Apple Finds Love in a Halftime Place
Run This Town
The 2023 Super Bowl marked Apple Music’s debut as its halftime show sponsor – ending a long association between Pepsi and the event. The Apple Music streaming brand and America’s most watched music event feel like a natural fit, since halftime performers always enjoy a major streaming boost from the exposure the show gives them.
Even so, the brand still needed to make some kind of impact in a moment when most attention was on the show’s star Rihanna. Most sponsorship deals involve multiple opportunities for brand exposure – idents during episodes of a show; appearances on shirts or billboards at sporting events; and so on. The Super Bowl show isn’t like that – as one of Rihanna’s most famous collaborators Eminem rapped, “you only get one shot”.
Apple Music chose to use their shot with an advert length promotional video for the show, hyping up Rihanna by referencing her background as a Bajan who grew up “a little island girl” who had dreams of stardom. The ad takes us back to the place the star grew up, a neighborhood deeply proud of its famous daughter (a reveal shows that the action takes place on a road named after the star). A young girl walks in Rihanna’s footsteps to the tune of her 2009 hit with Jay-Z, “Run This Town”. Her swagger down the road is accompanied by admiring boys on bikes, creating a show of their own before the actual Super Bowl entertainment kicks off.
It’s a strong ad for the Apple Music brand as well as an excellent introduction for the show, capturing the feeling of how great music can make you walk taller as well as building anticipation and sentiment around Rihanna’s performance itself. It scored 3.9-Stars on Test Your Ad, higher than most halftime introductions, with very high short-term Spike Rating too.
Interestingly, that 3.9-Stars is also a higher score than the show itself got! Rihanna’s performance was well received by viewers, with a good 3.2-Star rating, but that was still a dip on the previous year’s show by Dr. Dre and a host of guests (which scored 3.6-Stars)
In general, then, a debut success for Apple Music as sponsors, creating a piece that flowed seamlessly into the performance and introduced it without upstaging it. The only concern might be a merely modest Brand Fluency score, with almost 1 in 5 viewers remaining unaware who the video was for. If Apple continues its relationship with the halftime show, this will improve, and they’ve given themselves a solid foundation to build on.