Spending $7m on a Super Bowl ad and more to market it

Lexus' Super Bowl ad features music from Sia and a new global tagline, "Experience Amazing".
Lexus' Super Bowl ad features music from Sia and a new global tagline, "Experience Amazing".PHOTO: YOUTUBE

NEW YORK • •This month, brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev hosted a dozen or so reporters at its airy New York office to discuss its advertising plans for the Super Bowl.

Company-branded folders labelled "Media Briefing" were distributed. A news release detailed the four beer labels that would be featured in commercials during the game on Sunday, with instructions to keep the information under wraps until the next morning. Also included: a brochure outlining "fun facts" for each brand - Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Budweiser and Busch - and a business card with a website and e-mail address for "all of your A-B Super Bowl needs".

Absent from the event, which included an hour-long presentation from the company's United States marketing head: the commercials themselves. Three of the four, the company said, were slated for online release in the lead-up to the big game.

The briefing illustrates the effort companies put forth each year to market the most expensive commercial space on television. The average cost of a 30-second advertisement for the Super Bowl crept up to US$5 million (S$7.1 million) this year, according to ad buyers, from an estimated US$4.8 million last year. Brands, eager to get their money's worth, may spend anywhere from 25 per cent of that cost to the same amount on marketing tied to the ads themselves, said Ms Mary Scott, a president at UEG, a sports and entertainment marketing agency.


"Even though the spots have incredible viewership - as much as the game itself - you never know," she added, saying that she recommends clients spend an amount equal to at least 25 per cent of the cost on promotions related to their Super Bowl ad. "There's become more of a game around the game in terms of ensuring that really pays off in a big way."

The willingness of companies to pay record prices for Super Bowl ads, while simultaneously spending more to promote them, shows how coveted consumer attention has become in the age of smartphones and social media.

It can also be a mind-bending thought experiment, given that the ads are attempts to sell consumers a product or brand.

Starting last month, public relations firms and executives at large brands offered the news media previews or exclusive peeks at their commercials, as long as they agreed not to publish the ads or information about them until a specific time - say, 6pm on Jan 26 for Mercedes-Benz, or 8pm yesterday for Buick. Often, the ads were just part of a broader brand campaign, bolstered by celebrities or new products, with executives ready for interviews.

Bud Light, for example, announced a new tagline, "Famous Among Friends", as part of its event this month.

Lexus issued a news release about its Super Bowl ad on Jan 23, which features music from Sia, noting that it would be the brand's "first official use" of a new global tagline, "Experience Amazing".

The hope is that articles about the ads will drive a flurry of "earned media", industry parlance for morning show segments, articles, blog posts and social media chatter.

Often, companies will supplement that with "paid media", such as promotions on YouTube or Twitter, search keywords or display ads.

Buick waited until the game last year to debut its first Super Bowl ad. This year, the company is releasing the ad early and spending twice as much as it did last year on social media promotions.

Buick would share information about the commercial only if outlets agreed to keep it private until the company posted the ad online. In exchange for agreeing to its terms, Buick said it could send over a GIF showing how it planned to use Instagram Stories during the game.

Releasing the ad early "gives us a longer time span to engage consumers and I believe it's a better return on our investment", said Ms Molly Peck, Buick's director of marketing. She added that the company wanted to match the interest it generated last year for being a first- time advertiser.

The Super Bowl is still a rare opportunity for companies to reach more than 100 million viewers on a day that "people really want to see the ads, they're not skipping over them, they're watching them in real time and engaged", she said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Spending $7m on a Super Bowl ad and more to market it'. Print Edition | Subscribe