The Super Bowl, Its Audience, Its Ads and Its Lessons for Professional Services Companies

February 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

Another Super Bowl is in the books, which means another set of incredibly expensive commercials have aired. This year, CBS charged $5 million for 30 seconds. As a marketer, the last thing you want is to air an ad that falls flat or is panned. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the real winners from last night, besides the Denver Broncos, and also consider how this game and these ads hold lessons for professional services companies.

Macro Takeaways:

The “Big Game” is fast-becoming one of, if not the only, “must-see” TV event. The Super Bowl, like sports on TV in general, is best consumed live. I actually DVR’d the game, mainly to skip some of the opening introductions and create an escape valve from the Coldplay-headlined halftime show. (Little did I realize that Beyoncé had us all covered.) In the end, I skipped maybe a handful of “Blue Bloods” promos and local car ads, finishing right about on time with the rest of the country. Not only is the Super Bowl essential viewing, but the league and its broadcasters uncharacteristically tear down content walls to make sure that you can watch it on any device, anywhere.

The Super Bowl defies audience fragmentation. The most-watched TV finale ever is M*A*S*H, which drew 105.9 million viewers in 1983. 80.4 million tuned-in for one last Cheers in 1993. Last night’s game drew an estimated 114.4 million viewers. As a point of comparison, the widely celebrated and talked about Breaking Bad drew 10.3 million for its finale in 2013. Game 7 of the 2014 MLB World Series between the Giants and the Royals topped out at 52 million viewers. This enormous audience is why the game is so important to advertisers and such an anomaly compared to the 364 other days of the year when marketers – both consumer and professional services – compete for audience attention in an environment of limitless distractions.

“Embedded” marketing is a new trend. Minutes after the game ended, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning embraced “Papa” John Schnatter of Papa John’s pizza chain, of which Peyton is both a pitchman and a franchise owner. Then, speaking with a sideline reporter, Manning noted that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.” Sports economics reporter Darren Rovell tweeted that the two mentions were worth the equivalent of $3.2M in bought ad time:

And, the real kicker? While Manning owns 32 Papa John’s, he has no deal in place with Budweiser. Of course, the brewer was more than tickled:

The idea of embedded advertising isn’t new, it is just gaining in popularity as users DVR and stream content commercial free. Just ask the Burger “King.”

Here are my winners:

Papa John’s – Without buying an ad they were part of the game.

Budweiser – Not only did they get some free buzz marketing, they had a very on-point spot with Helen Mirren eviscerating, via British-laced condemnation, drunk driving.

T-Mobile – Two excellent spots. The first with Steve Harvey mocking his own error at the Miss Universe contest as the cell company rebuts rival Verizon’s network claims.

The best spot of the night was “Restricted Bling,” with a cheesy Drake gladly inserting a variety of terms and limitations into his phone-themed hit “Hotline Bling.”

Amazon/Jason Schwartzman – Off-beat humor from a company that has been running a series of “Prime”-themed ads that are hit-or-miss (e.g. ordering a baby carrier to walk around with a dog). The “Baldwin Bowl” was a great set-up. Dan Marino complaining about breading wings and actor Jason Schwartzman hurling food at him was an easy touchdown.

Coca-Cola – The Hulk/Ant-Man ad was well-done (featuring Paul Rudd for the second time in the evening). The company is focused on pushing sales of smaller portions and the small (Ant-Man), medium (Coke can) and large (Hulk) subjects provided excellent contrast.

Quick lessons:

  1. Push your content on all devices and platforms. If it’s good enough for the NFL, it’s good enough for you.
  2. When you have a large, high-value, captive audience (think well-attended client seminars/webinars), capitalize on the marketing opportunity.
  3. Create vehicles and content that attract large, high-value and engaged audiences. (Then, see #2.)
  4. Consider non-conventional advertising strategies. In addition to the Peyton Manning in-game marketing, companies such as GoDaddy highlighted their brand via a 30-second commercial during the live stream of the game on CBS’ website.
  5. Content is and always will be king. Aim to produce and market content that is best-in-class and for which there is no substitute.

Michael Bond

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Entry filed under: Marketing, Media Industry, Media Relations.

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