Which is More Super: the Ads or the Bowl?

On Sunday, February 7, nearly 200 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl, staggering numbers by any measure. This year’s 50th anniversary game features a retiring Hall of Famer vs. a dabbing MVP; what more could fans ask for? Well, $5 million ads, of course!

This year, advertisers will spend $166,666 per second to promote their brand to an audience that will immediately tweet, post or chat about their reaction. For well-established and sizable brands, getting this air time can be a no-brainer. But what’s amazing are the smaller brands that spend the bulk of their annual ad budget on such a fleeting opportunity. What if your time slot is right before Coldplay? Won’t most viewers be grabbing snacks so they can watch the halftime show? But advertise, they will.

So why are the Super Bowl and its high-profile ad campaigns such a phenomena?

  1. History: Sports competitions have long been a primary form of entertainment dating back to ancient times. Think Greek games and amphitheaters. They play; we watch!
  2. Brand equity: The NFL is among the most successful brands today; period. The championship game is a must-see event due to the incredible loyalty and size of its fan base.
  3. You score and you win: Whether the game or the ads, getting points on the board means you’re assured replays and extended interest.
  4. Level playing field: Those who may know less about football can easily engage in conversations about the ads; after all, what’s so complicated about a 30-second video?
  5. Shared experience: And the bottom line, come Monday morning, who wants to be the only person in the universe who missed the big game and can’t vote on the best and worst ads?

Whether its touchdowns or tacos that will turn your attention to the screen, this Super event is truly the epitome of a branded experience. Let the games – and the marketing – begin!


Why the NFL scores big

Scandals aside, you can’t help but admire the National Football League. Supported by passionate fans, they dominate their TV time slots, prompt highly engaged social media activity and generate over $1 billion in merchandise sales. With a brand value exceeding $10 billion, dramatic, high-quality competition is the main event. However, the NFL has also nurtured its brand magnificently with strict usage guidelines and clever brand extensions. They have also enabled an addictive manner to expand interest beyond “your team” through fantasy football. So instead of planning your entire week around watching one game, you now have an excuse to spend Sundays watching football – and probably Monday and Thursday nights, too. According to NBC Sports Pro Football Talk, 34 of America’s 35-most watched fall 2013 TV shows were football games. If you’re in a fantasy league, you get it. And if you’re not, you probably have too much free time on your hands.

Fantasy football traces its roots to eight Oakland Raiders fans in 1963, but expanded very slowly due to the manual effort required to track the scoring. Fast-forward to the late 90s when the CBS launched a free fantasy website and then to 2010, when the NFL itself released an official fantasy site. Today roughly 33 million people spend hours refreshing their statistical capabilities by carefully managing a fantasy football team through the season. Trades, waiver claims, contemplating who to start or bench, and of course bragging when you’re winning – and quietly going off the grid when you’re losing – are all fantasy fan habits.

My team did well last year, and I will admit that I watched a lot more football, contributing to the NFL brand’s success. The 2015 season is young but I’ve already spent money on an official NFL jersey (Gronk, of course!), have tuned in to hours of game time and am fretting about my fantasy team. If you’re in a league, I wish you a winning season and let’s compare notes in February! (P.S. if you want more statistics, check out FiveThirtyEight’s “Complete History of the NFL” post.)