I love the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest annual sporting event in North America and as a fan of sports and football I’m always excited to watch it.
Aside from the football game the Super Bowl is also one of the pinnacles of marketing. It’s not secret that in recent years TV has been falling from its once lofty heights in marketing’s good graces. The way we are viewing TV is changing, which is troubling to advertisers.
You don’t have to think too hard to know what is happening. With the popularity of the DVR, programs are being recorded and the commercials are skipped over. There’s also the issue of online subscription-based services that offer a selection of TV shows and movies, at the fraction of the price of traditional cable. You are also able to watch the shows on demand, meaning you keep your own schedule.
While it’s not like everyone is running out “cable cutting” and there will be no cable in a few years, the fact that young people (once the sought after high-spending demographic TV could reach) are choosing to forgo cable service is shifting the status quo. I have Netflix and probably watch that more than I use my cable service, and I’m not alone in that.
The exception to this trend is, of course, sporting events. People are still watching them live and with no solid service which you can view sporting events online, fans are keeping their cable. An engaged audience who are not skipping the commercials is a marketers dream.
The Super Bowl is the mack-daddy of all North American sporting events. Consistently over 100 million people watch the game and the commercials have become more of a spectacle than the half-time show, for some. People want to see what advertisements are being debuted.
The NFL and networks, of course, know this. This year a Super Bowl ad is costing upwards of $4 million for 30 seconds. Take into account the cost of making the commercial and you have some serious cheddar being dropped for a one-time spot.
This raises the question of whether or not the cost is worth it. This year in particular a Kate Upton Mercedes ad has been getting some attention. There have been some commentators wondering whether Super Bowl watchers are the primary audience of Mercedes and if the ad is worth the cost (i.e. are they going to sell 5,000 more cars than they would of without the ad).
There are arguments for whether or not the ad was worth it and I won’t go into it. At the end of the day I believe that if you have the money (Mercedes does), the ad is interesting (the close to 7 million Youtube views in about two weeks proves it is), and you’re not selling a product that the average Super Bowl watcher doesn’t want (plenty of football fans want a new car), then buying the ad isn’t a bad play.
This form of advertising is brand building. I doubt that the marketers over at Mercedes expect a huge rise in sales over the next few weeks, all on the heels of the ad. It’s a longer term investment, where the car company gets the attention of millions of people and tries to leave an impression. Not to mention with the internet these days, all the fallout traffic they can get with the ad (especially with people like yours truly linking people to it).
To me, the ultimate example of this strategy is Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad. When viewing this ad it is important to remember that home computing wasn’t even a thing yet. That ad basically tells you nothing about a new product, which is in a category you didn’t know existed, and you don’t know why you’re supposed to care. And the rest is history.