There will be more battles on Super Bowl Sunday than just the one happening on the field. Arch rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are airing head-to-head ads again after Pepsi's flagship soda sat out of the game last year. Wireless providers will have a larger-than-usual presence, and while the number of automakers running spots might be down slightly, there will still be plenty of car ads, especially from Toyota and Fiat Chrysler, which will run a combined eight spots.
Below, a look at six brand battles worth keeping an eye on.
Cars: Sheet metal vs.Tear-jerkers
Auto marketers face a high-stakes choice when plucking down millions of dollars for ads: Do you tout a new model or try to make a sweeping corporate statement? We'll see both this year. Toyota will try to get viewers to reach for the tissues with an emotional spot touting its corporate Olympics sponsorship. Hyundai also went the corporate route with an ad that touts the Hyundai Hope on Wheels nonprofit group that battles pediatric cancer.
The question remains whether such a serious topic resonate as folks toss back beers and wings at Super Bowl parties. It's all in the execution, of course, so we won't know that until the spot airs Sunday. By contrast, Lexus is plugging its new LS 500 F Sport performance sedan by putting Marvel's "Black Panther" in the driver's seat. Similarly, Kia makes its new Stinger sports car the star, with some help from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.
Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automotives will try to bust out, with five ads for Jeep and Ram. Can the automaker get back on its marketing game after an underwhelming Super Bowl performance last year?
Soda: Coke vs. Pepsi
The cola wars, long a Super Bowl staple, seemed to be on the wane last year when Coke opted to re-air old ads in the game, while PepsiCo chose to ignore its flagship soda and run a spot for a new premium water brand, Lifewtr. But this year, the two largest soda marketers are back with vengeance, as they seek to breath life into the declining category. PepsiCo is taking a celebrity-heavy approach with ads for Mtn Dew and its flagship Pepsi brand starring A-listers such as Morgan Freeman and Cindy Crawford.
Coca-Cola, meanwhile, is advertising Diet Coke for the first time since since 1997 as it plugs new packaging and flavors. The broader Coca-Cola trademark will be pushed in a 60-second spot with plenty of diverse faces. The takeaway: Yes, soda sales are down, but Coca-Cola and PepsiCo can't afford to give up on their biggest brands anytime soon, and they are still willing to spend millions of dollars on advertising's biggest stage.
Streaming: Hulu vs. Amazon
The TV network that airs the Super Bowl wouldn't typically promote original series from rival broadcasters. Yet in the last few years, networks have opened their inventory to streaming video platforms, who are arguably a bigger threat than traditional channels. And this year, the competition among these platforms will be fierce. After using the Super Bowl last year to promote is critically acclaimed drama "The Handmaid's Tale," Hulu is returning with a trailer for its opening psychological thriller "Castle Rock." Based on Stephen King novels and produced by J.J. Abrams, the 10-episode series will premiere this summer. It will closely coincide with the debut of Amazon Prime Video's original series, "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan," Labor Day weekend. This is the first Super Bowl ad for Prime Video, and comes after the critical success of its new original series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."
Both series are based on books in the same genre and will debut this summer. Game on. Of course, there's still the chance that the biggest giant in the category—Netflix—also decides to buy in. Netflix aired its first-ever Super Bowl ad for its original series "Stranger Things" last year. And while not a streaming platform, per se, HBO will also be airing its first Super Bowl spot in 20 years to promote the second season of its sci-fi drama "Westworld."
Wireless: Who can you hear best?
With T-Mobile and Sprint returning to the big game yet again, and Verizon coming back after a seven-year hiatus, the battle between the wireless brands will be especially fierce this year. (AT&T will be the only large wireless carrier to not run a spot).
The typical tactic amongst the wireless carriers is to call out the inefficiencies of the competition. And that's exactly what Spring does in its "Evelyn" spot. The commercial features robots who make fun of their creator for being a Verizon customer. While both Verizon and T-Mobile are keeping their commercials under wraps until game day, T-Mobile has been known for its humorous ads featuring high-profile celebrities like Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian. It remains to be seen if they will take the high-road and keep the mudslinging to a minimum.
Catchphrases: 'Dilly Dilly' vs. Bleep Don't Stink
Are you sick of Dilly Dilly yet? Bud Light hopes not and will be trying to get millions more people repeating its made-up, medieval cheers toast on Sunday. The catchphrase has been a smash hit for the brew, even if it has yet to boost sales. The brand will undoubtedly plug it all day long on social media Sunday to hype its in-game ad featuring the debut of "Bud Knight." But when it comes to social media currency, Dilly Dilly might run into some competition from "#BleepDontStink," which is featured in Febreze's ad about a man blessed with that trait.
Critters: Puppies vs Kittens vs. Bunnies
For those not interested in football, there have been plenty of alternatives, none cuter than Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl," sponsored this year by Subaru for the eighth straight year. Puppy Bowl XIV airs Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The automotive brand is also trying to lock the market down on cat lovers as the sponsor of Hallmark Channel's Kitten Bowl V airing at noon Sunday. Food brand Annie's got the cute contest rolling Friday morning with its "Bunny Bowl," which was live-streamed on its Facebook page.