Why the Super Bowl Ads Missed the Mark

Why the Super Bowl Ads Missed the Mark
by Kirk Wakefield – February 2015

Advertisers for Super Bowl 49, at least I’m pretty sure that’s the number we’re on, collectively set the mark for most depressing ads ever. Sure, Fiat, Doritos, Snickers and Supercell did their best to entertain. These are ads we wouldn’t mind seeing again.

Others, however, must have been reading the same research report that people were tired of having fun at the Super Bowl. What these advertisers didn’t realize is that if people wanted to be preached at on Sunday, they would have gone to church that morning.

Why do people watch the Super Bowl?

People don’t watch the Super Bowl to hear a sermon, or to learn something, or to change the world. All those are good, mind you. But, perhaps as a surprise to Nationwide, people eat upwards of 1.25 billion chicken wings, 11 million pounds of chips and 325 million gallons of beer, principally for the purpose of having fun (see other fun facts here).

Granted, one reason for a slate of fare less geared to fun-loving males, is that the Super Bowl is a great opportunity to reach the largest audience of women (46%) gathered at one time. But, the reason advertisers are willing to shell out $4.5 million per 30 second ad isn’t for the one-time exposure to over 110 million viewers. It’s because, like any other sponsorship, Super Bowl ads offer the opportunity to leverage the ad in activating the brand throughout a broader campaign.

Why did the Super Bowl ads miss?

The three (or four) C’s of communication spell out the reasons.

Conversation

Leveraging Super Bowl ads depends on eWom (electronic Word-of-mouth), as well as traditional water cooler talk (tWct). [ref] Note: No one uses this acronym. But, feel free to start.[/ref] We like to share information with others that makes us feel loved, to be included, and to distinguish ourselves from others [ref]Ho, Jason Y.C., and Melanie Dempsey (2010), “Viral marketing: Motivations to forward online content,” Journal of Business Research, 63 (Sept-Oct), 1000-1006.[/ref]. Although open to future research, my guess is that only the few truly enlightened men will be motivated to share with others their feelings about being a dad and how that relates to their choices of Dove or Nissan.

Even if you have relatively high ad meter marks (i.e., 6.0+), that doesn’t mean people are talking about it. And, although I personally liked the Dove ads, overall, men liked it (6.06) considerably less than females (6.70). Such male/female liking differentials are even larger (e.g., 7.65 vs. 8.50 for the Bud’s top-rated “Lost Dog“) among many of the top 25 ads as rated by USA Today’s admeter.

Cost

If we just take the CPM of ads (~$37), there are plenty of other better targeted programs to reach women that wouldn’t include such incredible amounts of waste (recall: 54% of SB audience is male) and hence require much lower budgets in absolute dollars. Further, the “lean-in” factor for women watching the Super Bowl is questionable; surely, women are interested in watching the game on-screen, but not at the same level of intensity as males not wanting to miss a play.

Congruence & Context

Even if advertisers with somber messages have carefully considered the first two C’s, the two biggest reasons communications of any kind do (not) work have to do with congruence & context. Fundamentally, individuals seek out, process and retain information congruent within the context of the situation. We look for things that fit, because it’s easier to connect in the schema of linkages in our brains. Aside from sports, the Super Bowl is about fun and friends. Our brains are wired to look for entertainment, because that is the context of the situation.

We may use contrast, or surprise, to get people to pay attention. But, we do this at our peril–because surprises can be pleasant or unpleasant. An unpleasant surprise results in disgust or distress. These are usually not good things. In any case, a lack of congruence within the context of the Super Bowl makes it difficult to justify the cost because it becomes more difficult to leverage through ongoing conversations people want to have.

Be Sure to Drink your Ovaltine (and other sponsorship lessons from A Christmas Story)

Be Sure to Drink your Ovaltine (and other sponsorship lessons from A Christmas Story)
by Drew Mitchell – June 2013

A crummy commercial?

A Christmas Story is one of my favorite classic holiday movies, an opinion likely shared by many of you given how it seems to run 24/7 on TBS during the Christmas season.

As my family gathers around the Christmas tree each year we laugh at the great story about Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the ’40’s who dreams of owning a Red Rider BB gun. One of my favorite quotes is a very well known part of the movie, when Ralphie learns an important lesson in life. After working hard to break a secret code that turned out to be a promotion for the product Ovaltine, Ralphie learned that many things we want in life aren’t always “free.”

How did Ralphie react when his “prize” for cracking the code is a commercial? In case you don’t know or forgot, here’s what happened.

Ralphie’s response is an important take away. How do fans react to a “Crummy Commercial” during a sporting event or live show? Pretty much the same way.

What do fans expect?

Fans pay top dollar from their discretionary income to enjoy an event live and in-person. They don’t expect commercial interruptions.

Sherry Cassidy, Vice President of Public Relations at InTouch Credit Union, echoes the philosophy of the Legends,

Sherry Cassidy
Sherry Cassidy

The goal  for our partnership with the Texas Legends is to maximize a fan’s experience at the game by providing additional games and entertainment, contests, & interaction with the players. They make fans  a part of the experience, not just a spectator. It’s important that there are a variety of activities going on during the game… such as the High Five Tunnel, and Fan of the Game, the bounce houses, etc.  Being a part of this experience, we create a fun-filled safe environment where parents feel comfortable letting children participate in the activities throughout the arena while they enjoy watching the game.”

Drive by passion

fiat_logo

We produced a great season long promotion with FIAT to enhance fan experience and connect fans with a sponsor in a very positive way. A lucky fan received a FIAT 500 during the final home game of the season. Fans entered at each home game for the opportunity to be selected as a finalist to win the car. Fans waited in anticipation each game to see if they were selected as a finalist, keeping them engaged with the promotion and the sponsor during the course of the season. With each finalist invited back to the final home game, they lined up and tried their chance at winning the car. With about 4 finalists to go….we had a winner!

See the video of the giveaway and the fan engagement with the promotion:

http://youtu.be/CNOP_37iNMQ

You Make the Call!

Kyle Judkins
Kyle Judkins

The Legends also increased their fan experience on TV broadcasts through a social media platform allowing fans to make a play suggestion to the head coach. The coach then selects a minimum of one play per quarter with recognition to the fan whose who submitted the play.

Director of Broadcasting for the Legends, Kyle Judkins adds, “Fans have the opportunity to interact with our broadcast and have a real impact on the outcome of the game. This is such a powerful way to connect a fan with a sponsor with a positive association with the brand in an elevated experience.”

No Ralphie Moments

When a fan has a positive experience with a team they are likely to return more often. When they have a positive experience with a sponsor, they are more likely to try or adopt that brand. 

I’m sure we all have had situations where our fans felt like Ralphie. To avoid those in the future, the steps to build partnerships to mutually benefit the sponsor, team and fan are pretty simple:

  1. Remember activation means action. Try to find ways for fans to take action.
  2. Don’t disappoint fans (and sponsors) by running another “crummy commercial” during games.
  3. Develop a creative marketing program to enhance fan experience and engagement with both sponsor and team.
  4. Don’t shoot your eye out with a Red Rider BB Gun!

 

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