Lakshmipathy Bhat

Super Bowl: an advertising game played on social media

Super Bowl: an advertising game played on social media

In February 2010, Pepsi decided not to advertise during the Super Bowl event.

After 23 years of presence on the event, a big brand like Pepsi pulling out was a big deal.

In 2010, Pepsi invested monies behind the ‘Pepsi Refresh Project’ that year. Other brands like FedEx have also pulled out of Super Bowl too citing high costs [about $3mn for a 30-second spot]. While the event garners huge viewership in the US [reported 100mn in the US] and the advertising generates interest around the globe, the price does [about $3.5mn per 30-second spot this year] seem very steep. So some brands saw business sense in staying away from an event that just lasted a day.

This year, just 2 years later, there seems to a huge buzz around the ads during event. Brands have seeded YouTube and social media sites with their Super Bowl ads weeks in advance. Some have resorted to latest technology [allowing for real-time reaction to Super Bowl in ads] to generate interest, pass along value and involvement.

What’s changed in 2 years? I guess the primary reason is that advertisers have begun to view the event as one that can last a few months rather than a few hours. In the best case scenario, a brand’s Super Bowl effort can be talked about for months, even one full year. Last year’s The Force by Volkswagen is still creating online buzz for the brand [50mn views as of date]; in my view, this year’s Coke effort by W+K is likely to be talked about for months to come.

Another opportunity the Super Bowl offers is to come across as an innovative and therefore likable brand. Since the spots come at such a premium all effort went into making the spot noticeable, different and buzz worthy. Not surprisingly it was common to see humor, bizarre humor, outlandish settings, mind-blowing computer graphics and so on for these ads. This year thanks to the Social Media dimension [sports fans tend to discuss or rant about a sporting event online while watching the game - witness the real time comments on the Ind-Aus cricket matches on Twitter] its become imperative for brands to leverage this medium well. So efforts like Old Spice [pre-Super Bowl of course] makes the brand appear cool. And when you do something unusual yet relevant like what W+K is doing for Coke this year, it has a positive runoff on the brand.

The third reason [which is actually not a new reason] is the fact that the Super Bowl and more importantly the kind of ad that you put on it, is a great opportunity for small brands to make a big impact. Brands that do not or cannot advertise for the rest of the year see this as an opportunity [Interflora comes to mind]. In India, there is a parallel with the IPL – several small or lesser known brands have shot to limelight thanks to their presence on IPL.

In India, will the IPL finals evoke a similar reaction [akin to the Super Bowl] from advertisers? Right now, the entire IPL event is seen as an opportunity - not just the finals. Hope we see some fun advertising & marketing experiments and innovations this year at the IPL like the Indian Panga League.