We all observe a certain number of New Year’s celebrations throughout the calendar: there’s the beginning of the academic year, the beginning of one’s preferred sports season, the beginning the new television season, or perhaps even a religious new year.
While football viewership as a whole is still very strongly composed of men, the Super Bowl is more than just a game, more than just a spectacle of entertainment—it’s a celebration of the advertising New Year.
For those who are able to budget for the enormous fees to advertise during the Super Bowl, one still must ask: Are these big spenders attempting to gain instant return on investment, build a growing loyalty, reinforce a brand, regain momentum, or are there other goals in mind?
Men and women, young and old, tune in—often with little interest in the outcome of the game (outside of any wagers that may have been placed). The theory has been stated that the ultimate goal of the Super Bowl is to make the advertising component more significant than the game itself. The argument can certainly be made that they have overwhelmingly succeeded in this regard. Last weekend’s Super Bowl broke records with the largest single-broadcast audience ever at 111 million viewers.
The irony of this occurrence must be appreciated by anyone in the marketing field. At every other point of the year we spend every minute of our professional days doing whatever we can to get our respective messages in front of as many consumer eyes as possible. Simultaneously, consumers do whatever they can to avoid these messages, especially television advertising. They record television on DVRs for the sole purpose of being able to fast-forward through the commercials, they download episodes to computers, iPods, or mobile devices, and they buy or rent DVDs of their favorite TV shows.
The Super Bowl is the only time of year, it seems, when the consumer actively seeks the messages and the advertisements, when the consumer is looking forward to observing the message. When one considers the number of attainable viewers, regardless of your target demographic or psychographic, the exorbitant price tag certainly has value, for consumers will be watching in hordes.
Rather than always selling a product or developing a brand, though, the Super Bowl has become more of a film festival. It seems as though the ultimate goal of the day is to be determined as the best, funniest, or most memorable commercial.
As the competition has grown and technology has experienced innovation, one is frequently able to access many of these brand new commercials on a clandestine website in the days leading up to their actual release. The contents of these ads are represented as information being “leaked,” as if exposed through a tabloid, or similarly treated as a bootleg version of the latest blockbuster movie.
This year, Budweiser (who almost always purchases the first available commercial spot) took this “leak” tactic to another level: During the AFC and NFC Championship games, they actually showed teaser ads for their upcoming Super Bowl commercials—an advertisement that teases a future commercial as if the anticipated commercial itself were a tentpole action film.
Bud spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make certain that you were going to pay greater attention to the millions of dollars they spent during the Super Bowl. When we look at the Super Bowl ad as a company’s blockbuster, the concept of a “preview” seems rather logical.
The nature of teasing or leaking information at any juncture is to get people talking, to get people discussing, questioning, and even debating who will provide the best ad during the only time of year that advertisements are being both sought and showcased.
The parade of commercials during the event, as in years past, garnered newscasts, radio discussions, professional debates, blogs, and endless office chatter in an effort to mark the apparent benchmark of advertising success: total number of YouTube hits.
While one would believe that the ultimate goal of advertising should be to generate sales, the more apparent pursuit of these ads seems to focus on brand recognition itself and the notoriety of winning the competition. Fame, however, is fleeting, and we must remember that the memory of the consumer is very short—the momentum must be kept in order for the long-term financial outcome to be positive. In this crowd of advertisers, there is little room for one-hit commercial wonders. After all, most are already looking to next season.
Jared Kohn is a marketing professional in Tampa, FL who spent five years studying consumer buying behavior with top companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Sprint. More recently, he has developed both regional and national new product launches for Coca-Cola. Contact him on LinkedIn or friend him on Facebook.