The NFL season opens tonight with the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos playing, a rematch of a key playoff game from last season. However, for many brands that choose to advertise on TV during NFL season, the focus is 5 months into the future, when the Super Bowl will be played. No one knows which teams will be there yet, but it is clear that there will be quite an audience for the game. At this point, an expectation of 100 Million viewers for the game is not unreasonable, as viewer counts for the last 4 Super Bowls have topped that figure. The Super Bowl has been one of the few television programs that has been relatively unscathed by audience fragmentation, caused by the proliferation of media channel options, including social media and other Internet and mobile content, an increase in the number of television networks, and greater video entertainment options such as video games and movies on demand. Due to the impressive audience , the network broadcasting the game (Fox this year) can charge premium pricing for advertising, and they’ll still sell out their inventory. For instance, this year, as of late August, 85% of available ad space had already been sold. The rest was anticipated to be be sold by November. The expected price of a 30 second Super Bowl ad this year is around $4 Million. Keep in mind that figure only includes paying the television network for the time. It doesn’t include costs to produce the ad. The final cost for a 30 second Super Bowl ad could easily run $5 million +. How does a brand achieve a positive ROI on such an ample marketing spend?
In a recent article in Variety, Fox Sports Media Group EVP Neil Mulcahy cited an independent research study conducted a few years ago that estimated a $4 million investment in the Super Bowl would bring a return of between $11 million and $12 million. According to the numbers, the ROI is there for brands.
In recent years, one of the major trends in Super Bowl advertising has been for brands to release their ads online prior to the game. This is a major buzz building tactic. The brands that leverage the Super Bowl as an advertising platform want to extend the life of their ad. A common workflow process for this involves posting the video to the corporate YouTube account, promoting it on Facebook and Twitter, and also attempting to get PR coverage in both the blogosphere and in traditional media prior to the game. In fact, at this point, it is more notable if a brand doesn’t involve social media in their Super Bowl advertising plans. Also, if a person was just interested in Super Bowl ads, they could find the vast majority of them before the game, and they wouldn’t even need to watch the game. For instance, watching the Super Bowl takes up about 3.5-4 hours of time. With a few strong Google keyword searches and some scouring of social media sites, it is conceivable that someone could locate and watch most of the ads in approximately half the time, on their own schedule.
Additionally, using a variety of digital channels helps to ensure continuing ROI after the game. After the game, there’s significant discussion of the ads online and brands should position themselves to be a part of those discussions. Through the effective use of hashtags and the generation of pointed, relevant content, a brand can keep reaping top of mind awareness for a well done Super Bowl ad that brings buzz.
And finally, let’s not forget the newest twist in using social media to build buzz around the game for Super Bowl advertisers. Last year, there was a power outage inside of the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome in New Orleans (the host stadium) which delayed the game. Oreo took advantage of the opportunity to create an ad on Twitter that got a tremendous amount of buzz & re-tweets. The ad was also posted on Oreo’s Facebook page and received a high volume of Likes as well. Based on what happened last year, brands will be looking to take advantage of in the moment events during the game to build social buzz. It will get more challenging to stand out from the crowd in this respect, because everyone is going to be ready to pounce.
The use of social media is a key complementary marketing approach for brands to generate greater brand awareness and word of mouth on their large traditional media advertising spends for the game. The contemporary Super Bowl advertising process is one of the greatest forms of proof of the multi-channel marketing environment, an environment that will only become more prominent as time goes on.