From perfect spirals and unforgettable touchdowns, to the half-time show and iconic adverts, the Super Bowl is more than just your typical sporting event. Last year alone its primary broadcast was viewed by over 200 million people around the world - more than two thirds of the American population.
Aside from American Football, the Super Bowl also represents the biggest day of the year for many marketers and since its inception in 1967, the stream of commercials viewers receive throughout the broadcast has become a spectacle of its own.
In 2023, expect to see some change in how Super Bowl advertising is approached - a big jump in cost per ad has some industries on the ropes, courtesy of the ‘crypto winter’ and thousands of layoffs in tech, while other brands are forming an advertising alliance to offset costs. Pressure is also mounting for marketers to adopt an omnichannel approach to their campaigns and include a ‘second screen’ element to drive engagement with youth.
Are the expensive TV slots losing their lustre or do they remain critical to success in a world full of influencers and social platforms with real-time reactions?
Performance Marketing World spoke with several industry experts to provide a detailed analysis of how things are shaping up from a marketing perspective ahead of the big show on Sunday.
With the official broadcast of this year’s match to be hosted on Fox, it’s time for a deep-dive into SuperBowl LVII - for this particular piece of analysis however, don’t expect much insight into whether or not Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs can repeat their AFC Championship heroics and put a stop to Jalen Hurts and his Philadelphia Eagles seemingly unstoppable offence - that’s a question nobody can answer.
Super Bowl ads - What will be different about this year?
Each year, Super Bowl viewers are met with a different array of ads, from movie and tv trailers to celebrities endorsing the latest McDonald’s burger, anything broadcast during the Super Bowl has potential to go viral - and that is often a key objective.
Due to the cultural phenomenon Super Bowl adverts have become, marketing for the event tends to follow a similar model each year - emphasise the building of suspense via online channels and teaser commercials and include a litany of celebrity cameos. However, according to the experts, Super Bowl LVII will see significant changes across several areas of the event’s marketing mix.
Chief Customer Officer at marketing analysis company System1, Jon Evans, believes 2023 will see two key changes. Firstly, in the type of companies filling Super Bowl advertising slots and, secondly, by way of cutting costs, an increase in the number of cross-vertical partnerships between brands.
He said: “The ‘crypto winter’ and collapse of FTX - one of last year's most talked about sponsors - means there is unlikely to be many crypto advertisers, if any.”
Evans also added that with many tech companies laying off workers by the thousands, the industry - which has been a mainstay of Super Bowl advertising in the past - also won’t feature as prominently.
With prices hitting an all-time high, crypto and tech aren’t the only industries feeling the financial strain. By way of alleviating some of that pressure, brands are turning to each other.
Evans said: “We’re seeing more cross-vertical brand partnerships than previous years. At $7m for a 30-second slot, prime time Super Bowl advertising is more expensive than ever, but by joining in partnership brands are able to split the cost of the investment.
“As examples, Netflix has partnered with both General Motors and AB InBev for Super Bowl LVII, whilst DraftKings and Molson Coors have also entered into an advertising alliance this year.”
The importance of creating a cross-platform campaign
A further change many experts are predicting is in the channels and platforms brands choose to utilise alongside TV commercials.
The prevalence of social media platforms like TikTok provides a unique opportunity for marketers to leverage. According to Farhad Koodoruth of brand performance agency Threepipe Reply, this year will see a heightened effort from brands to identify “the most effective way of leveraging the channels that people will interact with alongside the main broadcast or stream”.
He said: “It’s more of a change in the balance of channels that brands utilise, so looking around the event itself and incorporating platforms that help support their broadcast coverage. Given the Twitter situation and rise of TikTok I would expect a change in the mix of how marketers approach their social play.”
Bridget Hall of M&C Saatchi Performance echoed this sentiment, sharing an expectation that brands will be more conscious of incorporating performance tools within their TV commercials in order to facilitate cross-platform engagement and reach a broader range of audiences.
Hall said: “We’ll see more ad content and sweepstakes that incentivise users to act in the moment; with the assumption that viewers are eager and willing to use their mobile while watching TV.
