Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Super Bowl LVII: What to expect this year? 

by Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer, System1 

It’s the annual advertising extravaganza, with 30-second slots costing $7m (that’s $233k a second) and audiences topping over 200m, or two-thirds of the entire US population. This Sunday, the Super Bowl is back; so, what should we expect from the 57th edition? And how should brands look to maximise their investment? 

Traditionally, brands used the Super Bowl to produce their most impactful, creative work. In recent years, however, Super Bowl advertising has followed an increasingly well-trodden path: the adverts are celebrity-driven, laced with gentle humour and product messages, and finished off with a sprinkling of brand purpose. As a result of this somewhat formulaic approach, we’ve seen the number of 5-Star ads (or those that deliver Exceptional long-term brand building potential) drop – from plenty ten years ago, to three in 2020, one in 2021 and none in 2022.  

This year is unlikely to see a major departure from this formula, but there are several ways in which adverts will change.  

The first is the types of companies advertising. We already know that the regular players – auto manufacturers, alcohol brands and snacks – will be present, but what about some of the more recent entrants? The ongoing crypto winter, including the collapse of FTX (which produced one of last year’s celebrity-backed ads) means there are unlikely to be many crypto advertisers, if any, this year. While it’s true that other tech brands like Workday and Squarespace are advertising, given current conditions there may be less than recent years. 

Secondly, the growing cost of Super Bowl advertising coupled with current economic conditions will have an impact on advertisers’ strategies. In 1967, a Super Bowl advert cost a mere $42.5k; in 2021, that investment had climbed to $5.5m and today it sits at $7m for a 30-second slot. Super Bowl has become more expensive than ever before, meaning many brands can no longer afford to take out a prime ad slot or would simply prefer to allocate their marketing spend to multiple activations throughout the year.  

As a result, we are likely to see more cross-vertical brand partnerships than recent years. By partnering, brands are able to split the cost of the investment – and whilst you might think this a strategy some of the more budget-conscious brands would adopt, we are already seeing this with some of the major advertisers too. Netflix has partnered with both General Motors and AB InBev for Super Bowl LVII, whilst DraftKings and Molson Coors have also entered an advertising alliance this year. Will sharing the spotlight dilute brand recognition and recall? We’ll have to wait to see how these co-branded commercials play out.  

Television is still the best platform to reach the widest audience, but the cost of advertising means more brands may also be pivoting towards activations on TikTok using more niche influencers rather than widely recognized celebrities. For example, State Farm has previously aired Super Bowl commercials but is instead working with TikTok star Khaby Lame for a campaign on the increasingly popular platform.  

As for those 5-Star ads of yesteryear – how can brands get back to those heights?  

Super Bowl adverts are driven by celebrity star power and some celebrities are even appearing in multiple brands’ ads throughout this year’s game. To entertain audiences, brands are partnering with athletes, actors, comedians, musicians and, in the case of Popeyes, a once-viral Vine star. There’s practically a well-known name in nearly every advert and many ads feature several celebrities for extra star power.  

With so many celebrities joining big game ads, it’s crucial that brands leverage them in the right way. Simply casting a celebrity doesn’t make a winning ad. Famous figures shouldn’t be easily replaceable. Rather, they should be the best choice for the storyline. They must also be given the freedom to portray larger-than-life versions of themselves.  

The ads that score well (in the 3- to 5-Star range) are those that succeed in making the audience feel. Adverts that make people feel happy – rather than negative emotions, such as sadness or fear – are on the right track and will have the greatest ROI. Why? Because it is these adverts that will build long-term brand awareness, a greater market share, and therefore greater commercial impact. This is opposed to an ad that offers a short-term spike – it may lead to an immediate sales boost but won’t deliver lasting brand building effects. 

Indeed, our research shows that if a brand gets the long-term brand awareness in their advert right, the short-term sales spike is also likely to happen. It’s a bit like a buy-one-get-one-free – but with the Super Bowl being such an expensive investment, it’s vital that brands test their creative to predict its impact and adjust accordingly to maximise their ROI. After all, there’s only about 15 to 60 seconds to make a mark – the ones that hit emotional highs will come away as brand-building winners.  

Opinion

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