Bob Dylan, Beckham steal Super Bowl commercial sideshow

NEW YORK - Bob Dylan providing a rallying cry for the US auto industry and David Beckham losing his underwear were among the highlights of the Super Bowl advertising blitz Sunday.

With a domestic television audience estimated at around 108 million viewers, America's most-watched sports event has become an opportunity for major brands to jostle for the nation's attention.

Major brands pay an estimated $4 million per slot, deploying wry humour, sugar-coated sentiment or A-list celebrities to hammer home their message.

Music legend Dylan appeared in a commercial for Chrysler, urging consumers to buy American in a slickly cool ad that resembled a love letter to Detroit.

"Is there anything more American than America?" Dylan asked in a moody voiceover.

"Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car."

Dylan's appearance in the Super Bowl's annual corporate fiesta didn't sit easily with some of the folk singer's fans.

"Bob Dylan just negated 50 years of sticking it to the man in about 90 seconds," one critic opined on Twitter.

Dylan's music was also deployed in another commercial, with "I Want You" used in Chobani yoghurt's skit featuring a rampaging grizzly bear.

Other commercial highlights included English football icon Beckham.

While the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star has long since hung up his boots, he remains a highly marketable figure and was seen shilling his underwear line for Swedish clothing company H&M.

The ad featured the 38-year-old stripped down to a vest and underwear sprinting across urban rooftops in order to reach a photo shoot on time, losing his form-fitting boxer shorts in the process.

As expected, Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson appeared in her controversial ad for drinks company Sodastream, which operates a factory in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank.

The slot was the subject of controversy after Johansson's appearance was criticised by the international charity Oxfam, for whom the actress has served as an ambassador for the last eight years.

Johansson quit her role with the charity following the dispute. Other commercial highlights on Sunday included Irish supergroup U2's performance of their new single "Invisible" in association with Bank of America.

The song was offered as a free download on Apple's online music store iTunes during Sunday's match between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.

For every download, Bank of America donated $1 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

US beer giant Budweiser maintained its popular tradition of running a commercial involving majestic Clydesdale horses.

This year's offering was a saccharine slot featuring a labrador puppy forming an attachment to the giant horse to the tune of Passenger's "Let Her Go."

Another popular ad featured American funnywoman Ellen DeGeneres for Beats music, in a riff on the children's fairytale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

However, one of the worst received ads was for Maserati's new Ghibli sports car, which featured a young African American girl working her way through an ominous landscape under a darkening sky before making its pitch.

"This isn't an ad for a plain, hardworking American sedan but for an Italian sports car, which has a base price of about $66,000," The New Yorker magazine lamented in its online blog.