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Usher’s halftime show: the missed marketing match for Aussie brands

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Usher’s halftime show: the missed marketing match for Aussie brands


A total of 329,000 Aussies tuned in to watch Seven’s live 2023 Super Bowl coverage and in the grand marketing colosseum that is the halftime show, Usher’s headlining act promised an extravaganza ripe with opportunities for keen-eyed Australian marketers to kick off 2024.

Yet, as the Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium transformed into a slice of Vegas showbiz, complete with stilt walkers, sequins, and a moonwalking homage to Michael Jackson, it seemed Australian advertisers missed the memo, fumbling what could have been a localised touchdown in global marketing genius.

Usher, crooning from his new album Coming Home, turned the halftime stage into a glittering spectacle that screamed opportunity for Aussie brands to ride the wave of nostalgia and showmanship. As Alicia Keys floated in, draped in an elegant red dress, and Ludacris prowled the platform with his pole-dancing entourage, the stage was set not just for a musical feast but for a marketing masterstroke. 

Mid-set, Usher, perhaps outdoing the infamous Janet Jackson ‘nipple gate wardrobe malfunction’, dared to bare more skin than we’ve seen on the Super Bowl stage, setting the scene for a memorable (if questionable) marketing moment. There were even flashes of Taylor Swift on-screen cheering on her boyfriend Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. She’s in Melbourne on Friday, surely an opportunity to create a cute viral campaign?

Yet, as Yeah! brought the house down in tribute to Usher’s hit parade, the chance for Aussie marketers to jump on the bandwagon seemed to evaporate faster than a cold beer on a scorching Sunday afternoon. 

Channel 7’s live coverage of the event did offer a window into the sheer scale of the Super Bowl halftime show to Australian audiences, yet the local ad slots left much to be desired. Instead of seizing this moment to forge deep connections with their audience, it appears Australian brands played it safe, perhaps too safe.

While our American counterparts were treated to a kaleidoscope of cleverly crafted commercials, featuring everyone from the Kardashians to Martin Scorsese, Australian viewers were left scratching their heads at a micro ad for Man Shake. A talking hairy belly implored us to “shake it off,” landing with all the charm of a soggy sandwich at a gourmet dinner. 

Suntory’s bid for cool with a katana-toting exec hawking “hard lemonade alcopop” landed with all the grace of a crocodile at a pool party. And as for Channel 7’s attempt at cross-promotion with Kyle Sandilands shaking his head at Australian Idol hopefuls? Well, that was more of a reminder to switch channels.

In what could have been a masterclass in leveraging entertainment for unforgettable localised marketing, Australian brands seemingly let the ball drop. The Super Bowl 2024 halftime show, a veritable feast of visual and musical OTT moments, highlighted not just what was, but what could have been for Aussie marketers.

This spectacle, a global event with a viewership that spans continents, and a healthy whack of live viewers in Australia, not just via home viewing but streaming in pubs and clubs around the country, was a missed goal for local advertising. 

It was an open invitation to captivate, engage, and resonate with an audience ready for more than just a lunchtime snooze-fest. 

Instead of tapping into the rich tapestry of creativity seen on the global stage, Australian viewers were left with a lineup that was less Yeah and more Yawn


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Emily Rayner

Emily Rayner is the editorial director of Niche Media.

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