“This could come in many different formats, with commercials featuring promo codes, a microsite, or a sweepstakes that you can enter in real time.”
This predicted change follows on from a strategy employed within one of last year’s most highly engaged with commercials where crypto exchanger Coinbase embedded a floating QR code into an advert, resulting in the platform briefly crashing due to an unprecedented surge in traffic.
So, what makes a successful campaign?
Due to the high levels of reach, TV slots remain the go-to platform for marketers to try and exploit during the event. However, as identified, a successful campaign in 2023 will rely upon utilising a good mix of platforms alongside TV.
In the past, celebrity, humour and sex appeal have been recipes for success - think back to past Pepsi’s use of Beyonce, Britney Spears and P!NK or McDonalds with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in 1993.
However, Bridget Hall said this year she expects advertisers to diversify and feature rising influencers and creators to tap into their fandom and drive online chatter.
She said: “Younger audiences are likely more open to viewing it online or through streaming services, which has already become the primary source for viewership growth in recent years.
“There is now this expectation to design something that can go viral, relying on a hook or a moment within the story that is meme-worthy and relatable to younger audiences. That opens doors for advertisers to capitalise on Connected TV and YouTube.”
Jon Evans added: “To really win you need to utilise omnichannel brand activation across the entire weekend opposed to one simple slot - creative isn’t a one-and-done approach.
“If it’s great, it can continue working for a brand long into the future so it’s no wonder that the ads continue airing in the months following the game.”
This is of particular importance in terms of reaching international audiences. Within the UK itself, fans can watch the game live on either ITV1 or Sky Sports but it will also be streaming on ITVX, NowTV and NFL Game Pass. These different streaming channels open up even more opportunities for marketers to increase their reach.
Broadcasting in the US vs UK
An important element for marketers to consider for their 2023 campaigns is the need to differentiate their approach to best appeal to different international audiences.
System1 analysed over 31,000 US ads and over 15,000 UK ads using their Star Rating system which evaluates an ad’s long-term sales and short term growth prospects as well as its influence on brand recognition to identify how effective a commercial will be in generating lasting sales and steady growth.
With respect to the UK compared to the US, it found that on average, ads in the US are longer than ads in the UK. Further, the ads in the US with the highest market share growth potential tended to be on the longer end of the domestic spectrum. In the UK, however, the opposite is true - the higher the market growth potential, the shorter the ad.
This not only represents how audiences can differ significantly across international borders, but how critical it is for brands to be receptive to those differences and amend their adverts accordingly.
With all the cross-platform and international interaction, is the price of your standard US-based TV advert worthwhile?
The cost of a 30 second Super Bowl ad slot has increased exponentially in the past few years and has hit a new high in 2023 at $7m.
With some brands looking to utilise alternative platforms or split the costs of a Super Bowl advert by creating a partnership, a fair question is whether or not the cost is worthwhile.
The experts say yes, but with a caveat - there is significant pressure on the investment.
Koodoruth said purchasing an advertising slot is more than just a TV commercial as “it not only reaches at least 100 million US consumers but you need to consider international coverage and the amplified PR too”.
He said: “As long as you are a brand in a mass consumption and awareness space, you need to remember that this compared to many of your alternatives will probably still represent good value for money.”
Evans added that the potential reward for investing in an advert makes it too good to pass up based on price alone, however, the increased cost adds pressure to the investment - a bad advert shown during the Super Bowl is still a bad advert and ultimately becomes a waste of time and money.
Overall, expect Super Bowl LVII to bring a tidal wave of chatter across countless platforms both throughout and in reaction to the event. Football isn’t the only thing to keep an eye on and although gaining yards, forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns will be top of mind for players and fans, from a marketers perspective, the event represents the biggest opportunity of the year for lasting virality.
Come Sunday evening, will we have seen another iconic advert become entrenched into Super Bowl folklore? Only time will tell.
Listen to our latest Attention Seekers episode with Jon Evans, CCO at System1 and host of the Uncensored CMO podcast.