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Sparking Convo: The Coveted 30-Second Super Bowl Spots

The NFL season is already halfway through and my beloved Patriots are 6-3, currently leading the AFC East. Woot! Football fans all over the country tune in weekly to shout alongside their respective, cherished teams, as they charge up fields and execute amazing plays (and shriek when the plays aren’t so amazing), while we perform our own touchdown dances in our living rooms, on our bar stools, etc.  Sports are without a doubt a great communal experience – bonds with family and friends are strengthened and new friendships are born

So, it’s no surprise that the Super Bowl is such a sought after occasion by brands and advertisers. It’s so popular that a single ad’s cost to air has risen from $0.04 million in 1967, to $3.5 million today– and this doesn’t even include costs to produce the ad! Yet, brands are willing to put up the big bucks, year in and year out.

But why and is it worth it?
  Sure, the allure of reaching 160 million viewers in one shot is tempting, but does it really make sense? Let’s break down the basics here.

Who’s watching? It’s no big surprise that the Super Bowl isn’t just for sports fans, but for a wider audience; after all, the Halftime Show and commercials are equally just as important as which city/team takes home the Vince Lombardi trophy. And of course, “live” television always ups the ante with entertainment. (Thanks, Justin & Janet).

So which brands benefit most? The answer really depends on what the brand’s objectives are. Of course, the ultimate goal for all brands is sales, but let’s be realistic. Each year, new car models are introduced to the public via the coveted :30 second Super Bowl spot, but how many people can run out and pick up a car the next day?  Luxury niche brands appeal to a smaller fraction of the audience and these types of purchases categorically involve a much longer decision-making and purchasing process. In this case, if a brand has the “moolah” to dole out and is realistic with its ROI measurements, based on CPM, awareness and perhaps the potential of conversational ROI (thank you, social media), then more power to them!


On the other hand, mass-market, frequently purchased, low-cost products and services have a greater probability of seeing bottom line ROI. Frito Lay brand, Doritos has been highly successful with their annual Super Bowl commercials; not only through the creative tie-ins with the sporting event itself, but its ability to  extend its reach by creating a larger, engaging and memorable experience via its annual “Crash the Super Bowl Contest.” By doing so, it’s not just about the Super Bowl spot, but it’s about the journey to the spot – and fans (much like their teams) create the journey, literally.  Each year, instead of producing the Super Bowl commercials, the Doritos contest calls for fans to head out to their local grocer’s to pick up a bag of Doritos (or 2 or 3 ), tap into their inner-Farrelly Brothers and submit their self-created commercials for public voting and a chance for their work of art to broadcast during the Super Bowl.

Wins all around for Doritos:

  1. Low production costs  – thanks to user-generated content!
  2. Pre-purchase of the product – not solely relying on the commercial to drive the purchase
  3. Social Engagement – fans pass along their creations to family, friends for online viewing and voting
  4. PR – the virality of the campaign makes traditional press pick-ups close to automatic
  5. Long lasting impression – participating fans won’t view a bag of Doritos the same ever again

However, let’s not forget to give credit where credit is due. Much of the buzz that takes place in commenting and critiquing of these commercials lives on social media platforms. In fact, the 2012 Super Bowl saw its first-ever social media command center, launched by host city, Indianapolis. A team of strategists, analysts and tech-savvy volunteers monitored the social media interactions that took place during the big event. Bluefin Labs named 2012 to be the first “social media” Super Bowl, the game activated 11.2 million social media comments on sites like Facebook and Twitter, making it the biggest televised event in social media. To put it in perspective, Bluefin Labs tracked more than 985,000 social-media comments specifically related to just Super Bowl commercials — topping the total for the entire telecast of the 2011 Academy Awards.

Again, Doritos led the way. Their “Man’s Best Friend” ad generated the most positive responses on Facebook and Twitter when compared to interactions with other commercials discussed. Whether or not consumers went out and purchased the Doritos brand is secondary. They won their claim to fame just by the buzz that it generated.

In all, it’s no secret that effective ad campaigns need to involve multiple touch points. If a brand is banking on “going to the bank” with one spot, they may want to reconsider re-allocating their funds. However, if they take the time to connect the dots as Doritos has done, the returns could very well be worth the time and money spent.




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