Industry Insights

Digital Marketing Hype of the Super Bowl

The draw of the Super Bowl goes well beyond the game itself. It's the parties, the food, the halftime show, and of course, the commercials. From Apple’s 1984, the Budweiser Frogs, Cindy Crawford's or Britney Spears' Pepsi Generation, to the E-Trade Financial baby, marketing—or more specifically, advertising—during the Super Bowl can be impactful and memorable for brands. But, at what price?

When it comes to marketing, digital campaigns, or advertising in general, the goal is to drive sales and increase revenue. Marketing campaigns are supposed to inform and educate customers so that they purchase your product or service. However, even the best, funniest, or most memorable of ads cannot save a bad product or service.

Any marketer would agree that your overall marketing strategy is to generate awareness and increase traffic to drive sales that will solidify your return on investment. When looking at the Super Bowl, we, as marketers, understand that the intention of Super Bowl ads are not specifically about driving sales. They are about the overall business of advertising, provoking interest, and creating buzz; whether it be around the office water cooler on Monday, the amount of searches and views of the ads on Youtube, and of course, the amount of content generated to talk about those ads. This begs the question; is it worth it?

Let’s break down the facts (according to 

  • The price for Super Bowl ads have gone up 76% in the last decade alone.
    • In 2019, a 30-second Super Bowl spot cost advertisers US$5.25 million. This was just the cost to air the ad, not the actual cost of producing the commercial itself—a solid Super Bowl marketing effort could easily cost US$10 million.
    • The advertising cost during Superbowl I in January of 1967 was a quaint US$37,500. and US$42,500. (it aired on two separate networks). That's roughly US$287,000. and US$306,000. in 2019 dollars.
  • The Super Bowl is a remarkable marketing platform:
    • In 2018, 114 million people watched the Super Bowl— that's a third of the country's population.
    • By comparison, the second biggest event, the Oscars, only brought in 30 million viewers.
  • Super Bowl commercials do draw in audiences and are considered important overall:
    • 25% of surveyed Super Bowl viewers consider commercials to be the most important part of the game.
    • 77.1% of viewers see Super Bowl commercials as entertainment.
  • Based on viewership and cost, brands on average are spending about 3¢ per viewer.

However, is the Super Bowl advertising ‘hype’ truly worth it when it comes to marketing?

Apart from the Super Bowl presentation, we usually feel barraged with emails, paid ads, sponsored content, and messages on any given day during the year. With the number of channels and ways to reach customers, it is harder for businesses to engage with target audiences, and/or customers. Consequently, businesses need to work twice as hard—and strategically—to deliver marketing campaigns that are relevant, and stand out from the rest.
However, the buildup around advertisments from the Super Bowl can offer both businesses and marketers some rewarding tips and tricks when it comes to promoting your business, your products and services, and connecting with your customers. Companies can use winning strategies from the Super Bowl for their own needs, including:

KISS’ED—Keep it Simple [Stupid], Execute Defectless

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but make sure it is well executed. Some of the best ads are simple concepts, but their engineering—the ideas, ingenuity, and content—is flawless. Invest your time and money into ensuring every part of your campaign works perfectly.

Use Humor (Only if it's Done Well)

How many times have you bought a product or service because you thought of their ad, which made you laugh or smile? Humor in ads induces great recall, but only if done right. Too many ads, and/or brands, have been negatively impacted by their humor falling flat, or even inciting major backlash. Don’t fear humor, but ensure you review and test your campaign with different audiences before you launch it.

Influence with Influencers

Though not a new tactic in the digital and content marketing world, using celebrities and influencers can amplify your efforts in a big way. Influencer marketing has come a long way over the years, whether you use Macro or Micro, this trend will still be a large part of marketing in the years to come. In fact, according to a study conducted by Linqia, 39% of marketers plan on increasing their influencer marketing budget. Stay tuned next week for my next post on the role of influencer marketing and what it means for your content strategy.

Still Connect on an Emotional Level

“Hit them with the feels” still rings true today. Campaigns that humanize your business brand will allow your audience to see your company in a different light. Incorporate campaigns that give a feel-good factor such as simply telling inspirational stories, thanking customers, or highlighting your company's responsibilities in giving back.

Experiment with the Unexpected

Just as effective as the ads that are humourous are the ads that are truly unexpected. For businesses, the quickest way is to take a previous campaign that worked well, then spin it in a different and unusual way. Maybe try incorporating user-generated content instead of influencer content, or repurpose an awesome video series into an Instagram Stories campaign. Good ideas can be used more than once, so don’t be afraid!

Approach Social like the Media Room

Much like any large sporting or entertainment event, those who are participating will often convene in a meeting room to answer questions back and forth with the media. Granted that your business is usually not in this identical position, the same approach can be used with your customers and followers when they reach out. Your business will always be met with positive or negative feedback, but it's important to address this as your customers expect. When you are met with negativity, remember to act quickly, take time to assess the situation, and balance your responses.

Ending Notes

Looking beyond the expense of advertising during the Super Bowl, we need to appreciate that, from a marketing standpoint, it’s also an experience, a community event, and a global conversation. Elizabeth Lindsey, a managing partner with Wasserman, once remarked, "it’s the last bastion of programming that people feel is must-see, in the moment, live.”, and that, “I would argue the Super Bowl is a cultural experience far more than it is an individual game. It’s a gathering. And regardless of how you watch, at the end of the day, it’s social.".
Whether you are sitting around with friends watching the game, or sitting around your business's boardroom brainstorming concepts, know that you’re participating in an age-old tradition; enjoying branded content. Of course, not all businesses—or us marketers—will participate in the promotion that is the advertising during the Super Bowl, still, when it comes to your industry or niche market, your business can harness the ‘hype’ of the Super Bowl approach in your marketing efforts. 
Best explained by Amy Avery, Chief Intelligence Officer of Droga5 Agency and someone who created several winning Super Bowl ads: “You’re buying access into a conversation, you’re buying access to be a part of a memorable experience, you’re triggering’s a long tail strategy.”.

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer is a Web Project Manager for Falcon-Software, a digital web agency founded in 1994. For the last 13-years Lynette has been in various digital capacities and her expertise goes beyond Project Management. Lynette brings experience and knowledge in graphic design, marketing communications, project management, product management and engagement.

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