Pressure. Some thrive on it while others simply crumble. Come Sunday, February 13 the Bengals and Rams will surely feel it as they compete for NFL supremacy. Even the football itself knows pressure.
But the real pressure in living rooms on Super Bowl Sunday will clearly be experienced by the agency and brand executives that decided to pay NBC $6.5 million per 30-second spot – up nearly $1 million for the same spot in the 2021 game.
Yes, a majority of viewers will tune into the Super Bowl to actually watch the game, which will hopefully match the excitement of the playoff games played thus far. However, according to a recent poll by The Marketing Arm, 43% of the audience watches the game for the commercials. And the poll also found that a whopping 97% of viewers want spots that make them laugh.
This year’s Super Bowl will feature ads from several brands Booking.com, Crypto.com, FTX, Quickbooks, Wallbox that are putting their products or services in front of this audience for the first time ever. You can almost imagine the pep talk: Here’s the thing, there’s 100-million plus people out there, so this has to do it all and whatever you do… don’t choke and try to make them laugh.
People may say they want humor, but it’s very easy to lose brand clarity solely for the sake of a chuckle. Leaving people smiling on Sunday can be beneficial, but by the end of a pod (let alone on Monday morning or beyond), those laughs don’t always result in recall. That said, here’s some unsolicited advice I’d offer brands – whether new or returning to the Super Bowl – that can lead to meaningful ROI long after the final whistle.
Every day, we are inundated with a variety of negativity around the pandemic, inflation, politics, crime, etc., and now is the time to lean into the positive, optimistic stories that show as much empathy and humanity that your brand can appropriately embrace and yet remain on message.
While there’s a great temptation, this being the Super Bowl and all, to try and go with a spot that is over-the-top grandiose, don’t forget that this is also an amazing, possibly one-shot opportunity to showcase your brand’s unique point of view.
Use your POV to directly connect with this massive viewership on a human level.
I believe that consumers want community and honesty, whereas brands want growth and innovation. Creating a message that sits at this intersection will be the key to success.
There’s a balance between cleverness and connection that I would recommend to these brands.
You only have 30 seconds, so rather than focusing on being entertaining above all else – and maybe being talked about for a day or two – it’s essential for brands to use this platform to make authentic connections to viewers. You may not entertain 100 million people with your spot, but if you connect with the right million or two, and create connections that make them care about your brand and what it stands for in the long term, then you’ve won.
I’ll say it again: we all crave connections – especially following two years of lockdowns, opening up, and shutting down again, and all of the trauma that has come with that. And it’s no longer good enough for brands to express how we are “all in this together.” However, brands that are able to insert themselves into our lives in a meaningful way, and to show us why they should matter to us beyond trying to get us to buy a product, are in a great position to create and sustain loyalty among their target audience.
And don’t forget about the post-game. Create an eco-system that provides extending value beyond the initial Super Bowl spot so that this expensive buy has longevity and delivers ROI over time. From directing viewers to innovative landing pages via a QR code or simple URL, to extending the brand’s message via calls-to-action, contests, rewards, and other experiences, you want to encourage them to learn more and go deeper. Use these after-game touchpoints to build a community or to clearly exhibit how your brand is part of a community. Your website, social presence and branding across all touchpoints can play key roles.
Tall order? Of course. That said, two of my favorite Super Bowl ads are the Toyota commercial in which a kid dressed like Darth Vader, and the Tide spot featuring Terry Bradshaw trying to clean his shirt which led into their larger “everything is a Tide commercial” angle. Different messages, but both were clear, human and relatable. Who hasn’t been a kid who believes they can use the Force? You’ve never gotten a saucy stain on a nice white dress shirt while eating a messy sandwich?
How many of the spots from Super Bowl LVI will, like these, be fondly remembered five and 10 years down the road? Who knows? So while I can’t predict who will win the game, I can guarantee you a championship feeling if you provide this audience with a true, human connection to your brand.