Rookie Advertisers Make Noise On Super Bowl Sunday

There has been a lot of talk this season about the play of NFL rookie quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill.

Now comes the time to anticipate the play of rookie advertisers in the Super Bowl.

This year's list of first-time Super Bowl advertisers includes Unilever's Axe, Gildan Activewear, SodaStream International, Wonderful Pistachios (Paramount Farms), AMC's "The Walking Dead" and two brands that could have upped the recognition factor among viewers even more by joining forces: Oreo cookies and the Milk Processor Education Program.

Considering that 30-second spots on CBS averaged $3.8 million and that the network said it has sold spots for $4 million, is that too much to risk?

“As a lifestyle brand synonymous with innovative products and marketing, we are always pushing boundaries into uncharted territories,” Gaston Vaneri, brand director for Axe, said when Axe revealed its Super Bowl participation. “We [are] taking our interaction with our fans to new heights, so the Super Bowl became the obvious platform to share it with the world.”

Back in 2008, there were six newcomers to the broadcast of Super Bowl XLII on Fox, which represented 18% of all advertising during the game. That year, 30-second spots were going for an average of $2.7 million.

That number jumped to 10 first-time advertisers during Super Bowl XLVI this past February, which represented 30% of all advertising, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media, New York. Among the rookies during the NBC broadcast were Century 21, Dannon, Lexus, Acura, H&M and 2nd Story Softwear. 

The average cost for a 30-second spot was $3.5 million, so do the math when you figure that the telecast averaged more than 111.1 million viewers, topping the 111 million viewers for Super Bowl XLV and making it the most-watched program in U.S. TV history.

It also was the first time that the NFL streamed the game live via the Internet and mobile phones.

"We believe that the buzz and the conversation that began at the Super Bowl enabled us to carry through with many other activities, advertising, tools and other activations that have taken us to where we are today," said Bev Thorne, CMO for Century 21. Based on such figures as a 20% boost in total leads and a 40% climb in Web site traffic (versus what Thorne said was 4% industry Web site growth), the real estate firm is back in the mix for Super Bowl XLVII.

That also raises a Catch-22 that both rookie and veteran Super Bowl marketers must face: Do you release your commercial online days or, in some cases, a week before the game to cash in on word-of-mouth buzz, or let it all ride on the surprise of the in-game launch?

Last year, Lexus opted for the early breakout (which also included a social media contest driving visitors to the Super Bowl spot), in part to shine a light on its first Super Bowl ad and in part to separate itself from the pack of the dozen auto-related spots that would run during the game. 

"People have never seen Lexus on Super Bowl Sunday," Brian Smith, vp-marketing for Lexus, said regarding the strategy. "So some people would say that Lexus is making a statement."

It goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that a Super Bowl spot does not guarantee success. Super Bowl XXIV in 2000 is infamously known as the "Dot.Com Super Bowl" due to the plethora of Internet-based companies — the majority of which were rookie one-hit wonders — that advertised during the game. The average going price of $1.1 million helped to break the bank of such companies as Pets.com, Epidemic.com, Lifeminers.com, Netpliance.com, OnMoney.com and LastMinuteTravel.com. (To be fair, E-Trade, WebMD and Monster/HotJobs survived.)

Oreo is using its debut into Super Bowl advertising this year as a pinnacle of the brand's 100th birthday celebration. "Oreo is an incredibly iconic brand that is beloved by consumers in America and around the world," according to Laurie Guzzinati, a spokeswoman for brand owner Mondelez International, which took over as Oreo's parent company in October. "So we look for iconic ways and iconic places to showcase that."

Meanwhile, SodaStream USA, the domestic subsidiary of SodaStream International, will use the game to enlighten consumers about its services as manufacturer and distributor of home beverage carbonation systems, which convert tap water into carbonated soft drinks and sparkling water.

The messaging will pit relatively unknown SodaStream against deep-pocket beverage giants. PepsiCo has spent nearly $182 billion on Super Bowl advertising over the past 10 years, according to Kantar Media. This year, Pepsi upped the stakes by taking over sponsorship of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and forming a partnership with halftime star Beyoncé to carry their alliance worldwide.

Rival Coca-Cola has spent in excess of $80 million during Super Bowl broadcasts, according to Kantar Media.

"Our new commercial highlights the revolutionary benefits of our technology, confronting the conventional and arguably outdated beverage industry by showing people that there is a smarter way to enjoy soda,” Daniel Birnbaum, CEO for SodaStream, said upon sharing the news of the company's Big Game entry.

Bottom line: Rookies need to step up and make as much or more noise than Super Bowl veterans.

According to Birnbaum, “The massive reach of this campaign will help spread [our] message, beginning with over 100 million viewers on Super Bowl Sunday, and will include follow-up commercials and other integrated marketing activities. Our commitment to invest in the Super Bowl is in line with our broader efforts to significantly increase our market penetration in the U.S. and globally."

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