Are Super Bowl ads worth it?

  • Author

    Klara Malnar

  • Published

    Jan, 31, 2020

  • Reading time

    6 min

I was recently listening to a podcast and one host said to another something along these lines: “Do you remember how Super Bowl games used to be so boring that the people would go to the bathroom during the game, so they don’t miss the commercials?”

Statements like this show the impact Super Bowl commercials have. The viewership is actually divided on those who watch the game, and those who watch the commercials.

Here’s what fascinates me about the Super Bowl ads. All the trends are pointing towards digital, and yet brands are spending enormous sums of money for a 30-second slot on TV. This year, for example, the prices went up as far as $5.25 million. 

In order to find out where’s the catch, I asked a few marketing specialists to share their opinions. Also, I wanted to see what social media users are saying about this topic, so I scrolled and scrolled to check out their opinions.

Is it worth it?

Eric Bogard, the VP of Marketing at gaming company Arkadium says that the reason for Fox selling out its Super Bowl inventory, which is the fastest market in nine years is that – “in a fragmented media landscape the big game still draws a massive viewership (according to Nielsen, last year’s game drew an average televised audience of 98.2 million viewers).”

According to Forbes, the ratings will get even bigger this year. 

Still, is the price justifiable? 

Bogard thinks it is:

In that context, buying the Super Bowl ad slot definitely paid off for cloud-based web development platform Wix. According to Fortune, airing their ad on Super Bowl Sunday resulted in strong results in the first quarter and a good “brand lift”. 

Aside from 114.5 million people who watched Super Bowl, Wix also reached an additional 300 million people with their great marketing, social media, and PR strategies.

Check out the commercial below: 

Pre-game chatter

Some brands tend to release teasers of their commercials a week or two before the Super Bowl. That’s a great way to stir up the conversation about your brand and prolong the exposure.

This year, one of the teasers that got people talking, and was even trending on Twitter was the Planters commercial where Mr. Peanuts dies.

While scrolling through Twitter mentions of “Super Bowl commercials”, I noticed that a lot of users don’t like the fact that companies release teasers of their commercials before the game because they think it ruins all the fun. 

Here are some of the comments:

Remember the comments from the podcasters from the beginning of the article? Some Twitter users are confirming their point. With the teaser from the commercials being released beforehand, users are pointing out that there’s no reason for watching the game anymore.

The ultimate point here is that if these commercials were aired on TV, without the Super Bowl hype, they probably wouldn’t attract half of the attention as they did now. So, even if some people don’t like it, the chances are they’ll probably see the commercials one way or the other.

Super Bowl Content

On that point, Robert Rose, the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of TCA: The Content Advisory says that if Super Bowl Ads are done well, they in a word – work.

“It’s not the Super Bowl ad itself that works”– Rose continues – ”It should be called Super Bowl Content. The game is just one of the activations in a digital and offline campaign. It helps that most Super Bowl Content is a bigger budget, long on storytelling and usually focused on some kind of inspiration or laugh. So, longer-form versions of it play on social channels, it gets discussed on talk-shows and endless round-up blog posts the week after. Done well, Super Bowl content gets the kind of reach and frequency that marketers dream of. The game itself is merely just one activation to promote that content.”

Before digitalization, the game was the main activator for promoting the content. The ad aired during the game and that’s more or less it. The best ones would be mentioned in the media a few times after and then they would be forgotten.

Nowadays, ads get so much more exposure than the 30-second slot. As we mentioned before, there’s a whole lot of pre and post-game activations going on. Plus, with social media and platforms like YouTube, everyone around the world can see them. 

After the game, there’s always Super Bowl-related chatter on social media. According to Adaptly, in 2017 there were over 390 million Super Bowl-related interactions on Facebook and Instagram alone.

To Rose’s point, some brands are using the Super Bowl platform even if they didn’t purchase an ad slot. AdWeek made a list of brands that will use Super Bowl weekend to try to engage customers through activations and concerts in Miami, digital campaigns and social media sweepstakes.

Also, have you checked Ryan Reynolds’ Twitter lately? He used the Super Bowl for promoting his company Mint mobile without even mentioning it! Plus, he’s giving new customers who subscribe “after kickoff and before the final whistle” 3 months of services for free. Since he has over 15 million Twitter followers, it didn’t take long for the post to reach wide audiences.

See? This is one of the ways digitalization made room for brands to get a piece of the Super Bowl pie, without having to spend millions and millions of dollars.

Where does the viewer’s attention lie?

Speaking of digitalization, Rion Haber, Founder & CEO at Catalyst Marketing, a leading Integrated Marketing Agency, thinks that digitalization, in a lot of ways, represented the democratization of advertising.

“It was one of the first times in history where any organization could, for almost any amount and without any professional help, have a highly targeted ad running within minutes of deciding on their objective. It also created an unprecedented level of saturation where advertisers are willing to pay an even higher premium for the viewer’s full attention.

Haber mentioned an important point that is: the willingness to pay a higher premium for the viewer’s full attention.

The emphasis is on the “full attention”. 

People nowadays receive the amount of information in a day that people in the past used to receive throughout a couple of years. We’re constantly bombarded with various content, and with everyone being so busy, it’s extremely hard to capture peoples’ attention for 5 seconds, let alone 30.

Haber thinks that Super Bowl ads are a great example of capturing viewers attention:

“Advertisers still flock to what amounts to a grossly inflated media buy, based in part on reach, but driven by the fact that each advertiser will have viewers complete and utter attention for 30 seconds. In an environment where anyone can advertise anything, there are very few spots like that left in the modern media zeitgeist.”

Lastly, Haber thinks that there’s an important lesson to be learned for all the marketers out there:

The final judgement

So, are the Super Bowl ads still worth it? Yes. Maybe now even more than ever. Nowadays you can ride the Super Bowl train long before the big game, during the big game, and surely after the big game.  

For example, Bud Light’s “Jousting Match” ad that they did in partnership with HBO was one of the best commercials last year. It was a combination of promoting Bud Light and the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. Before the game, they’ve released two teaser commercials, and the grand finale came on Super Bowl Sunday. In the end, even though they spent almost 10 million dollars for the ad, they positioned themselves as creative giants by reaching almost over 200 million social impressions.

This year, with all the teasers coming up, we can be sure that a lot of marketers decided to shoot for long-tail campaigns, as well.

Is your ROI going to increase dramatically or instantly? Probably, no. But, even though brands are looking at the actual sales, they’re also focusing on customer engagement through social media channels, media coverage, and a brand recognition boost. So, if you’re not a household name, chances are, after Super Bowl, you will be. 

Since building brand recognition provides a long term sales growth, brands are focusing on that. Also, we can notice that a lot of brands use Super Bowl ads to get the emotional reaction from the viewers. Emotional campaigns are proved to be extremely effective, especially in the long term. 

The great part is that, even if you don’t want to invest millions of dollars in the ads, with a bit of creativity, you can use Super Bowl euphoria to your advantage. And social media allows for the big and small businesses to ride the Super Bowl wave regardless!

Last year, Pampers released a digital ad called #StinkyBootyDuty during the game and got more than a billion impressions. To be fair, they had John Legend and Adam Levine in the commercial, so that probably influenced a lot of the views.

In the end, we can conclude that digital didn’t ruin the Super Bowl ads, it upgraded them. It didn’t overshadow the ads but gave them longevity.  That gave additional value to the ads by removing the sole focus from Super Bowl and making it an all-encompassing campaign.

With that in mind, I’m looking forward to seeing what marketers have in store for us in this year’s Super Bowl!

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