Is a Super Bowl Ad a good or bad investment?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

A few years ago, I would have said that “the NFL can do no wrong”. With all that has gone wrong in the past 2 years, I will now alter that statement to say “the NFL can do a lot wrong and still get away with it”. This year’s Super Bowl will be charging up $5 Million for a 30 second TV ad. While that sounds crazy, the question we should be asking: “Is advertising during the Super Bowl a good investment for a brand?”




Super Bowl versus The Big Bang Theory

The #1 current network TV show is the Big Bang Theory, recently drawing 17 million viewers and charging approximately $350,000 for a 30-second spot for a media cost of 2.1 cents per viewer. Arguably, a TV ad run during the Big Bang Theory will be part of a 12-week campaign, allocating the cost of production over that 12 weeks, increasing the total cost per viewer up to 2.2 cents per viewer. 

The Super Bowl is expected to draw 125 million viewers, charging $5,000,000 for a 30-second spot for a media cost of 4.2 cents per viewer. A Super Bowl ad will be the first and likely the only time that ad is run, which means we would have to add in the production costs for the Ad, moving the total cost up from $5 million to around $6 million (assumes a production cost of $1 million), which increases the total cost per viewer up 4.8 cents per viewer. 

I would argue that a well-done Super Bowl ad brings a bigger Impact on the market. First, with the Super Bowl ads, many people now “watch the ads” as much as they watch the games. If you assume that the consumer engagement on the Super Bowl ads is double the Big Bang Theory, then we have a relative tie in the cost per viewer. On top of that, the Super Bowl ads that go viral add another 10-30 million viewers after the game, making the total cost per viewer much more efficient. We aren’t even measuring the talk value at the lunchroom table on Monday when people gush over the cuteness of the Budweiser dog or laugh as they re-tell the Doritos ad. 

Compared to other video media options, the Super Bowl ads at 4.8 cents per viewer are still cheaper than the 7.5 cents per view that YouTube charges or the 9 cents per view that Facebook charges.

When to use a Super Bowl Ad

Marketing Execution has to make your brand stronger. It has to create a bond with consumers who connect with the soul of the brand, it establishes your brand’s reputation based on a distinct positioning and it influences consumers to alter their behavior to think, feel or act, making the brand more powerfully connected, eventually leading to higher sales, share, and profit. Too many ads on the Super Bowl seem to be playing the game, hoping that broad awareness helps your brand. To me, broad awareness is never enough of a reason to spend money. When I was running marketing teams, and someone came to me with “drive awareness”, I’d cross it out and ask for something more.

There are 4 reasons you should advertise in the Super Bowl

  1. You are already a beloved brand, that can connect with your consumer base to make them feel more emotionally connected to your brand so that you tighten the bond further. This tighter bond will help drive further growth and profits in the future. Every year, Budweiser brings back their Clydesdale horses, which make them a very good investment. Last year, this spot was rated the #1 ad and generated 30 million additional YouTube views and two million Facebook shares.  
  2. You are an established brand, with a significant product launch or a new brand positioning that you want to draw quick attention to, knowing that it will trigger the search and potential purchases. The Dodge Ram farmer ads from two years ago attempted to re-establish Ram as the American pick up truck, as they battle with Chevy and Ford for that space. This beautiful ad jumped out among the others making it a very good investment for the brand. 
  3. You are an impulse product that could use advertising to trigger those consumer impulses during the game. This would be the fit for the Snickers or Doritos marketing strategy, so consumers want more. You can use the Super Bowl as the kicking off point to a new campaign that you might run all spring. For instance, Snickers used Betty White in 2010 to launch the idea of “You are not yourself when you don’t have your Snickers”. Five years later, they are still running that campaign, making it a great investment.  
  4. The other reason for Super Bowl advertising might be to keep up with your competition. Last year, there were 10 car brands that advertised, many didn’t break through. Here’s the Fiat ad that did rate as one of last year’s most loved by consumers. Highly creative but also tied in new news in the way of their re-launch.  

Bad Creative makes it a completely wasted investment

With a highly engaged Super Bowl crowd, you cannot just show your average TV ad, or you risk being booed at a Super Bowl Party like this spot by a very small brand, Jublia, for foot fungus.  Boring product demos?  Really.  Wow. They should have saved this type of Creative for 3 am on CNN when no one is watching. Can you imagine spending $5 Million on this?

Another bad ad came from “Go Daddy” last year. I will say this brand takes a lot of chances, however, this one is not based on the right insight. Everyone, including small business people, is watching the game. No consumers ever want to be portrayed as the lonely loser. 


A Super Bowl ad can be a great investment for the right strategy and execution

At Beloved Brands, we run workshops to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a WORKSHOP ON MARKETING EXECUTION, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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