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Sports Marketing | Jan 29, 2015

With a TV audience that hit 112.2 million last year in the United States – the most-viewed broadcast of any kind in the country’s TV history – it’s perhaps no surprise that this year NBC feels justified in charging advertisers $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time. Last year, however, the stand-out campaign came when one firm bought 30 seconds of ad space only to give it away.

Many of the brands who advertise around the Super Bowl are stalwarts that come back year after year. However, the 2014 showpiece saw Intuit, a company that develops financial and tax preparation software and a newcomer to the event, spend around $4 million on a slot then give it to another firm.

For those unfamiliar with Intuit, among its key products are business accounting software Quickbooks and tax software solution TurboTax. Launched 30 years ago by Scott Cook, Intuit is now valued at $26 billion and is ranked as one of the top 100 most innovative companies in the United States by Forbes. In summary, it’s a perfect encapsulation of the American dream, proof that small businesses that work hard can reap rewards. All of which brings us to that Super Bowl campaign.

The idea was to give small businesses a voice and celebrate their contributions as the unsung heroes of the US economy, said Intuit spokesperson Elisabeth Gettelman: “Intuit was a small business 30 years ago. Since then, it has been supporting small businesses by developing an end-to-end financial management ecosystem. So this was an effort to showcase Intuit’s commitment to small businesses, while also shining a light on their importance.

“We launched ‘Small Business Big Game’ in July 2013 with tens of thousands of entries and a panel of Intuit judges narrowed the playing field to the top 20 based on set criteria. From there, the process was turned over to more than 8,000 Intuit employees whose votes determined the final four. It was then up to the world to vote for the ultimate winner.”

The final four included a North Carolina company that makes dog treats out of recycled barley, a Minnesota chicken farmer, and an Idaho company called POOP that sells natural dairy compost. But the eventual winner was GoldieBlox, a start-up that makes toys to teach girls about engineering.

In many ways, GoldieBlox was the perfect company to win the Intuit prize because of its strong entrepreneurial credentials. Launched in autumn 2012 by Stanford-trained engineer Debbie Sterling, it got off to a great start by raising $285,000 on funding platform Kickstarter to build a toy prototype.

What really worked in the context of the Super Bowl, however, was that the company’s mission is so unlike traditional Super Bowl ads, which are often chastised for being macho or sexist. GoldieBlox’s ad showed a group of cute little girls building a space rocket out of toys ranging from Barbie dolls to princess castles. The result was a perfect PR storm and Sterling’s prediction proved right, with huge swathes of media coverage discussing the ad’s distinctive imagery and the wider message it conveyed.

By SportBusiness International

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