How Super Bowl Advertising Is Evolving
The Super Bowl has been the tentpole event for advertisers and multi-location brands for decades, and the ads run during the big game have become known as some of the best. While the importance of the day has never changed — if anything, it has only grown over the years — the way advertisers and brands deliver their messages to viewers has changed drastically.
Technology has evolved considerably since the start of Super Bowl advertising. Long gone are the days of huddling around the one TV in the household, with the buttons on the side and no remote, to watch the game. Now, people are everywhere — watching on multiple screens and multiple devices before, during and after the game. So, advertisers and brands have had to evolve with technology.
Let’s take a look at where Super Bowl advertising has been, where it is today, and where it’s going in the future.
The Beginning of Brand Lift Era
The first Super Bowl was aired in 1967, when the going rate for a 30-second ad spot was roughly $40,000. Compare that to this year’s spot estimated to be well over $7 million and you might think that $40 thousand isn’t much. But for that time, it was. And as a result, only the companies and multi-location brands that had that kind of money could advertise during the big game (think Coca-Cola and Budweiser).
At the time, reaching consumers on the TV was the only way to get their attention during the Super Bowl. The payoff for brands was tremendous, reaching nearly 26 million viewers at once. But Super Bowl ads don’t really stand out in memory until we get to the year 1984 and the famous Apple ad for the Macintosh. The ad set a precedent for what these ads could be. They could be more than a “here’s the product, here’s why you should want it.” They could take on their own life, make references to things happening in the world around us, and ignite a conversation.
Once that commercial aired, it’s like something awoke in the advertising industry. And they’ve never looked back since.
The Multi-Screen Era
We find our next era in the 2010s as social media is exploding. There is the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, with social media becoming an instrumental part of the way consumers interact with the world around them. And brands and advertisers take note.
Brands and advertisers are using social media to drum up buzz for their ads before the big game, and it’s working. According to recent data collected on the Cint platform, three out of four consumers know that the ads are often released ahead of the Big Game, and 68% are likely to watch these teasers. These ads make a lasting impression, with 58% of consumers agreeing they are likely to buy a product if they see an ad for it on social media. Additionally, 74% of consumers are more likely to remember a Super Bowl ad if they saw it on social media.
TikTok has changed the way consumers are interacting with Super Bowl ads. The company partnered with the NFL for the third year in a row to host TikTok Tailgate, a virtual livestream experience that featured musical performances by Jason Derulo and The Black Keys. The app was also heavy on the “behind the scenes” content the week leading up to the big game, sharing clips of the athletes, stars attending, and local small businesses. And multi-location companies are taking note. State Farm opted to skip the Super Bowl this year and instead focus their time and effort on a TikTok campaign. Many other brands, including Doritos, turned to TikTok to work in tandem with their Super Bowl ads.
Not to mention, social media is playing a huge role in the social aspect of the Super Bowl. People host Super Bowl parties, go to restaurants and bars and, at the very least, engage in conversations about the game, but more importantly, about the ads. And a lot of that engagement is happening online. 57% of consumers are likely to share their favorite ads from the big game on social media with their friends and family. 50% of Millennials say they will share an ad they like with friends via a YouTube link. This is twice as likely as Gen Z and Gen X and five times more likely than Boomers. Millennials are also almost twice as likely to follow the brand on social media than Gen Z and over four times more likely than Boomers.
It’s clear that as it stands today, the way to a consumer’s heart is using a two-pronged approach – social media and linear TV and CTV. Consumers are not in one place anymore the way they were when brands and advertisers started Super Bowl advertising, and it’s important to remember that as we move further into the future, strategies will need to evolve again.
The Future Era
We might have already seen a glimpse of where Super Bowl advertising is headed over the last couple of years.
Last year, Miller Lite hosted a Super Bowl party and aired their own ad in the metaverse. For 3% of the price of a Super Bowl ad, Miller Lite was the most talked about beer brand during the game, earning 1.5 billion media impressions, with 40,000 visitors to their Super Bowl party in the metaverse spending on average 20 minutes there. Last year’s Super Bowl also brought the infamous QR code commercial from Coinbase. The commercial featured a QR bouncing around the screen…and that was it. The QR code directed people to a link offering $15 in Bitcoin to those who sign up for a Coinbase account before February 15. The ad proved so popular that the app crashed for about an hour and received nearly 20 million visits in one minute.
Super Bowl advertising is entering a new era of technology — one that is driven by immersive experiences and progressiveness. With Apple sponsoring the halftime show this year, they are pulling out all of the stops in terms of promo. Carefully curated playlists on Apple Music, new radio stations on the app including one that takes a look at past halftime shows, and another that revisits the best of Rihanna’s catalog are just a few of the ways Apple is making the halftime show an immersive experience for consumers.
As brands and advertisers head into planning for the next Super Bowl, they should think carefully about potential activations that push the envelope and embrace new technologies like the metaverse, AR and VR, bitcoin, crypto and more. But they should also take into consideration consumers’ need for an escape and their desire for uplifting and feel-good commercials. We saw a lot of nostalgia this year in Super Bowl ads with nods to “Clueless” and “Breaking Bad” and some of our favorite ‘80s and ‘90s songs.
Super Bowl advertising has evolved quite a bit since the first Super Bowl in 1967, and it is only going to continue to evolve. Consumer expectations of brands are changing — they want advertisements during the Super Bowl to reflect the world they live in. Brands and advertisers need to keep up if they want to have any chance at capturing the attention of consumers during the big game.
Kumar Doshi is SVP of Global Marketing at Cint.