot for its upcoming electric Chevy Silverado featuring actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow on “The Sopranos.” The car giant is among the leading financial supporters of SES, a Boston startup working on developing the next generation of lithium-metal batteries for electric vehicles.
And Kia ran a darling ad with a robot dog chasing the company’s new EV6 electric crossover. The Korean manufacturer last year partnered with Factorial Energy in Woburn to use the startup’s forthcoming battery tech in new vehicles.
As for online sports betting (which is not legal in Massachusetts), the leading players are each spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to establish their brand identities.
Boston-based DraftKings and its Nevada rival Caesars Sportsbook both ran spots on Sunday. Caesars used a bevy of stars including actors J.B. Smoove and Halle Berry, plus former quarterback brothers Eli and Peyton Manning. DraftKings used its ad to introduce a new recurring character, dubbed the Goddess of Fortune and played by actress Emily James.
Meanwhile, Boston’s crypto scene and its leading startups (including Circle Internet Financial and Algorand) have been raking in cash from investors eager to bet on the growth of blockchain-based technology. But Boston ranks behind New York and Silicon Valley in crypto tech, and it was companies based elsewhere, such as Coinbase, FTX, and eToro, that ran ads during the Super Bowl.
There was a hidden Boston connection to one of the best ads of the night, Amazon’s spot starring Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson. In the ad, the couple’s Amazon Alexa device begins to read their minds and offers embarrassing suggestions.
Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s head scientist for Alexa, and much of the team writing the code that makes the digital assistant work, are based at the company’s Cambridge offices. Although the team is “turning science fiction into reality,” Prasad said in an e-mail, “the latest Alexa ad is fun and inspiring, but purely fictional.”
What isn’t fictional: Cybersecurity is booming in Massachusetts, with startups pulling in $3.7 billion in funding last year, according to PitchBook data. But despite all the cash and the need to raise their profile in an increasingly crowded market, Boston-based Cybereason, rumored to be going public soon, was the sole Super Bowl advertiser in the category (with a regional ad).
In health care tech, women’s health-focused Hologic ran a commercial starring Mary J. Blige. The Marlborough company’s ad emphasized the value of annual breast and cervical cancer screenings for women.
Boston-based wearable tech startup Whoop had a commercial featuring Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes that ran before the game. The company, which raised $200 million last year, is focused on helping athletes train better and sustain maximum performance with data collected by wristbands, garments, and other devices.
And Boston’s longstanding robotics scene was also represented. A Sam Adams beer spot that ran in Boston and a dozen other regional markets featured the latest robots from Waltham-based Boston Dynamics, dancing and pouring beverages, as well as a cameo from founder Marc Raibert.