The hype around Super Bowl 50 advertising began recently as CBS’ Leslie Moonves announced that the cost for a :30 spot will increase to $5 million, up significantly from the $4.5 million 2015 rate. Also this week, NBC Universal announced projections of over $1 billion in ad revenue for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
While both events are the highest of high-profile, must-watch sporting events, the opportunities presented to advertisers differ greatly. The odds of the investment in a Super Bowl spot generating changes in perceptions and purchase intentions for the advertised brand are less than one in four. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is a direct outcome of the pressure advertisers feel to make a huge splash from a single exposure. Many marketers try too hard to entertain, forgetting that the narrative of the commercial must in some way elevate the brand.
The audience dynamics for the Super Bowl also contribute to the pressure. While both Super Bowl and Olympics viewers are highly engaged, the Super Bowl mindset is more about challenge – my team vs. your team. This, along with the advertiser-generated hype around the commercials creates a sense of challenge around the commercials as well – “I, the viewer, challenge you, the advertiser to entertain me more than the other commercials, to force me to watch and talk about your commercial.”
Increasingly, advertisers attempt to both draw greater attention to their spot and to lengthen the selling window by using social media before, during and after the game. However, the advertisers who score biggest in terms of generating buzz (think Budweiser) aren’t always the ones that boost brand sales. In fact, the Super Bowl tends to pay off in a bigger way for brands that have news than those that are more established and have nothing new to announce.
The Olympics differ in part because the selling window is open for much longer. The over two week span between the opening and closing ceremonies enables advertisers to build a storyline across a number of different executions, including social media, facilitating the development of a deeper relationship with the consumer. We know that consumers who see multiple executions for a brand are more likely to be persuaded than those who engage with just one message. Seeing multiple ad executions that all include common elements also helps to build brand linkage – without which an advertiser cannot hope to build the brand.
The audience dynamics for the Olympics are also vastly different than those of the Super Bowl. While also a competition, the Olympics elicit a stronger positive set of emotions, including pride of Country and provide more of a bonding experience for viewers. We all cheer for that young gymnast whose story we’ve heard, or that swimmer who we hope will break another world’s record. Astute advertisers tap into this, with commercials and campaigns that entice us to bond with the brand.
Of course, either venue can be used to good effect, generating not only strong buzz but also great ROI. On the surface, the differences between the two events suggest that advertisers with a big announcement to make opt for the Super Bowl, and advertisers who desire to strengthen brand affinity look towards an Olympic style event. Fortunately for those with sufficiently deep pockets to consider this type of investment, the 2016 timing – unlike the winter of 2014 – has these two landmark events separated by half a year. We will see many more advertisers in 2016 who participate in both – and we’ll see which event pays off better for those who do.