Super Bowl ads - are they still relevant and who watches them anyway?
The largest sporting event in the U.S. is upon us and whether we’re football fans or not, at some point, we’ve tuned in to the big game for either the ads or the half-time show. Turns out, we’re not alone. Over 100 million Americans tune in for the Super Bowl every year and about 25% of those viewers watch the game solely for the commercials.
Now given these numbers, you can understand why companies are prepared to pay $5 million for a 30-second spot. Some buy several runs, and some pay a premium for a 45 second or 60 second spot. The question remains, is it worth it?
With Super Bowl viewership down over the last few years, this must be a tough decision for marketers. However, one thing remains true, despite the drop in viewership, having the means and the talent to put-up a quality ad for the Super Bowl buys clout, and there is a value to that, at least, that’s what most of these brands believe.
How have the ads evolved?
With so much at stake, brands have stepped it up, ensuring more bang for their buck. Over the years, most brands have begun taking a multi-channel approach to their “Super Bowl ad”. The biggest names are not just looking to create the most engaging 30 second ad on game day, but a quality teaser ad on YouTube weeks before. They also create targeted digital ads for very specific communities and target markets. They engage would be consumers in competitions, fun quizzes, several chapters to their ad and with giveaways. They follow that up with end-of-game tactics for a full A to Z approach to getting consumers to buy.
Some companies are taking a different approach to their super bowl ad space. They’re using their 30 seconds to spread a public service message that may resonate with viewers and one that speaks to their brand. Some of the messages will be about inclusion or taking a political/social stance. It’s risky, and in a time when even football (and the right to take a knee during the anthem) has managed to divide Americans, there’s a lot at stake.
Last year, Budweiser, known for it’s often sexist ads took a 180 and portrayed the story of immigrant co-founder Adolphus Busch and his plight trying to make it in America. Met with mixed reviews and a trending hashtag to boycott the brand, it was a far cry for the typical beer ad we’ve become so used to.
So here are the brands we’re looking out for that are using this ad space to try shake things up?
Look out for beer brand, Natural Light, who will use their 60 second ad space to encourage students in 5 U.S. cities with highest student loan debt to participate in a contest to have their student debt paid. The company is pledging $1 million to help bring down student debt.
Bumble, a dating app, will feature their first ever Super Bowl commercial in the first half staring tennis champ Serena Williams named, “The ball is in her court”. The campaign centers on women empowerment and encouraging women to make the first move.
Colgate has hired Luke Wilson to star in their 30 second ad. While details on the ad are scarce, two years ago, Colgate’s super bowl ad was about water waste and how we need to be mindful when brushing our teeth. The “Every drop counts” ad included celebrity endorsements, notably from Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps.
Every drop counts
Kia will make it’s 10th appearance this year. Last year’s ad was particularly successful and featured Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. The campaign included a 15 second teaser, 30 second launch spot during the pre-game show and a 60 second spot during the game. In addition, it also featured a YouTube video which allowed users to hear a hidden message when the ad was played in reverse.
Finally, Skittles is shaking things up with their unconventional approach. They’re staging a Broadway musical on Super Bowl Sunday which has a 17-member cast including an unnamed celebrity, live band and original songs. The ticket sales will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS charities. This is the 2nd time that Skittles is creating excitement around the Super Bowl to promote their cause and brand. Last year, Skittles aired its ad to just one fan and livestreamed his reaction on Facebook. Look out for their teaser ads on Social Media leading up to the game.
Debating the true value to this type of ad spend is one that likely happens yearly for these brands, however one thing is for sure, watching all this creativity unfold is what marketing dreams are made of.
 Ray, Sean (2016, February 4). Essential Pittsburgh. How Super Bowl Ads have evolved over 50 years. https://www.wesa.fm/post/how-super-bowl-ads-have-evolved-over-50-years
 Spross, Jeff (2018, February 2). The Week. Are Super Bowl Ads really worth $5 million? https://theweek.com/articles/752440/are-super-bowl-ads-really-worth-5-million
 St. Louis, Molly (2018, October 11). AdWeek. 6 Socially charged ads that caused a stir. https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/5-socially-charged-ads-that-caused-a-stir/
 Marketing Dive Team (2019, January 11). Let the games begin: Tracking every ad for Super Bowl 2019. https://www.marketingdive.com/news/let-the-games-begin-tracking-every-ad-for-super-bowl-2019/545544/