To say the Super Bowl attracts a huge audience is an understatement, but for advertisers the Super Bowl’s massive reach and potential to raise brand awareness with about 112 million people tuning in to the 2014 game, the Super Bowl remains not only the biggest televised sports event in the U.S. but the year’s most anticipated advertising showcase.
On one level there were some notable differences this year in costs and advertisers: a 30-second spot ran for an unprecedented $4.5 million, and we saw fewer auto ads, notably none from Honda and Volkswagen, and incredible film-quality ads with highly-paid celebrities like Pierce Brosnan, but we also saw more opportunities for first time advertisers like smartphone accessories-maker Mophie, and web development platform Wix.com.
On a deeper level, this Super Bowl is unlike any other not because of the deflated balls scandal, or the non participation of a few auto manufacturers to renew their ads, but because of the sheer number of NFL players in the spotlight for sexual assault charges. You may recall a few months ago, when we saw video footage of Ray Rice assaulting his fiancée and subsequently receiving a mere slap on the wrist for his crime. This incident, and the previous track record of many NFLers who have also been accused of assault, including Ray McDonald, CJ Spillman, Darren Sharper (and many more) caused a media stir, outrage and a demand for justice – spelling bad press for the NFL. So in an unprecedented move, the NFL created some powerful spots (PSAs and commercials) aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence. Then other advertisers leveraged this sentiment, and launched their entire Super Bowl campaigns around being a better Dad; from Nissan, Toyota and Unilever with grass root-type style videos aimed at how to be a better dad, even featuring current and former professional football players and their children discussing their relationship with their fathers, the focus was less on beer drinking, physical strength, and fast car driving and more on the “how to be a better man”. These brands built buzz online by promoting hashtags like #withdad, #realstrength and #oneboldchoice.
Sincere or not, we will never really know, but as a dad of a couple of young boys, I am thrilled to see change afoot with where advertising is going; a chance to bond with this “man’s” game and watch ads that reflect strength in character; that no longer reiterate the old 1950’s approach of how to be “a man’s man”, but showcase something much richer, something that more closely reflects the values of I want to instill in my boys – love and mutual respect – after all isn’t that the #realstrength of a man?
Up for discussion this week is how did the new breed of ads affect you? Do you think this type of ad will become the norm or was this just a one-off and a simple money grab due in part because of the criminal cases facing the NFL? I look forward to your feedback.