Superbowl: A marketing cult

In a regular sporting arena, half-time merely marks the interval before two opposing teams battle it out in the second half. Sure, we may be accustomed to food being consumed, wrestling spectators waiting and previews being flashed across the screen, but for large scale American organisations, it’s a race to spend the most, and impress, the most. This article explores what started off as an effective way to market to a large audience, but has now truly become a cult phenomenon.

Advertising within sport is by no means a new concept, but the proportion of its size and delivery has changed. United States football, or the National Football League (NFL) attracts a very, very large audience. But one sporting event stands out more than any other; the Superbowl. This annual championship game, both a historic and worldwide treasure, attracts approximately 110 million viewers, making it an advertiser’s heaven. So at a time when such a large proportion of the world is paying their full attention, firms are cashing in as best they can, and In the process rendering half-time Superbowl commercials an exciting phenomenon where exclusively the ‘new’ and ‘innovative’ is shown for the world.

Businesses who choose to display their commercials in this arena can either utilise a 30 or 60-second interval. But, as one would expect for America’s most watched television broadcast, firms must be willing to dish out massive amounts for such a privilege. USA Today analysed the rapidly rising costs of a 30-second advertisement clip during the Super Bowl. They found that in 1967 a 30 second commercial was priced at $3 million (in today’s prices), while now in 2014 it stands at $4 million. In other words, it costs $US130,000 to air each second.

The sheer importance of these commercials cannot be understated. Numerous websites have been established purely to bask in the glory of the advertising. The websites superbowl-commercials.org and superbowl-ads.com feed the worldwide hunger of reliving the brief but sustained glory of advertisement. And that’s just as well, for the creation and planning of the short commercials, for the sake of the expensive investment, must be effective in its targeting and delivery.

Firms who choose to undertake the massive investment of using this debatably overrated advertising methods spends millions attempting to blast their viewers away in the most innovative, dynamic and heartfelt way possible. Those who achieve such a feat are rewarded with definite, sustained economic advantage.

The Budweiser Clydesdale ‘Puppy Love’ clip became an online sensation once it was viewed on 2nd February earlier this year. The short but heartfelt story of a puppy-horse friendship may have cost Budweiser an estimated US$12 million in production alone, along with the US$8 million in screening it at the Superbowl but resulted in 37 million views on social media in the proceeding three days. Sure, as some critics point out, the commercial was linked neither to Budweiser’s operating strategy nor its beverage, yet adding the ‘#bestbuds’ hashtag lead to the positive outburst throughout all forms of social media, especially striking a chord in Generations X and Y.

TIME magazine deemed it the “the most successful commercial of the Superbowl” (but more importantly demonstrated Budweiser’s carefully planned economic strategy. In another success story, American television network CBS who displayed an ad in 2013 enjoyed a $245 million surge in revenue. it seems that the broadcasting hype is just as popular as the on-field play itself.

The power of advertising never seems to fade and indeed has escalated to the point where millions are lashed out upon sporting events. The Superbowl has, and will forever, be the arena for the innovative and the rich.