Super Bowl LIV is still a few days away, but there is already buzz surrounding a number of the multimillion-dollar commercial slots. Advertising’s biggest day coinciding with the beginning of the year means that these ads often set the tone for brands’ year-long campaigns. In recent years, the hype surrounding Super Bowl ads has extended beyond the three hours of game time, with brands releasing teasers and trailers for their advertisements weeks ahead of the game. Much like the extension of Black Friday to the days before and after the holiday, marketers have found another opportunity to maximize the profits of a highly competitive advertising event. This is not surprising, as Fox is charging upwards of $5 million for a 30 second slot, $5.6 million to be exact, according to Bloomberg. By creating buzz surrounding a commercial prior to the game, marketers are able to extend their campaigns beyond the airtime they are given, and they are certainly succeeding so far.
Super Bowl ads generally use one of the four elements: humor, celebrity endorsement, nostalgia, and inspiration, or any combination of the four, although the occasional ad takes a more outside-the-box approach. The classic approach is to reach the audience through humor, creating buzz through pure entertainment. Celebrity endorsements are also effective in relating to an audience, although these can come at a steep price, not including the $5.6 million it costs to simply air the commercial. Some commercials play on memories of decades past by using old songs and characters or even referencing old ad campaigns. In recent years, appealing to the heart through inspirational messages and social advocacy, such as empowering women in sports, has also become popular. This year certainly did not disappoint in these categories. Here is a look at some of the best Super Bowl LIV campaigns so far:
2020 Hyundai Sonata: Smaht Pahk
Hyundai combines the classic humorous take on a Super Bowl ad and combines it with a (quadruple!) celebrity endorsement. Boston natives John Krasinski, Chris Evans, and Rachel Dratch, and former Boston Red Sox first baseman David “Big Papi” Ortiz demonstrated the convenience of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata’s Remote Smart Parking Assist, or as they call it, “smaht pahk” in absurdly exaggerated Boston accents. The commercial was both funny and effective in showcasing the car’s features.
Microsoft: Be the One
Microsoft pulled on the heartstrings with its ad featuring the Offensive Assistant Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, Katie Sowers. Sowers recounted her journey to becoming the NFL’s first female coach, adding “I’m not trying to be the best female coach. I’m trying to be the best coach”. While the ad has nothing to do with Microsoft itself, advocating for female empowerment and women in sports certainly has people talking about the brand and its campaign.
Budweiser: Whassup Again
This year, Budweiser appealed to American nostalgia and sense of humor with a revival of Super Bowl classic, “Whassup”. In this ad, Bud teamed up with Uber in a hilarious commercial in which a man’s smart home devices yell “whassup” to each other in an empty house. The man comes home and grabs a pack of Budweiser before heading out to catch his Uber, promoting both brands while also reminding game watchers not to drink and drive.
Thinking Outside the Box
P&G: When We Come Together
This year, Procter & Gamble will attempt an entirely new type of Super Bowl ad: an interactive, multi-brand one. The consumer goods giant released a teaser for their ad in which a bowl of chili hits a fan at Sofia Vergara’s Super Bowl Party, presumably creating a huge mess. According to Adweek, Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard is asking viewers to help create the ad by going to WhenWeComeTogether.com, where fans can help Sofia clean up the mess. The website allows viewers to choose the actions taken by Sofia and her guests, some of which are popular P&G brand mascots. P&G will then air the most popular scenario during the fourth quarter of the game. This is is a very unique approach, both in terms of combining brands and creating an interactive experience
While brands spend all year planning their campaigns before their official release, sometimes the environment calls for a last minute change. One of the most talked-about campaigns was Plantars’ “#RIPeanut”, in which the brand killed off its 104-year-old mascot in order to present a game-time “funeral”. This unconventional campaign approach created a lot of media buzz, and was expected to be a huge hit. However, Plantars did not plan for the untimely death of one of the world’s most beloved athletes, Kobe Bryant, and has since paused all campaign activity since the news broke. The brand thought that making light of a fictional character’s death, which would normally be a silly way to draw attention to the brand, was insensitive in the wake of nation-wide mourning for a very real person. Despite halting the campaign, Planters will still air its Super Bowl commercial as planned, Adweek reports.
How High Are the Stakes?
Super Bowl average costs of a 30-second TV advertisement from 2002 to 2019 (in million U.S. dollars)
With the cost of Super Bowl ad space increasing dramatically over the years, the stakes continue to rise for advertisers. In 2020, it’s not enough to simply air a commercial during the big game. Leading brands create buzz around their ads up to weeks prior to the game, collaborate with other brands, and take any action needed to stand out among tough competitors. This year, advertisers brought their A-game, continuing the tradition of creating a television event where the commercials are just as anticipated as the game.
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