Viewed from the perspective of brands, the Super Bowl’s primary appeal is the sheer size of the live audience (which is far ahead of anything else on US TV). But Convergence’s Tom Richardson says another factor comes into play these days.
“It reached the point some years ago when the audience became almost as interested in the Super Bowl commercials as the game itself,” he said. “So for brands, the game is not just a unique opportunity to reach a huge live audience, it’s also a showcase for their creativity. That’s why so many brands are willing to keep paying the high prices demanded by the broadcaster.”
CBS will help improve the value for money equation this year by live streaming the Super Bowl ads online for the first time. Even so, $5m is still a lot of money for a 30-second ad, especially when you consider that last year’s asking price was $4.5m – and that was widely regarded as a lot.
This is why, Richardson said, “we’re seeing brands looking for ways to extend the shelf-life of their ads on digital platforms”.
“Now you are more likely to see previews of commercials released in the weeks running up to the game,” he said. “Brands also know there will be plenty of coverage of their ads in the few days after the game.”
This trend is illustrated by the volume of YouTube views that are generated by the best commercials. At last year’s event, Budweiser came out on top with 21 million views, according to figures announced on February 2, one day after the game. Other brands to do well included Bud Light, T-Mobile, BMW and video game Clash Of Clans, which built a very smart campaign around Liam Neeson.
Richardson believes that some brands are also getting better at supporting their primary investment with additional activity through social media.
“Second screen marketing is now really key to extending the value of your Super Bowl investment,” he said. “So you’ll see plenty of brands working with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to extend their impact. The ones that don’t do that are missing an opportunity.”
Last year’s Super Bowl social media stats underline Richardson’s point. The game, which saw the New England Patriots defeat the Seattle Seahawks, generated a record-breaking 28.4 million tweets during broadcast, up from 24.9 million the year before. It was similar with Facebook, with 65 million people discussing the event via 265 million posts. According to social media consultancy Engagor, there were 1.5 million Twitter and 360,000 Facebook mentions for ads, with McDonald’s coming out on top in terms of buzz.
While the McDonald’s campaign wasn’t the most admired by critics, it was certainly a master class in driving engagement. It achieved this in two ways. Firstly, every time another brand’s TV ad came up on Super Bowl, McDonald’s sent out a tweet offering people the chance to win that product if they retweeted the McDonald’s tweet. Prizes ranged from high-end items like cars to tickets to popular movies. Secondly, it launched a marketing campaign called ‘pay with lovin’ that caught the attention of the millennial audience.
Kicked off with a Super Bowl commercial and running up to Valentine’s Day, randomly selected customers were invited to pay for their meals at restaurants by performing an ‘act of lovin’, such as a family hug, a fist pump, a dance or a phone call to their mum.
The Name Game
Looking ahead to Super Bowl 50, not everyone has revealed their hand yet, but brands that have confirmed they will take slots during the game include Budweiser and Bud Light, Avocados from Mexico, Coca-Cola, Doritos, Intuit, Kia, Pepsi-Cola and Weather Tech. Also appearing for the first time in 16 years will be Pepsi-owned Mountain Dew, which will be promoting its Kickstart brand extension via a commercial.
Pepsi has an additional role as the sponsor of Super Bowl’s half-time entertainment, which is another of the most talked about elements of the event. The last two years have seen Bruno Mars (2014) and Katy Perry (2015) perform sets.
Echoing Richardson’s point earlier, the popularity of the half-time live music slot is a reminder that there is a holiday feel to Super Bowl day. The pre-match coverage usually involves a major set-piece event (like last year’s interview with President Obama) while the network airing Super Bowl is always very careful about its choice of programming after the game is over. Often it will choose a new show that it wants to give a boost to, or a family favourite that is guaranteed to get ratings. Recent examples such as Glee, The Voice, Elementary, New Girl and The Blacklist have typically attracted 20-30 million viewers.
CASE STUDY: DORITOS
Doritos Crash The Super Bowl is one of the most iconic campaigns associated with the NFL’s set piece event. Launched in 2006/2007, it invites consumers to create their own Doritos ads and enter them online. Each year, one fan-made commercial gets to air during a Super Bowl ad break.
Jeff Klein, VP of marketing, Frito-Lay, told SportBusiness International: “Over the years, we’ve received more than 32,000 consumercreated ad submissions and given away more than $7m in prize money. The creativity and talent from our fans has turned this contest into a real cultural phenomenon, resulting in some of the most memorable and buzzedabout Super Bowl ads of all time.”
Part of the genius of the 10-year old campaign is the way it has led to the high levels of engagement that brands crave. “Consumers today are looking for two-way conversations with brands and are willing to invest their time, energy and resources into the brands they love,” says Klein.
“That is what Crash The Super Bowl is all about – creating a true dialogue with our fans and allowing them to play a role in shaping how the brand evolves. If you think back to when Crash The Super Bowl first began in 2006, it was a gamble to put the brand’s biggest advertising moment in the hands of our consumers. But our consumers quickly proved it was a winning idea.”
The competition process also deals with concerns about the high cost of Super Bowl airtime. “The value goes beyond the moment our winning consumer-created ads air during the Super Bowl,” says Klein. “That moment is incredibly important, but it’s really the culmination of a six-month consumer engagement programme that allows us to develop a deeper relationship with our fans. You can’t put a price on that.”
One of the big challenges with any longrunning campaign, of course, is keeping it fresh. “We know the majority of people entering Crash The Super Bowl have dreams of making it big in the entertainment industry and use the contest as a stepping stone,” says Klein. “Each year, we try to evolve the prize to give our consumers new and exciting opportunities to jumpstart their careers – whether it’s a chance to work on a blockbuster film, experience the inner workings of a major motion picture studio or collaborate with talented Hollywood directors.”
For this year’s edition, says Klein, “beyond seeing his/her homemade ad air for an audience of millions, we’re offering our lucky winner the chance to collaborate with Zack Snyder, director of the much-anticipated Man of Steel sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, while working with Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment.
We think the opportunity to get real-world experience collaborating with Zack will really help open doors for our winner. They also take home $1m, and our two other finalists each win $100,000 and a consultation, so that will result in all three finalists walking away with life-changing opportunities.”
A SAFE BET
Another interesting dimension of the Super Bowl that has grown in significance in recent years is gambling, says Neal Pilson. Although the rules on sports betting in the US are quite restrictive, he anticipates that “hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent in betting on the game or in fantasy sports”.
For example, Las Vegas is a popular destination during Super Bowl weekend, with around $115-120m being bet there on each of the last two Super Bowls. the 2015 Super Bowl also saw the launch of Super Bowl fantasy football from Rivalry Games, available via a mobile app. Rivalry’s game differs from others on the market because it allows mobile users to compete during a single game, as
opposed to an entire season.
“Millions of Americans watch the Super Bowl, but normally, only a small percentage of viewers really care about the outcome,” said Justin Bauer, co-founder and CEO of Rivalry Games. “Whether you play for pride or cash, this makes the Super Bowl way more exciting than usual.”
The American Gaming Association, which represents the interests of the US casino industry, looked at the Super Bowl betting market in 2015 and concluded that the legal betting referred to above is minute compared to the level of illegal betting. The AGA claimed Americans made around $3.8bn of illegal bets on Super Bowl last year, dwarfing the legal market.
“Current law banning sports betting is clearly failing,” says Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. “The AGA is closely examining the current state of sports betting, the laws governing it and the best way forward for the gaming industry.”
Read the other articles in the Super Bowl event focus: