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The Real Winner of Super Bowl LVII Was Restraint

Rihanna’s halftime performance and the best commercials proved less is more.
  • Rihanna at Super Bowl LVII
    Rihanna at Super Bowl LVII

    The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles to become Super Bowl LVII champions on Sunday night after a game that could have gone to anyone. Not once was there a clear winner, as the lead toggled back and forth up until the game’s very last minutes. It would be easy, when on America’s largest stage, to take big chances and run flashy plays, but by focusing on the task at hand, both teams delivered a good old-fashioned, entertaining game of football. That spirit of restraint carried over into all the best parts of the Super Bowl.

    The pressure to make the spectacle that is the Super Bowl bigger and better and more watchable each year infiltrates every aspect of the broadcast, but at a certain point adding all manner of celebrity cameos and trick plays and blockbuster commercials blurs everything together. It’s like the TV is screaming at the top of its lungs while throwing glitter for five hours straight. That’s why those moments of austerity were not only welcome but stand out as highlights of the evening.

    The Super Bowl halftime show especially has become its own arms race — ever since Madonna headlined in 2012, the event has become less of a mid-game concert and more of an over-the-top pop music spectacle complete with costume changes, surprise guests, and elaborate stages. Rihanna’s performance hit the reset button in the best way possible. Her return to live performance after seven years was enough of a draw, and Rihanna let the music speak for itself, putting together a masterful and fun medley of her greatest hits (of which there are many), leaving all the intensive choreography to the many marshmallow-like dancers around her. She still gave us what we’ve come to expect from the occasion — meme-worthy moments, cinematically stunning shots, and a surprise guest in the form of her next unborn child — but did it without pulling focus from her own talent.

    Similarly, the ad breaks were best without all the bells and whistles. The lead up to Super Bowl commercials airing has gotten out of hand; unsurprisingly, the greatest ads were the ones that caught viewers off guard. Tubi’s 15-second spot had social media abuzz with people thinking they sat on their remote and changed the channel. The ad starts with what looks like Game Day commentary then a smart TV screen takes over, clicking over to the Tubi app. It was a simple concept that caught everyone’s attention, one that is only successful in the exact moment it aired.

    And simple does not have to mean boring. The other winning ad of the evening featured lo-fi footage of Ben Affleck working in a Massachusetts Dunkin’ drive-thru, and even though Jennifer Lopez makes a cameo, the focus is on the genuine reactions of real people seeing Affleck hand them a coffee. This ad proves that subtlety can still lend itself to the multi-layered campaigns that Super Bowl advertisers rely on these days. In January 2023, Affleck was first spotted in the drive-thru filming the commercial, which created its own buzz separate from the Super Bowl. Immediately after the ad aired, Dunkin’ kept the fun going on its YouTube page with some equally delightful outtakes of Affleck’s day as an employee. Sometimes less really is more.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Super Bowl LVII, Tubi, Ben Affleck, Rihanna, Super Bowl