Brand Engagement, Sponsorship, Sports Marketing, Stadia / Venue | Apr 2, 2016
How brands maximise on the Super Bowl

An article by 

The SportBusiness International – Brand Bonanza (Original Publication date: 30 November 2015)

Viewed from the perspective of brands, the Super Bowl’s primary appeal is the sheer size of the live television audience, which is far ahead of anything else on US television. But Tom Richardson of digital media and marketing consultancy Convergence Sports & Media 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 says. “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.”

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 a lot of money for a 30-second ad, especially when you consider that last year’s asking price was $4.5m and was widely regarded as expensive.

This is why, Richardson says, “We’re seeing brands looking for ways to extend the shelf-life of their ads on digital platforms.”

He adds: “Now you are more likely to see previews of commercials released in the weeks running up to the game. 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 21m 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 says. “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.”

Savvy social

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 28.4m tweets during broadcast, up from 24.9m the year before. It was similar with Facebook, with 65m people discussing the event via 265m posts. According to social media consultancy Engagor, there were 1.5m 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 masterclass in driving engagement, in two ways. Firstly, every time another brand’s television 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. Beginning with a Super Bowl television 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.

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 20m-30m viewers.

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