So it’s the Patriots against the Rams in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII – and an appropriate time to look at how brands have devised successful campaigns around the biggest event in the US sporting calendar.
Super Bowl ads don’t come cheap so it makes sense to have something to promote when you’re spending $5m for 30 seconds. Blacture, a new media platform for African-American voices, trailed a March 2018 launch at last year’s game but is arriving about 12 months later than planned, the Wall Street Journal reported recently.
“There are a lot of brands that have appeared on the Super Bowl one time and then we haven’t heard much from them, but I can’t recall any brands that have done a Super Bowl ad without having a product in the market or very quickly in the market,” Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, told the Journal.
Arguably, Tourism Australia’s Son of Crocodile Dundee campaign around Super Bowl LII didn’t really have a product either as it was essentially a trailer for a film that didn’t exist, but it had the desired effect of driving traffic to the government agency’s website and boosting intent to book holidays in Australia by 83% – and generating a sizeable PR effect as well. Tourism Australia then went on to build on that success in the following months with a series of online videos that formed part of a “conversion exercise”.
And that continuity is an important aspect to consider when spending such serious sums. Research published last January year highlighted how the benefits from Super Bowl advertising can persist well into the rest of the year: this noted a substantial increase in sales of advertised drinks in markets where Super Bowl viewing was higher during subsequent sports like NCAA’s “March Madness,” the MLB and NBA games.
Tourism Australia tapped into some other approaches that have proved valuable for Super Bowl advertisers in the past, not least its bravery in promoting a non-existent film. Chocolate brand Snickers made Super Bowl history in 2017 with the first live TV commercial during the event, executed within its existing campaign. Despite a long record of attention-getting Super Bowl spots and a highly effective brand campaign, it chose to take the risk to surprise viewers and push its reputation for creative excellence.
Creativity and emotion were also present in Son of Crocodile Dundee, both of which have been shown to be highly effective in Super Bowl ads: Nielsen’s neuroscientific research on the most popular 2016 Super Bowl ads, as measured by tweet volume, found these factors were key to success – driving higher memory activation in the final branding and increased engagement after the first exposure.
Savvy brands will want to consider how they can maintain those metrics longer term, something Tourism Australia is acutely aware of as tourists turn to channels like TripAdvisor for information and seek out new holiday experiences. “We just need to keep our eye on the customer, as we always do, and keep our eye on the ball in terms of what problems we are trying to solve for them,” Lisa Ronson, Tourism Australia CMO, told WARC.
Around the start of the decade, a series of user-generated TV spots delivered about a quarter of a billion dollars in incremental sales for Doritos over a four-year period. But the snack brand wanted to stand for more than a few laughs once a year and to build deeper engagement and a positioning that would last beyond the Super Bowl. Ethnographic research helped it tap into the notion of boldness and what it meant to its target audience and so connect with them on a closer level all year round.
Brands now routinely look beyond the single TV spot that was historically kept secret for maximum surprise impact, and that process starts well before game day. In a fragmented media landscape brands need to capitalise on the level of anticipation pre-game as the window for post-game discussion is far shorter.
Advertisers have recognised this and engaged the media with announcements, commentary, advertising creatives, and controversies that have increased their coverage after the game. Again, Son of Crocodile Dundee was an exemplar of this playbook, looking to go viral with teasers designed to be shared among internet users.
Increasingly, this approach aims to reach consumers beyond the domestic US market. There’s an enthusiastic fan base in other parts of the world: earlier this week, the NFL announced the eight teams who will play in London for the 2019 International Series, with another two meeting in Mexico City.