Cars, beer and cryptocurrency: Super Bowl ads set the stage for marketing to millions

When Super Bowl LVI kicks off Sunday, millions of Americans will be tuning in. But this is about more than just the Rams and Bengals. For marketers, it’s about potential sales.

February 11, 2022 Emily Gersema

The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year for the NFL — and it is the biggest event for advertisers.

Already this week, major consumer product companies like beer-maker Anheuser-Busch have trickled out ads on social media ahead of the game, hoping to capitalize on the potential for sales as people add beer to the grocery list for their Super Bowl parties.

The Big Game is a showcase for advertising, a snapshot of pop culture and a launch pad for new products and services. Commercials about cryptocurrency will join the mix of beer and truck ads for the first time. The game also offers unmatched fan reach to rappers and musicians performing in the halftime show, which this year features L.A.-based performers like Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige, to name a few.

Marketing now goes far beyond just the Super Bowl ads

Years ago, the game was a marketing one-off. But USC experts note that with the rise of social media, the Super Bowl has become a kickoff of sorts for a massive campaign that will magnify through social channels from Twitter to Instagram to YouTube, drive more consumers to buy their products and boost their quarterly revenue.

The Super Bowl is the biggest branding event of the season and the most expensive ad buy anywhere.

Fred Cook, USC Center for Public Relations

“The Super Bowl is the biggest branding event of the season and the most expensive ad buy anywhere,” said Fred Cook, a public relations and marketing expert who directs the USC Center for Public Relations at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

But spending $6 million on a 30-second spot doesn’t buy much these days.

“The real payoff comes from what else you do to support that ad, which can include social media integrations, on-site activations, celebrity publicity, retail promotions, customer engagement and word of mouth,” Cook said.

Data analysis firm the data analytics and brand consulting firm Kantar estimates that companies last year spent more than $435 million on ads during last year’s Super Bowl. The high price for a 30-second spot was around $7.5 million.

CNBC reports that an estimated 117 million will watch the game live on NBC. That is a 21% increase from last year’s 96 million viewers. It could translate to a boost in product sales, rewarding companies who paid for an ad spot.

The game is not just a draw for football fans. It also draws the eyes of non-fans who like it for the ads and for the halftime entertainment. In fact, Kantar found that about a third of viewers it surveyed rank the ads as their favorite part of the game, even more so than the halftime show.

And with social media, the game and its ads have a longer-lasting reach, far beyond the live broadcast.

Super Bowl ads: Many are filmed, few are chosen

About 60 ads are chosen for airing during the Super Bowl, but only four or five become stars.

An outstanding ad such as the 2021 General Motors’ EV ad featuring Will Ferrell can achieve iconic status in the history of great Super Bowl ads once they go viral.

General Motors’ 2021 EV ad:

One USC professor believes he can predict which ones will succeed. USC Marshall School of Business Professor Gerard Tellis’s predictions hinge on which companies have released so-called “teaser” ads on YouTube – sometimes months ahead of the Big Game.

“Some start these ads in December, maybe even as early as November. The more you tease, the greater the audience on the day itself and the greater chance of virality,” said Tellis, who directs USC Marshall’s Institute for Outlier Research in Business.

The carryover effect is long-term because it continues to get millions of exposures every year, he explained, hitting up to 60 million.

Advertisers that focus just on the game are short-sighted, experts said.

“Brands that use the Super Bowl to kick off a broader campaign will score more points than those that are just in it for one play,” Cook said.