Thinking Beyond the Big Screen: the Modern Super Bowl Ad

February 9, 2022

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Brittany Perlmutter

Whether you love it or hate it, one would be hard pressed to disagree that the Super Bowl is an iconic event; from the star-studded halftime show, to the excitement of gathering with friends for an overabundance of food and beer, one cannot ignore the magnitude and noise that is the Super Bowl. But if you're like me, there is a not-so-secret reason we tune in – the commercials! Ads play a significant role in The Big Game experience — with 85% of viewers expressing interest in the ads and 51% likely to look up an ad to watch it again, making it what many consider the holy grail of marketing opportunities.

Back in the day, a TV ad, coming in at a hefty $6.5 million for a 30-second spot, was the only way to get in on the action. While watching on broadcast TV remains king of the devices, the evolution of digital platforms, social media apps and mobile streaming presents a variety of new ways (outside of the TV screen) to get audiences’ attention today. This leaves advertisers faced with a choice – whether they plan to drop millions on a coveted TV spot or if they will use alternative means to reach this attentive audience.

Beyond the TV

Over the past few years, streaming has become an attractive alternative for watching the Big Game. In 2021, streaming numbers were at an all time high with 5.7 million people opting out of the live broadcast. This year, 59% of viewers plan to keep up with the game on multiple devices, opening up a whole new world of opportunities for marketers. With the shifting consumption habits of viewers, we can expect to see an uptick in advertisers utilizing other platforms to increase their engagement with their audiences, in real-time, and at a much lower cost of entry. From social media to online video, QR codes and apps, there are endless opportunities for marketers to bring their brand to life through engaging and personalized curated experiences. 

  • Pepsi: Expanding its (already massive) halftime show sponsorship, Pepsi is meeting the consumer where they spend their time — on their phones! The brand has launched an omnichannel campaign that includes a dedicated mobile app featuring behind-the-scenes footage from a cinematic trailer for the event, prop giveaways, and the chance to win gear like footballs signed by Dr. Dre. With this program, Pepsi is expanding its presence to before, during and after the game to make a more lasting impression.
  • State Farm: After entering the fray for the first time in 2021 with a successful TV spot, State Farm has decided to change its direction this year, already kicking off its Super Bowl efforts with a viral TikTok campaign. The #TeamStateFarm talent competition launched on TikTok on January 22nd and has already generated over 200,000 new followers for @JakeFromStateFarm in the weeks leading up to the kickoff. State Farm, like many brands, has begun to flock to TikTok to reach a shockingly large one billion active monthly users – most of which are Gen Z. Utilizing apps like TikTok is a great way to build awareness, engage with a younger audience (tomorrow’s consumers!), and capitalize on the hype leading up to the big game. 

A Return to Normalcy

Super Bowl LV took place in the hype of the pandemic, setting a more somber tone that we saw carry through from the empty seats in the stadium to the advertisements that aired. With several brands opting to sit this one out, there was a quiet void when it came to the Clydesdale horses and cute puppy commercials we are used to seeing make a splash on the big screen. Instead, we saw a rise in emotional ad spots, like Toyota’s “Upstream” campaign featuring 13-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long. Another noticeable absence from the Big Game was Budweiser, who instead chose to allocate its advertising dollars towards educating viewers on COVID and the vaccine. This created opportunities for first-timers like Reddit, Robinhood, and Fiverr, who entered the arena and made headlines for the right (and wrong) reasons.

As we embark upon Super Bowl LVI, while we are still dealing with the effects of the COVID pandemic, it seems as if we are ready for a return to our “regularly scheduled” Super Bowl programming, including:

  • Make ‘em Laugh: A welcomed change from last year’s melancholy tone, we are looking forward to seeing advertisers embracing humor again! Nissan is back in the fold, already making headlines thanks to a great script and the ever-hilarious Eugene Levy as the face of the campaign.
  • Community & Inclusion: With 77% of consumers motivated to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place, we anticipate brands will use this opportunity to show consumers that they too are human and care about causes impacting society. Is there a better place than the Super Bowl to educate millions of consumers on your brand’s commitment to social responsibility? We saw some of this last year with Verizon sponsoring a star-studded Super Bowl afterparty announcing a $10 million commitment to small business support and we are excited to see who will follow suit this year.
  • Leveraging Nostalgia: If the halftime show this year (which features rappers like Eminem and Snoop Dogg, beloved to the older millennial crowd) is any indication, we can expect advertisers to utilize nostalgia to elicit an emotional response from the audience. After all, who doesn’t love seeing a beloved character from their youth (I’m looking at you Uber Eats with your hilarious Wayne’s World spot) being revived unexpectedly — even if it’s just in a commercial. Whether it's a callback to a classic movie or a timeless pop hit, advertisers will transport us back to relive childhood memories.
  • Welcoming Newbies: Just like last year, we will see an onslaught of new brands throwing their hats into the proverbial ring. Given the tech savvy audience the Super Bowl draws, we expect a lot of these first-timers to be in the tech and innovative sector — like upstart financial firm, 

Bringing Home a Marketing Win

Advertisers and marketers have quite the challenge when it comes to making their brand stand out in the sea of Super Bowl noise. Simply having the funds to purchase a Super Bowl spot doesn’t mean it will be successful at impacting the business’ bottom line. Brands don’t need a massive advertising budget to grow; consider the message and strategy behind the campaign. Creating an impactful advertisement that goes beyond a single channel is vital for retaining and reaching your audience. Resonating with your audience, whether through humor or tears, will leave a lasting impression that ultimately will help captivate the attention of your audience.

At Kargo, we create omnichannel solutions for advertisers large and small, with budgets of all sizes. We consistently deliver superior creative and performance across premium inventory. Want to get eyes on your next campaign? Check out what we can do for your brand.

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