Have you noticed that we no longer refer to the Super Bowl? It’s suddenly just … Super Bowl. Super Bowl is now like prom—it’s no longer necessary to say you’re going to the prom. The only folks who say the are marketers who try to capitalize on the Big Game, but they haven’t ponied up to be legit sponsors due to astronomical fees. Which is now a cool $5MM for a 30-second spot. Remember when we thought a million bucks was a lot to pay for a Super Bowl ad? Wow, how things have changed.
Here’s why we pay so much for time on Super Bowl: scale. A massive amount of TV eyeballs, over 111 million people, tuned in last year to watch Super Bowl LI in which the Patriots won in the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Yet, Super Bowl viewership is mostly down over time: last year’s game drew the fewest viewers since the 2013 Super Bowl when the Ravens beat the 49ers (108.7MM viewers). Nevertheless, a record 114.4MM people who watched the Patriots edge the Seahawks in 2015 indicate that this year’s game will likely draw over 100MM viewers—which is significantly bigger than any live Internet event, or channel, could muster in the U.S.
While the NFL saw an 8% drop in viewership ratings for the full 2016 season and will likely experience another decline in ratings for 2017 (National Anthem, anyone?), Super Bowl is still the only game in town when it comes to scale (for example, the 2017 Oscars “only” attracted 32.9MM viewers and the 2018 Grammy Awards saw 19.81 million tune in, down 24% from last year and the worst the CBS-aired ceremony has done since 2009).
Despite the global nature of the web, the Internet just can’t come close to matching the numbers that TV can offer in the U.S. Even shows like “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” consistently deliver more ad inventory viewing opportunities per show than YouTube can deliver across America in a full day.
Regardless of how we feel about the questionable behavior of certain brands (NFL, Uber, Volkswagen), we all want to feel like we belong and are socially relevant via collective experiences. Due to the immediacy and live nature of Super Bowl, we all want to share our incisive insights and captivating pictures across multiple social media platforms. And there’s no bigger event than Super Bowl to build both personal and corporate brands. In other words, both business and society collectively worship at the altar of Super Bowl.
So, how can brands maximize Super Bowl scale? Some suggested do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t jeopardize the opportunity by taking a stand on potentially divisive political issues because you’ll reduce your opportunity to scale across both sides of the aisle.
- If you do choose a political issue, make sure it has the potential to generate universal appeal. Burger King’s hysterical take on the universally misunderstood issue of net neutrality (by David Miami) is a good example of a public service announcement where the brand is well-integrated into the storyline. In fact, you can’t talk about that ad without mentioning the brand.
- Don’t tell a joke where the brand is not central to the humor. We call this “brought to you by advertising” in which the funny bit is sponsored by a particular brand, but viewers can’t recall who brought the joke. That’s a waste of $5MM on the opportunity scale.
Which brings us to the Do’s on Super Bowl:
- Keep revenue goals top of mind. For $5MM a pop, agencies have to be accountable and ultimately motivate people to buy the brand—at least sometime after the show.
- Use the moment to unite the Nation. If your company or brand has a philanthropic or cultural platform that is inspirational and can be used to move the needle on helping others, this is a great time to tap into it.
- With so many people watching at the same time and actually not fast-forwarding through the ads, there’s an opportunity to celebrate “lite” American culture (and root against the Patriots) in a non-confrontational setting. So, it is a great time to take some creative liberties to be funny, edgy or even dare I say provocative.
With the Grammy’s and the Oscars inevitably taking a few shots at the current administration, Super Bowl LII offers a live TV event where the content generally won’t reflect poorly on the brand. For $166,000 per second of ad time, make sure you spend those dollars to create a Big Tent atmosphere where people can believe in the brand’s ability to deliver security, certainty and reliability in a disruptive world where people don’t know where to place their trust.