NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)
The escalating chatter surrounding Super Bowl XLIV is not just about the teams competing for the 2010 championship. The TV commercials that will appear during the game are also the subject of discussion and speculation. And participating advertisers will once again be confronted with the difficult question of whether the Super Bowl is a smart marketing investment or a wasted use of the budget.
TNS Media Intelligence has again combed through its extensive database to report on the past 20 years of Super Bowl advertising. From 1990 thru 2009, the Super Bowl game has generated $2.17 billion of network sales from a total of 210 different advertisers and more than 1,400 commercial messages.
“The Super Bowl remains a singular event for engaging the broadest number of consumers at one time,” said Mark Nesbitt, President, TNS Media Intelligence. “Because it is viewed live and experienced by a majority of the country at the same time, a commercial presence on the broadcast has great significance and impact for a brand, making each not so much a brand message as a brand event. It is why a presence on the broadcast lends itself so effectively to an integrated marketing effort.”
“As an advertising event, the Super Bowl has evolved beyond a vehicle for presenting expensive, stand-alone commercial spots that seek to entertain viewers and generate awareness,” said Jon Swallen, SVP Research for TNS Media Intelligence. “Increasingly, in-game spots are being supplemented by elaborate integrated communications programs that attempt to drive traffic online or in-store, generate positive social media discussion, incorporate public relations effort and ultimately achieve a strong ROI.”
When it comes to Super Bowl advertisements, sleaze sells. This Sunday will likely feature sexual innuendos, bodily functions, crotch injuries, erectile dysfunction talk and various combinations of the four.
Tawdry commercials have been around from the beginning — the first memorable Super Bowl ad featured Farrah Fawcett making love to Joe Namath’s face with Noxzema shaving cream — but the risk-taking definitely increased beginning in the mid-1990s. The sleaziest Super Bowl by far was in 2004, which was also the year that Janet Jackson’s right breast made an unfortunate halftime appearance.
Strong economic times can result in a bounty of good Super Bowl ads. Janet Jackson’s exposed breast is a Super Bowl commercial killer. And venture capitalist money equals offbeat and funny — at least when it comes to the memorable dot-com advertisements of the late 1990s and 2000.
That was arguably the best era for Super Bowl ads, but there were other boom times as well — which, coincidence or not, often seem to come when confidence in the economy is rising. The landmark Apple “1984” commercial highlighted one of the best Super Bowls for ad-watchers, and the Reaganomics-fueled years that followed were stocked with plenty of clever spots as well.
Super Bowl viewers will be on the lookout for rookie mistakes — and not just on the field.
Advertising at the big game is a gamble for newcomers not just because of the rising cost of buying the ads — advertisers are paying up to $2.7 million for a 30-second spot this year, up from $2.6 million in 2007 — but also the risk to their reputations if the commercials fall flat or offend.
NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. will go bumper-to-bumper with his former backer before the Feb. 17 Daytona 500 if he makes the starting grid in a Feb. 3 Super Bowl ad for the company sponsoring his new ride.
Earnhardt, a five-time Most Popular Driver Award winner whose 17 major victories include the 2004 Daytona 500, recently shot two ads for Pepsi’s (PEP) Amp energy drink, sponsor of his race car this year.
Pepsi is the No. 2 Super Bowl ad spender this year behind Anheuser-Busch (BUD), which was Earnhardt’s sponsor last season. He moved to Pepsi and the Hendrick Motorsports racing team after a highly publicized split with his family’s team and says he’s eager to help Pepsi overtake marketing rival A-B as a Super Bowl ad favorite.
Thirty-four years ago this month, Farrah Fawcett sensuously applied Noxzema to Joe Namath’s manly chin — touching off an escalating arms race of expensive Super Bowl commercials that have frequently been more entertaining than the games.
Last year, advertisers weren’t shy about spending $2.5 million on a 30-second commercial, but only the Budweiser “Magic Fridge” commercial came within striking distance of our Top 10 list.
Below are the best Super Bowl commercials of all time, the keys to their success and the prospects of the company after the spot aired. As you can see, just because people are still talking about an ad more than 20 years later doesn’t mean the product changed the world:
10. Budweiser “Frogs” (1995)
9. Xerox “Monks” (1977)
8. Tabasco “Mosquito” (1998)
7. Electronic Data Systems “Herding Cats” (2000)
6. McDonald’s “The Showdown” (1993)
5. Monster.com “When I Grow Up …” (1999)
4. Reebok “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” (2003)
3. E*Trade “Monkey” (2000)
2. Coke “Mean Joe Greene” (1979)
1. Apple “1984” (1984)
“The Super Bowl ads are better than the game.”
No doubt you’ve heard at least one friend or relative make that statement, usually after a few drinks, a large gambling loss or a horrible set of Super Bowl events that mock the sports gods — such as Washington quarterback Mark Rypien being named MVP.
But have we really reached the point where commercials have become more entertaining than the sporting event that surrounds them?
With the exception of one 15-second spot, ABC has sold out the first half of Super Bowl XL, to be held at Detroit’s Ford Stadium on Feb. 5, according to Ed Erhardt, president, sales for ESPN/ABC Sports.
While Erhardt would not discuss specific advertisers, he did say two categories in particular were exceptionally strong and drawing more advertisers to the game than usual.
The first, which should come as no surprise with the game being held in Motown, is automotive. General Motors and Ford are believed to be in the game, while a Chrysler rep said the company had not finalized its Super Bowl plans. While some offshore brands are also in play, Volvo, a 2005 advertiser, is sitting out, according to sources. The company did not return a call by press time.
The price tag for a 30-second spot on Super Bowl XL, on ABC Feb. 5, 2006, is flat versus a year ago, when it was $2.4 million, sources said, making it the third time in five years that the cost to advertise during the big game has not increased. In addition, the Winter Olympics, as well as clients’ interest in newer ad platforms like wireless and an unwillingness to undergo the creative scrutiny of Super Bowl ads, could divert some dollars from the football telecast, media buyers said last week.
Perennial advertiser Visa is believed to be one client forgoing the Super Bowl in favor of the Olympics, and McDonald’s, an on-again-off-again Super Bowl advertiser that had one spot last year, is also taking a pass in 2006.
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