With this being Super Bowl weekend (the unofficial holiday of all high cholesterol foods and snacks), we sports fan are starting to fill up with all sorts of news surrounding the game. But, I've had my fill of news around the legal use of "Who dat?" on t-shirts, how much the city of New Orleans loves the Saints, will the injured Dwight Freeney (the Colts star defensive end) play in the game and is Peyton Manning really human or cyborg.
So, I thought that I would take just a marketing minute to offer some comments on "the game within The Game" - the advertising and marketing efforts surrounding this colossal sporting event.
Full disclosure: I have no vested interest in any brands advertising or developing marketing programs around the Super Bowl. With that disclosure out of the way, here's four things that pop into my head before kickoff.
1. Can We Just Sit Back and Enjoy the Game?
If you are a casual fan, sure. If you're a coach, player, family of a player, no. And, no...if you're a marketer leveraging the Super Bowl as a platform for your brand. We all know the hype around the game is huge and too often the game doesn't match the build-up. It's a high bar to clear. So, too, with the Super Bowl marketing efforts. It's high stakes poker. Given the money that companies are spending on media time alone (Anheuser-Busch is spending more in a few hours than my past 3 years’ worth of marketing budget), then add in the creative development costs, management time and attention,..well, you get the idea.
And, it's worse today than just 5-6 years ago. Back then, it still may have been good enough to have a commercial people remembered favorably. No more. Better be prepared with a well integrated marketing program that doesn't just look pretty and get people talking, but achieves clear, measurable results...the kind that CFO's and shareholders will find valuable (you know, like retail traffic, sales volume, customers acquired).
2. Maybe I Can Make a Name for Myself...
We know at least one player will make big headlines the he can cash in on after the game. But there's also hay to be made off the field in the marketing world in the whole cottage industry that has grown up around the advertising in the Super Bowl (it nearly rivals the ecosphere that is iPod-iTunes). It’s not just about the commercial that gets the most buzz; it’s about the poll or the focus group or the online voting site that gets the most buzz about the commercials that generated the most buzz. All this commotion gets my head…you guessed it…buzzing. Sorry...that pun was absolutely necessary.
3. The Biggest Marketer in the Super Bowl Is...
...not even there. In my mind, the biggest marketing newsmaker in the Super Bowl XXLIV is the brand that is NOT advertising: Pepsi. After 23 consecutive years of buying commercial time in the game, the soft drink brand is taking their $20 mill in spending and going social. I, for one, think that's really a smart, bold and strategic move.
I view this as a no risk proposition. Let's face it: how many people out there (other than the commercial directors, commercial actors and ad agencies) will be negatively effected by Pepsi's absence from the airwaves during the game? Um, maybe zero. Is the brand likely to be forgotten? No. So, Pepsi is really smart to take that money and set up an online social marketing campaign that will extend and seek to engage consumers for months (in what they're calling the Pepsi Refresh Project). Put that on top of their other marketing efforts and Pepsi should generate significant data and learning about maximizing the emerging media and channels for the benefit of the brand.
Of course, I'll miss watching those great Pepsi commercials; that's the price we pay for progress, I guess.
4. Marketing Under the Microscope
What I am finding interesting is how companies are making concerted efforts to take a more scientific approach toward maximizing the value of this investment, not only during the game, but pre- and post-game. That's really encouraging. Of course, with all that money on the table, if you’re the CMO, you better have a hit or come Monday morning you’ll be feeling more bruised than the losing Super Bowl team.
All this has really accelerated in the last few years, almost as fast as NFL teams started adopting their own versions of the shotgun and wildcat formations. Companies like Cymfony have developed new products that track audience engagement levels and impact, as well as ROI of Super Bowl ads and associated marketing efforts. One finding:stealth is a lousy strategy: The more marketers plug their ads in advance of the game, the better, in terms of generating pre- and post-game coverage. And that turns out to be true in both conventional media and on such social media sites as YouTube and Facebook. So, marketers and brands have extended their Super Bowl moments well beyond the boundaries of the game in order to "build momentum" heading into the Sunday classic and "continue the momentum" following the last tick of the clock.
And, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Now you know why CMO's are getting heartburn...it's not the salsa dip.
As a guy who has spent his career building brands and selling products via integrated marketing efforts and leading brands into innovative territory, this is a lot of fun to watch, much like the football game itself. But, unlike the actual game, we won't know the final scores until some time down the road. It's still fun to talk about and debate. Looking forward to seeing how things play out.
How about you? What thoughts come to mind as you think about the marketing goings-on surrounding the Super Bowl? Feel free to chime in. And, pass the chips and dip, please.