I’m not a big sports fan, but the excitement over this year’s Super Bowl was palpable in a way I’d never felt before. You could practically hear the internet chittering in the hours leading up to kickoff, but not all the online chatter was about the sports or musical performances — for the first time, there was tons of anticipation around the game as a major celebrity and beauty event.
And from the moment Taylor Swift entered Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas wearing her signature red lipstick (in stride with Blake Lively, who had her hair styled in big corkscrew curls), the promise was fulfilled. Later, when I spotted a grainy photo of Hailey and Justin Bieber in the stands, embarrassingly, I got excited again. Not because they were in attendance, but because this was where Hailey chose to debut her new dark brown hair color. She, too, was giving the beauty lovers something.
But perhaps the most notable beauty-fan service of the night was in the ads. Instead of commercials only selling beer, cars, and junk food, we saw e.l.f. Cosmetics’ first-ever national Super Bowl spot, alongside appearances by NYX Professional Makeup and CeraVe. Meanwhile, Dove claimed a slot for the first time in 18 years. The live-television event does reliably draw over 100 million viewers every year, but airtime is famously expensive (and historically occupied by the aforementioned alcohol and automobiles). So how did 2024 become the year the beauty industry decided it was worth it to enter what’s traditionally been a male-dominated space? The short answer is that it’s because they know young women are watching.
The conditions have been building up for a while now, with the “Taylor Swift Effect” — or the sales and engagement boost the superstar gives to whatever she touches — being perhaps the most acute factor in increasing female interest in the NFL. Marketwatch reports that Swift’s mere presence at Kansas City Chiefs games to support her boyfriend Travis Kelce during the season led to a 53% increase in female viewers ages 12 to 17 and a 24% increase in the 18-to-24 crowd. At the same time, the beauty industry has been booming for years — which together suggests that there was a significant group of eager beauty buyers amongst the audience on the biggest advertising day of the year.
For e.l.f. Cosmetics, the decision to run a national Super Bowl ad was also based on past success. In 2023, the brand ran its first-ever regional commercial starring Jennifer Coolidge, which was so “tremendously effective, it blew up our viral Power Grip Primer to the point where one is now sold every 3.5 seconds,” e.l.f Beauty’s chief marketing officer Kory Marchisotto tells NYLON. For this year’s court-TV spoof, the focus was on creating appeal among a wider audience with a generation-spanning cast, including Judge Judy Sheindlin, Meghan Trainor, Suits actress Sarah Rafferty, comedian Benito Skinner, and Jury Duty’s Ronald Gladden. Next to the other ads of the night featuring celebrities doing goofy things, e.l.f.’s felt just right.
NYX Professional’s first-ever regional Super Bowl commercial — which is 30 seconds of Cardi B promoting the brand’s Duck Plump lip gloss with a troupe of latex-laden dancing ducks — marks the brand’s first-ever celebrity partnership. The absurdist spot continues to gain traction online, compounded by the fact that NYX has released an “unapproved for broadcast” extended version. The point, NYX’s global brand president Denée Pearson says, is to entertain and increase brand awareness while marking the brand’s “evolution into ‘sportstainment.’”
That combination of beauty, sports, and amusement will probably only become more intertwined as brands strategize to attract and retain new female (likely Swiftie) sports fans. But judging by this year’s Super Bowl, we can imagine more football games where women are welcomed with intentional, fun messaging — and not just pandered to in pink.