The Super Bowl: Brand Advertising Mecca?


Walking down a quiet Melbourne street on my Monday lunchbreak I almost choked on my sandwich as my thoughts were interrupted by the roar of a crowd from inside a bar which is usually (and understandably) dormant on a Monday afternoon. So who were these wild things disturbing my peaceful lunch hour? Melbourne’s not-so-secret society that is, ‘the Super Bowl fans’.  Now, I don’t pretend to know a thing about NFL or the Super Bowl – for years I thought it was a weirdly popular ten pin bowling competition – but for some reason, living half way across the world doesn’t stop it from being in my face all day long.

Friends – who shall remain nameless – are calling in sick to work, offices are abuzz with constant updates (albeit more about Beyonce than the game itself) and those lucky enough to have recording capabilities on their TVs are wishing the day away with blinkers on, warning colleagues of the consequences of giving away the score. And this is just in Melbourne.  So, why do we care? Why are we so obsessed with a game that is played on another continent and seems to be more of a showcase of wealth and power than a sporting event? I have no idea, but I do know this phenomenon is nothing short of a marketers dream. Or so they seem to think.

The likes of Coca Cola, Chrysler and Samsung begin crafting their ads long before their brief stint at the game, even providing online forums inviting ideas from consumers as to what to do with their pricey ad space.

A-list celebrity appearances are the norm, with names such as Oprah, Brad Pitt, Usher and The Rock thrown casually into this year’s spread. But with a 30 second ad spot coming in at US$3.8 million, you have to wonder if it is worth the investment.

Analysis on consumer’s responses to these advertising masterpieces is conducted almost immediately and the results are ambiguous.  While the Wall Street Journal research named Chrysler’s heart warming, Oprah-narrated tribute to the troops one of the best ads on the day, independent research into the amount of ‘brand lift’ that each brand received showed that Chrysler, in fact, not only had the lowest amount of brand lift but had even declined. (Brand lift, in layman’s terms, refers to the difference in online conversation about a brand before and after an event).

Coming in at around 40c per ‘eyeball view’, there is no doubt that having your brand exposed to over 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone, not to mention the sickie-pulling pub dwellers around the world, has to provide some value. But with the cost of producing these blockbuster commercials and cost of the airtime in the multi-millions, it would seem that your brand must already hold a special place in consumer’s hearts before reaching the advertising Mecca that is The Super Bowl.

It makes you think that maybe this advertising is just these mega-brands flexing their muscles while providing no extra value to consumers or their own bottom line. Its no longer about providing information about their brand or services, but more about enjoyable storytelling and getting a bit of a giggle from the spectators (or perhaps roaring laughter depending on how many Bud Light’s have been consumed at that point). That’s certainly not to say I don’t find some of the ads to be brilliant!

Doritos – interestingly this is a fan-made ad that won the ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ competition, quite hilarious I think.

Tessa Cowley
Brand Account Executive 

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