As the Roman numerals continue to pile up, the Super Bowl remains the most anticipated and most followed of all annual marketing events.
With nearly 100 million football fans expected to watch Super Bowl XLIV (to be broadcast Feb. 7 on CBS), many also will be rooting for their favorite spots, which this year will run the gamut from the usual lineup of beer and chips advertisers to b2b marketers eager for a piece of the action. Advertisers will be plunking down an estimated $3 million per 30-second spot.
“The Super Bowl is an unrivaled marketing opportunity,” said Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, which tracks and assesses Super Bowl ad effectiveness. “It is dominated by consumer advertisers, but it's also an opportunity for b2b players to really stand out.”
This year's lineup of advertisers includes Anheuser-Busch Cos., Audi of America, Boost Mobile, Bridgestone Corp., Cars.com, CareerBuilder, Coca-Cola Co., Denny's Inc., Diamond Foods' Pop-Secret, Levi Strauss & Co.'s Dockers, Frito-Lay North America's Doritos, Unilever's Dove, Dr Pepper, E-Trade Financial Corp., GoDaddy.com Inc., HomeAway.com Inc., Hyundai Motor America, Mars Inc.'s chocolate division, Monster, Motorola Inc., Teleflora, the U.S. Census Bureau, Viacom's Paramount Pictures and Volkswagen of America.
“For the business advertisers, a lot depends on their objectives,” Calkins said. “If you're going after a few key buyers, there are probably more efficient ways to reach them. But for those companies like Monster, CareerBuilder and GoDaddy that straddle both consumer and business, it works perfectly.”
Web site hosting service GoDaddy is returning for the sixth time. Its ads over the years have been notable for their risqué and often-banned creative. Both its first- and fourth-quarter spots, produced in-house, will feature glamorous race-car driver Danica Patrick, with messages urging viewers to visit the GoDaddy Web site to see other spots featuring Patrick.
“Besides every person in America having the potential to have a Web site, businesspeople watch the Super Bowl, too,” said Barb Rechterman, GoDaddy exec VP. She said that because of the often controversial nature of the company's videos—previous efforts have included Patrick taking a shower with another woman, strip-teasing female cops and flying double-entendres—the company relies on intense viral marketing and visits to uncensored versions on its own Web site.
“Viral marketing works wonders for us,” Rechterman said. “And getting the viewer to come to our site to view more commercials gives us additional time to push the brand.”
Job-sourcing sites Monster and CareerBuilder are gearing up for a strong response given the still-weak economy and the national unemployment rate hovering above 10%.
“People have come to expect advertising on the Super Bowl as part of Monster's DNA,” said Ted Gilvar, exec VP-chief global marketing officer at Monster. “But, obviously, jobs are on people's minds. Never before has Monster been at the eye of the hurricane like we are right now.”
During the game, the company will unveil a new job-search technology developed for its site called 6sense, which Gilvar said produces much closer employment matches. Monster also is ramping up the interactive element; it staged a search of its own during the fall for an “NFL Director of Fandemonium” in which fans voted for real candidates to fill the fictional position. Finalists will have a “showdown” during the Pro Bowl game Jan. 31 in Miami, with the winner “crowned” during the Super Bowl.
Monster's 2009 Super Bowl spots—produced by Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, and judged by Kellogg to be the most effective spots aired during last year's game—doubled its game-day impressions via mentions in other media, Gilvar said.
“If you develop creative that is well-received, the ability to magnify the impact of what you have is tremendous,” he said.
Viewer interaction is likewise a hallmark of CareerBuilder, which is returning for its sixth Super Bowl. Last year the company created a Hire My TV contest, offering creative fans the chance to suggest ad concepts, with the winning concept to be aired during this year's Super Bowl.
The spots reinforce CareerBuilder's tagline, “Start building.” The company produced the ads in-house this year, instead of using Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, Ore., as in years past.
“The Super Bowl is the perfect stage to reach 90 million-plus viewers who are job-seekers as well as hiring managers,” said Cynthia McIntyre, senior director of advertising at CareerBuilder. “And we've had great success with the game year after year. It would be silly to keep on spending if we didn't see results.”
Of the highly publicized contest for advertising ideas, McIntyre said, “It was making sure we got involved in the chatter before and after the game.”
A first-time advertiser this year is Boost Mobile, a prepaid mobile phone unit of Sprint, which will run one spot during the game's second commercial break.
“Boost has always had a fair amount of success with small businesses because of its no-contract and walkie-talkie features,” said Bob Stohrer, VP-marketing for the Sprint Prepaid Group. “It's mostly a consumer play, but we should expect to see more and more businesses looking for that kind of flexibility.”
Los Angeles agency 180LA handles Boost's advertising.
FedEx had advertised in 18 Super Bowls but remained on the sidelines last year as the economy and its revenue worsened. Despite sitting out again this year, the company continues to place its faith in televised football, running several spots during December and January's Bowl Championship Series of college games.
Super Bowl spots have gotten pricier over the years. CBS' current $3.0 million per spot matches last year but compares with $2.7 million in 2008 and $2.4 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Last year, Super Bowl ad revenue totaled $213 million.