Why the Super Bowl is an anomaly in today’s advertising world

Posted on 01. Feb, 2012 by in Digital Marketing, Stats & Trends



Super Bowl XLVI LogoLast years Super Bowl drew the highest ever audience for a US TV show. The climax of the American football season in 2011 was watched by 162.9 million viewers, and Super Bowl XLVI is expected to draw around 173 million Americans this Sunday 5th February, smashing the audience viewing record for the third year running. That presents a highly unique opportunity for brands to put their products in front of millions of eyes.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the notions of  ’intention‘ and ‘attention‘ media. TV advertising falls under the ‘attention‘ media umbrella, and there will be around 45 minutes of ads during the 46th Super Bowl on Sunday. My digital marketing background is heavily Search based, which means I’m stood under the ‘intention‘ umbrella, but with the smartphone and tablet boom, I’m inclined to introduce a third notion – ‘interactive‘ media. Keep hold of that thought.

Click for an interactive version - Super Bowl Ad Rates - 1967 to 2012

30-second ad slots for this years Super Bowl cost around $3.5 million

Let’s get back to the stats. From Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 through to Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, Super Bowl telecasts have accounted for 425 minutes of commercials, representing $1.62 billion of network advertising sales, according to Kantar Media. With 173 million viewers expected to tune in on Sunday, it’s no surprise that 30 second ad slots on CBS this year were priced at $4 million.

A quick calculation reveals there will be around 90 thirty second ad slots available on Sunday, which means Super Bowl XLIV could generate around $315 million in revenue. Not bad for 4 hours work. Even more impressive when you consider total US advertising spend is expected to reach $152.9 billion in 2012. Super Bowl takes a nice 0.2% slice of that figure.
Super Bowl Ad Spend 2012

Many other marketers (particularly those in the intention media camp) will consider – is a 30-second, $4 million Super Bowl ad slot really worth it? The answer, according to many, is yes.

Super Bowl isn’t a TV show, it’s an American institution

Spending $4 million to put a 30-second ad in front of 173 million people is huge viewership, and even if a fraction of those viewers buy a product off the back of the advert, it converts into decent revenue. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s a huge build up to the event, with all eyes peeled to the internet to try and get a glimpse of some of the ads. The Twitter fail whale will make an appearance during the game. After the event, the media will continue talking about the ads. People will go online in their droves to talk about the game and the ads.

The Super Bowl targets everyone. Men, women, boys, girls, families and friends. According to a recent survey conducted by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, nearly 63.6 million are planning to attend a party. An additional 35.9 million plan to throw a party.

Here’s the anomaly. ”Close to 50% of viewers tune in to actually watch the commercials, more than they watch the game“, said Stephen Master, vice president of Nielsen Sports media research. If that is true, around 86 million people will simply tune in on Sunday to watch the ads. TV advertising suddenly evokes intent. For the Super Bowl, it has become ‘intention‘ media.

Coca-Cola Polar Bear Super Bowl Party

Coca-Cola bears are back, and ready for Super Bowl. Photo credit: Adweek.com

The Coca-Cola Company is counting on just that. In fact they’ve taken it even further. They announced a multi-media advertising campaign for next Sunday’s Super Bowl, taking a 30-second ad slot during the first quarter and a 60-second ad slot during the second quarter. The ads will include a Social Media twist, calling for viewers to visit CokePolarBowl.com on their tablets, smartphones or computer.

They aren’t alone. Most of the other ads will likely have a call-to-action. But (as we explored in a previous post) Coca-Cola are banking on a multi-screen strategy. At least 60% of Super Bowl viewers are expected to have a smartphone, tablet or computer within arm’s reach during the game, according to Coke’s research. According to Information Week, the Coke polar bears will be watching and reacting to the game in real time, thanks to live animation technology. One bear will be rooting for the New England Patriots while the other will be a New York Giants fan. They’ll jump for joy when their respective team scores or has a big play, and don’t be surprised if they fall asleep during the commercials. Fans will be able to comment or ask the bears questions via Facebook and Twitter, and viewers will also be encouraged to upload game-related fan photos and videos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Suddenly, ‘attention‘ media which became ‘intention‘ media, has now become ‘interactive‘ media.

Device, Platform and Channel Convergence

Ads are no longer flat. They are exciting, and allow us to consume them at different times, on different devices, with different people. You can press them. You can interact with them. You can cross channels with them. The team over at Twitter gave a really nice insight into last years Super Bowl, saying that fans sent 4,064 Tweets per second (TPS) – the highest TPS for any sporting event.

Tweets per second - #superbowl 2011

Since then, Twitter has become much more mainstream, with more brands, celebrities and the general global population beginning to get the ‘R’ and ‘T’ letters stuck on the keyboard, and discovering how to use hashtags.

Today, consumers react to ads, and air their views and thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and those opinions are carefully monitored and analysed by Social Media teams like ours, and brand managers across the globe. Truly integrated campaigns are those that include attention, intention and interactive media, and probe actions and reactions, both on and offline.

No doubt Monday morning’s news will include some Super Bowl ads being praised and some ads being berated, but you – along with 173 million others – can have your say at the time (just don’t wake the Coca-Cola bears). Keep track of all the ad previews at Adweek.com/super-bowl.

So now we’ve got your attention, grab your beer, grab your smartphone and tablet, get ready to watch with intent, and interact with the most expensive ads of all time.

Let us know your favourite!

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