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Early Super Bowl ads feature nostalgia, humor, Tom Brady

This photo provided by Anheuser-Busch shows the Budweiser 2024 Super Bowl NFL football spot. The perennial Super Bowl advertiser is bringing back fan favorites the Clydesdales and a Labrador, in a nod to previous commercials that aired during advertising’s biggest night. Ahead of Super Bowl 58, some advertisers are releasing ads early in the hope of capitalizing on the buzz leading up to the game. (Anheuser-Busch via AP)ANHEUSER-BUSCH/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Budweiser is bringing back some familiar characters this year in its Super Bowl ad.

The perennial Super Bowl marketer is bringing back fan-favorite characters the Clydesdales and a Labrador — a nod to the Labradors that starred in earlier commercials during advertising's biggest night.

Some advertisers are releasing ads ahead of Super Bowl 58 in the hope of capitalizing on the buzz that builds as the game approaches. They hope to recoup some of the reported $7 million that's the going rate for a 30-second spot by capturing pre-game attention. It's a big challenge to stand out among the 50-plus advertisers vying for the eyes of the more than 100 million people expected to tune in to CBS (and Paramount+ and Nickelodeon) on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 11).

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Advertisers are mindful that it's a presidential election year and that a number of conflicts are raging across the globe. So, they're sticking to comforting themes of nostalgia, humor, and as always, tons of celebrities for the big game.

In Anheuser-Busch's nostalgic spot, a snowstorm threatens to derail a delivery of Budweiser to a small-town bar. But a team of Clydesdales and a Labrador retriever team up to help Budweiser make the delivery.

Experts say the feel-good spot strikes the right chord for Anheuser-Busch, which is trying to win back consumer sentiment following last year’s conservative backlash against Bud Light after the brand sent a commemorative can to transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Bud Light also angered supporters of transgender rights who felt it abandoned Mulvaney.

“It’s paying tribute to its history, in America,” said Ray Taylor, marketing professor at the Villanova School of Business. “And I think for these big brands, if they’ve got these iconic themes like Budweiser with the Clydesdales, that’s just kind of a can’t miss strategy.”

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Anheuser-Busch will also run a Bud Light ad, but that ad hasn’t been revealed yet. The company has also tapped soccer star Lionel Messi for a Michelob Ultra ad.

Other ads that have been released early focus on silly humor. A Kawasaki ad shows people riding in their Ridge "side by side" off-road vehicles growing mullets because the vehicle is "business in the front and a party in the back." And a Hellmann's ad focusing on food waste starring Kate McKinnon features a cat that becomes a celebrity and dates Pete Davidson.

“The first Super Bowl spots to be released embrace light humor,” said Northwestern University marketing professor Tim Calkins. “This isn’t a surprise; safety is key when advertising on the Super Bowl so most advertisers will stay far away from controversial topics.”

As always, commercials are stuffed — even overstuffed — with celebrities. A BetMGM ad released early shows Vince Vaughan saying Tom Brady has won too much to use the betting app and should let others have their turn winning, making Brady miffed. Wayne Gretzky also stars in the ad.