At the start of February each year, we witness one of the most important marketing events on the calendar, an event that impacts brands and consumers globally. It just so happens to occur during an American football match.
Ads takeover the main event
Superbowl commercials for many have become, in reality, much more of the main event than the game itself. For the last two years, Tivo has flipped its ad-skipping product, and allows viewers to skip the game content and watch only the ads! In its first year doing so, a reported 18% of those who recorded the game used the function.
It’s used best as a launch platform
For many brands, using celebrities is a high cost way of creating presence and impact in the big event, with many brands investing in the Superbowl so they don’t miss out…but for other brands that have used it more successfully, it is a launch platform for bigger communications to live on from. Think the introduction of Old Spice Man on a horse back in 2010…that campaign continued to evolve due to its success, and came back full circle in 2018 appearing in the “This is a Tide ad…” campaign…which in itself went on to live in many forms. More recently this year Verizon and Budweiser created a mini-series off the back of their ads to leverage the interest and entertainment factor beyond the 30 seconds.
Stock prices go up!
Forbes contributor Kenneth Kim looked into the effects of companies’ stock prices on the Monday following the Superbowl, and found a pattern. That was, that when a brand’s ad is well received, their stocks went up. The belief is that this occurs due to a behavioural pattern, called representativeness bias. Basically the way you are portrayed leads to other beliefs, for example a clean car must run well, although it has nothing to do with the engine. So, when consumers see and like an ad, it translates to a bias that the company must be doing well and worth investing in.
It’s a cultural barometer
With the use of celebrities in Superbowl ads almost the norm, who they use and how a brand uses these personalities is an indication of what is resonating most with audiences. For Bumble they looked to Serena Williams with an empowering message of “the ball is in her court” which after her US Open explosion, shows off her authority and confidence. Dorito’s looked to nostalgia and brought together a former cultural phenomenon in the Backstreet Boys, and a current superstar Chance the Rapper to show how times and tastes have changed.
The rise of the anti-ad
Whilst for many, securing a spot and eyeballs is the big payoff, other brands are looking to new ways to engage their audiences outside of a TVC. Two brands this year have looked to different activities to build PR and social buzz to steal eyeballs. Skittles created a one-off musical where people actually had to buy tickets to see it…and even included a song “advertising ruins everything!” Volvo also challenged their audience to not watch the game through a promotion utilising facial recognition to reward those who watched a new Volvo ad the longest (whilst the game was on)…the prize, a new car!