What marketers can learn at the Super Bowl

By Greg Kramer March 03, 2014 Industry News

The Super Bowl is big news in the good old US of A. So big that the 2014 Super Bowl was the most watched piece of television in American history and perhaps even the world. So what can we learn from this mammoth media-fest?


Once a year, the big brands know that they’ve got a gargantuan captive audience covering a wide variety of demographics, so they throw the whole nine yards at making as much of an impact as possible at the Super Bowl.

But this impact costs big – try US$4 million for a 30-second ad as a starter. Even worse is that these monster ads don’t work.

A survey of audience respondents from the 2014 Super Bowl, performed exclusively for Bloomberg Businessweek by marketing research firm Db5, suggests viewers remembered fewer than 10% of the commercials.

Db5 surveyed 504 people who watched the game in its entirety, and the results were surprising. When asked to recall as many companies as possible that had ads during the big game, the average viewer in the survey could name only 5 brands – with more than 50 companies buying ads, fewer than 10% were recalled. Just 12 of these 50 companies enjoyed more than 10% recollection rates.

Advertising executives will argue that of course the ads had merit and reached people, even if it wasn’t particularly popular, and to an extent, they’re right. But both the advertising folk and their clients would be cringing if their ad was one of those that didn’t perform favourably in audience recollection.



Some would say that the ads are as important to the Super Bowl audience as the game is. This is true to a degree – as big as the game is, only two teams are playing, which means that only a small portion of the viewers (the supporters) will have a deep seated loyalty and the associated passion behind them.

Many of the rest are watching simply because it’s the Super Bowl in the same way that Kiwis would still watch a Rugby World Cup final, even if the All Blacks didn’t play in the game.

The Super Bowl advertising phenomenon has created something of a monster – talking animals, talking babies, talking animal babies, big celebrities, small bikinis, big-name Hollywood directors. The list of gimmicks is endless.

The issue is that the human brain can’t keep up with the trickery and almost all the ads are quickly forgotten. Put simply, the advertising has become more of an entertainment spectacle than a means to sell products and selling is really what advertising is all about.



This brings us to the third complication of advertising during the Super Bowl: audience expectation. Super Bowl ads fall right into “jump the shark” territory – once you’ve created that amazing, big-budget ad that wows viewers, what do you do next year?

Anything less impressive will lead to disappointment and mutterings of “That Coke ad was rubbish compared to the one they did last year, but wow, did you see the Pepsi ad?”

This is a problem many marketers face in New Zealand, albeit in a slightly different fashion: “The Mega Promotion”. Giving away huge prizes, like 10 trips to the Gold Coast, might boost sales and awareness but it’s really a short-term fix.

The reason is that next year customers expect – no, demand – something more extravagant to gain their attention and their dollars. Pretty soon, all these brands are remembered for is giving away holidays and not for their great products or services.



How on earth do you reach a mega audience (and all the hangers on and influencers too) without spending the earth? It’s a valid question, especially in New Zealand, where the closest parallel would be the Rugby World Cup Final.

Well the answer is simple: you don’t. Instead, start prioritising where you want to interact with your customers.

When it comes to advertising, the media landscape is just too vast to reach everyone. There are so many media alternatives that consumers can no longer be effectively reached by mass media such as television and the Super Bowl proves this.

At the end of the day, every business has a financial target to reach and it doesn’t matter whether it takes 100 or 5,000 customers to reach that goal, so why chase everyone? Focus your efforts where they matter most and you’ll get results. 


Greg Kramer is the Creative Director of Partisan Advertising and specialises in creating effective and measurable sales increases for his clients. Call 021 254 0082 or visit www.partisanadvertising.co.nz

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