Super Bowl Sunday: kickoff time for advertising
With 1 in 4 viewers saying they tune in to the Super Bowl just for the commercials, the American football championship has become a major opportunity for advertisers. How are brands using the event? IESE's Inigo Gallo recommends how to stay ahead of the trends.
The Super Bowl is an annual championship for advertisers as well as for football. Averaging over 100 million viewers, no other TV program comes close to reaching as many consumers during a four-hour slot.
For brands willing to spend over $5 million for a 30-second spot (excluding production costs), the payback can be worth it. A 2018 survey revealed that 1 in 4 viewers tuned in just for the commercials. In terms of cost effectiveness, one brewer reported making $100 million more, thanks to its Super Bowl ads.
Comparing 168 Super Bowl ads over a 10-year period (2008-18), we see shifts in the way brands are using the event. It's no longer a single-day affair but now includes the weeks leading up to the game, with digital media extending the life of the ad — and the brand — on other platforms.
Super Bowl ads are indicative of broader advertising trends
Greater use of digital tactics to generate buzz before, during and after the game
- Pre-hype ads, using social media teasers to create buzz
- Live ad spots during the game, supported via Twitter and YouTube
- Ad variations and extended storylines after the event to drive engagement
Below are past ads that represent the above trends
More celebs combined with embracing social causes: Stella Artois (2019)
Actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges revived their iconic roles as Carrie Bradshaw and The Dude and ordered Stella Artois instead of the usual drinks their characters are known for (Cosmopolitan and White Russian). But more than the celebrity appearances, this ad also featured a "do good" message: purchase a Stella Artois chalice, and a portion was donated to Water.org to provide clean water to someone in the developing world.
High-concept use of social media to extend the gag beyond the event: Snickers (2017)
Leading up to the game, Snickers teased it would air the first-ever livestreamed commercial: a Western, starring Adam Driver, performed in real time. When it finally aired, things appeared to go horribly wrong. Snickers tweeted an apology, followed by a press release and video mea culpa by the actor. Social media debated whether it was an elaborately staged hoax (it was). Snickers even upped the ante by offering a buy-one-get-one-free offer as a way to make up for (or rather to keep milking) the gaffe.
To keep up with the latest marketing trends while not just slavishly jumping on the bandwagon, I recommend following these two industry gurus, whose perspectives tend to go against the grain.
1. Mark Ritson
He was once facetiously described as "A bigger threat than Google and Facebook combined. Apparently." This Melbourne Business School professor, award-winning columnist and consultant strikes the right balance between academic theory and business reality. His provocative critiques are always anchored in traditional marketing frameworks. Those looking for brutally honest, irreverent takes on marketing will find his pieces eye-opening and amusing.
Having been CEO for two agencies, Bob Hoffman is one of the world's most influential bloggers, authors and industry experts. He doesn't just call out short-term branding practices and misguided communication tactics, but he structurally breaks them down to explain why. From his blog site, you can also listen to his podcasts as well as subscribe to his newsletters. His explainers are delivered "in plain English...so simple even a CEO can understand it."
Also by Inigo Gallo: Reframing product offers as experiences can help to lower barriers for consumers regarding seemingly risky purchases.
A version of this article is published in IESE Business School Insight magazine #152.