Betting on Super Bowl Ads: Is the Spot Worth the Spend?

February 3, 2020

Despite major disruptions to traditional TV over the last several years, the platform continues to provide strong ROI for those who use it wisely. But when it comes to the Super Bowl, and a multi-million-dollar price tag for a :30 second spot, is the return worth the cost?


The Super Bowl, as with other high-profile events like the upcoming summer Olympics, offer exceptional viewership for a single program, particularly given today’s fragmented media environment. With new streaming options and the ability of viewers to watch what they want, when they want with DVR and on-demand, the Super Bowl is one of very few TV staples that still produces a “must-see” live experience. In other words – watch it live or regret it when everyone is talking about it the next day. But purchasing a 30-second or even 60-second spot is a huge bet to make with even the largest budget – and to be honest doesn’t make sense for many brands.


So, how should advertisers make the call? While there are always contextual factors to consider, at the risk of being a Monday-morning quarterback, we’ve put together a few guidelines and questions brands should keep in mind when it comes to big-ticket advertising.


Are you in it for the long haul, or the short-term? Data from Analytic Partners ROI Genome indicates that Super Bowl ads, on average, deliver a short-term ROI that is 20% - 50% lower than a comparable alternative investment. Not something you want your CFO to see when dropping over $5 million for 30 seconds. However, the long-term payoff can be much higher – if the ad is amplified by a smart strategy. It’s not enough to run a Super Bowl ad and wait for the sales to roll in. The creative investment for such an ad is generally high, and advertisers need to re-air and re-air to make the most of it. Smart brands leverage these investments not only on TV but OTT, OLV, and other video areas as video drives more mid/long term impacts than other types of advertising. In addition, integrating into the program through product placement (consider the Microsoft Surfaces present on the announcer desk during the game) and collaborating with other brands help drive “talk-ability” – a major driver of an ad’s success.


Brands need to build a strong PR, product placement, and social strategy around Super Bowl ads so their message stays with viewers long after the game is over. In some cases, we’ve seen the right social strategy increase short-term impact by up to 40%, amping up awareness and talk-ability far beyond the 30-second or 60-second spot.  TV is a good medium for generating awareness but driving consumers further down the purchase funnel and keeping them engaged beyond the event takes a combination of high-touch tactics across multiple channels.


A focus on brand awareness is right for some, but not all: The cost of building brand awareness, needs to be considered, no matter how big or small the budget. Using a high-profile event to build awareness may fall flat for more established brands, unless they have a specific focus or anchor initiative to which the advertising is tied, like a new product launch, new benefit or target.


In the past, we’ve seen brand awareness ads under-deliver for established consumer brands, with a Super Bowl ad ROI that was only around 25% of their typical advertising even factoring in amplification from social and promotions.


It pays to be clever: How do you make $5 million for an ad be smaller? Pool budgets across multiple brands under a parent company. This is something we’ve seen from the likes of P&G and makes a lot of sense – while Mr. Clean alone would not make sense to advertise; portraying the brand within a portfolio spot is a cost-effective way to drive awareness and ultimately sales. If done right it can give a bump across multiple brands, offering halo effect to smaller or lesser-known products and getting the eyeballs you desire. That said – the opposite makes sense when you are launching a brand or new product and want to get a quick shot of immediate recognition as it hits the market. Timeliness is another contributing factor to the value gained from a Super Bowl spot. If a brand or product has a specific window of opportunity due to seasonality or other factors, then a single advertisement can accomplish a lot and be more easily justified.


Who did it right this year and why:

  • Coke: Launching its new Coke Energy product in front of an audience of roughly 100 million was a swift way to boost awareness while serving as an anchor to entice retailers to stock the product.
  • Audi: In rolling out its Electric Vehicle campaign, Audi took advantage of the massive Super Bowl audience to raise awareness at scale.
  • Intuit/ Turbo Tax: Taking advantage of seasonality and a large-scale audience, Turbo Tax was able to build brand awareness ahead of tax season, which affects every adult viewer of the Super Bowl and is therefore highly relevant.
  • Microsoft: Leveraging product placement through the announcers using Surface tablets during the pregame show was a smart tie-in.



Ultimately, whether it’s the Super Bowl or another major television event like the Oscars or Olympics, Marketers considering high-cost TV advertising must be able to answer questions like: What KPIs will a high-profile spot serve? Is this more about short-term brand awareness or long-term conversion? Most importantly, what is the expectation of value it will drive against the brand’s sales performance, and how will that be achieved?


Super Bowl advertising is not a magic bullet, nor is any other single channel or televised event. But for some brands – those with the budget, strategy and KPIs to match up with what the big game offers, it can sometimes be worth the gamble.


- Fred Chassé, Senior Vice President


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