Some watch the Super Bowl to see which football team will become the undisputed champions. Several studies, however, have proven that 50% of the Super Bowl audience tunes in just to watch the ads.

Knowing that the Super Bowl is no longer just a big stage for the big game, brands were happy to shell out $4.5 million, or $150,000 per second, for a 30-second spot in 2015. And it seems many brands have a new game plan to ensure they get the most bang for their buck.

There were 15 first-time brands advertising this year – the most since 2000 – while the usual suspects upped the ante by offering exclusive sneak peeks on daytime TV or sharing extended spots on their YouTube channels prior to game day. Both new and returning advertisers featured the typical mix of celebrities, animals and comedy, in addition to something unexpected.

Viewers saw many brands take an emotional approach in their ads this year, putting humor aside and instead tugging at our heartstrings. No matter if you loved or hated the sentimental direction of most Super Bowl commercials this year, for the brands, success is often measured by the chatter about their ads. Keeping this in mind, here are the spots that stood out most to the Mindful Kreative team.

1. Budweiser – #BestBuds

Budweiser stuck to what it knows best – Clydesdale horses and adorable puppies – for yet another heartfelt spot. It’s no surprise that the video had nearly 19 million views on YouTube before the game even started!

Who wasn’t emotional after this spot that gave a nod to a “family” watching one another’s backs? That’s exactly why Annie, Jane and Melinda dubbed it the best commercial of the bunch this year. Budweiser lover or not, the King of Beers somehow tops itself year after year and deserves the title King of Super Bowl ads.

2. Clash of Clans – Revenge

Did much of the Super Bowl audience know and/or care about Clash of Clans? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter much when a celebrity spokesperson like Liam Neeson delivers an epic monologue. His parody of the action roles he’s known offered the perfect attitude and voice to describe a player’s thoughts on revenge.

Maybe it was the hilarious imitation or seeing this sort of reaction from her teenage son when his clan has been attacked. Either way, Amy called this commercial her favorite spot among the other weird and disappointing ads this year.

3. Nationwide Insurance – Make Safe Happen

When a young boy begins to list experiences he’ll enjoy at some point in his lifetime – learning how to ride a bike, having your first kiss or getting married – no one expected him to announce he’ll miss out on these special moments because of a drowning accident. Nationwide wanted to get people talking about child safety rather than sell insurance with this ad.

While the spot was a bit heavy for the Super Bowl, Annie and Erin agree that Nationwide achieved its goal of inspiring a reaction and starting a conversation. However, we don’t think the brand was expecting so many people to respond so negatively.

Whether your reaction was good, bad or ugly to these three commercials, you can’t deny these are the brands that won the Super Bowl this year. Their spots were talked about or viewed online a lot before, during and/or after the big game.

Congratulations to these “winners” and better luck next time to those brands that dropped the big bucks on a spot that was easily forgotten.