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Is Marketing in the Super Bowl Worth It?

Last night, 115 million people gathered around their TVs and watched men in tight pants run around a grass field chasing an egg shaped ball. A tradition unlike any other – Super Bowl Sunday. 

Since the major networks first started broadcasting the game in 1967, the Super Bowl has been one of the year’s most viewed telecasts. And while the game on the field fluctuates from year to year – shoutout to anyone who watched all four quarters of the Seahawks 2014 beat down of Peyton Manning’s Broncos – one thing has remained constant: the Super Bowl represents an epic (and epically expensive) opportunity for brands to get their message in front of the largest captivated audience possible. 

If you’re a brand, the opportunity to advertise in the Super Bowl is a touchdown, right? Maybe. Besides the hefty $7 million price tag, there’s a lot for a brand to consider before deciding the big game is the right home for their thirty seconds of commercial fame: 

  • Does our brand  actually have anything to say?
  • How much is a new flashy commercial going to cost in addition to the $7 million media outlay?
  • Is this going to cost me my job (see: SoloStove CEO)?

It’s a lot to consider, so we asked a few smart folks in the advertising space if the Super Bowl is a worthwhile endeavor – here’s what they had to say.!

Alex Saiz, Executive Creative Direction, Tailfin

“Obviously, the stakes for advertising in the Super Bowl have never been higher. Aside from the astronomical price tag, marketers now evaluate an ad’s performance and value through a myriad of metrics—any of which may lead to slightly differing conclusions. What I think it boils down to is this: Super Bowl spots haven’t really been TV spots for a while now. They’re more like high-visibility stunts. And the brands that are doing it right understand that it’s as much what you’re doing before, during, after and adjacent to your big game moment as the content you’re airing in that precious 30 or 60 seconds. I think that’s why we’re seeing such a growing trend toward early-release ads, teasers and other ‘we’re not doing a big game ad’ ploys. It’s like we’ve reached a certain saturation point where most brands can’t afford to play in the big arena. And the brands that do, can’t afford not to also stretch beyond in-game advertising to make sure they can justify the means.”

“So, is it still worth it? Yeah, but only for the brands who are prepared to launch support tactics as well. “

Tim Smith, President, Chemistry Agency

“All the spots used to be shrouded in secrecy waiting for the big reveal. The value was in the talk after the game. That’s been watered down because the marketing game has changed. Now, there is value in the teasers, talk shows and social media leading up to kick-off. The one thing that remains the same, you still have to produce an amazing spot to create a cultural moment and make it worth the spend.”

Roberto Gomez, Chief Creative Officer, Standard Press

“The Super Bowl can be a huge success, if used in an omni-channel approach. For example, within the storyline of the ad itself, place a unique QR Code that activates a response or engagement. Then, link that action with a live social media post and response. Plus, if you plan ahead of time – you can start your campaign 2 weeks before the game that tells your audience to “Stay Tuned at Halftime.”

Bo Heiner, President, Heiner and Associates

“The Super Bowl absolutely is still ‘super’. It is perennially the largest TV audience in the US.  The audience draws from every meaningful demographic. This mega event offers a unique blend of sports, pop culture (can you say Swifties!), music and star power that cannot be replicated. Yes, advertising during the Super Bowl is expensive, but promoting your brand in and around the Super Bowl is table stakes for brands looking to go big.”

Let’s wrap this up.

Full disclosure: the appeal of creating a Super Bowl spot is undeniable for an agency – very few (if any) would say “no” if you asked them to create one. But that doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile or valuable for you to do so, but there are two paths for brands to take when making the decision to utilize the Super Bowl as an advertising moment.

Path one is to go big and create that star studded spot, but to leverage the Super Bowl as a piece of a larger puzzle. Whether that’s anchoring a campaign around your Super Bowl ad, or simply using the game as a prime media opportunity to launch a larger campaign, the Super Bowl has to be a springboard for something bigger extending before, during, and after the actual game.

Path two is to capture the “anti-moment.” Liquid Death is a great example of this this year, as is Dan-O’s. Essentially finding ways to zig while others zag, generating buzz that’s more in line with the brand’s essence (and pocketbook). 

So that’s our take – but what say you, is the Super Bowl still super for brands and advertisers?

About Greg Abel

Greg Abel | Founder of Tailfin Marketing
Greg has been disrupting the ad industry for decades. After graduating from UGA’s Grady College of Journalism, Greg found his path at big ad agencies as a Media Planner and Account Executive. From there, Greg jumped on the digital wave at a consultancy where he helped to develop digital strategy and online user experiences for a range of consumer brands. In 1999, Greg co-founded Tailfin, an ad agency that specializes in branding, traditional and digital advertising, engaging content development, and social media.

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