Super Bowl LIV: Bigger than Football

The Super Bowl is bigger than football. The feats that athletes perform on sports’ biggest stages inspire one another, and their fans, across different playing fields and arenas. As the media blitz for Super Bowl LIV launched this week in Miami, many of the football players revealed themselves as basketball fans, and as part of the larger human community, as they mourned the loss of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others who perished with them in California last Sunday in a tragic helicopter accident.

The Super Bowl is bigger than sports. It’s a cultural event, a holiday, a feast. For marketers, it’s, well, the Super Bowl of advertising, too. Through the years, the winners of this competition are those with the funniest gags or most surprising celebrity cameo. Are the tides changing?

Last year, DMN noted the purpose-driven bent many brands were taking at Super Bowl time.

For Shahla Hebets, founder and CEO of Think Media Consulting, this Big Game mentality aligns with evolving relationships with customers year-round.

“The truth of the matter is that the brand that has customer affinity and customer loyalty is going to be the brand people pick up in a sea of products that are really similar,” said Hebets, who has consulted for such brands as Apple, Visa and Kellogg’s. She told me that especially in the digital realm, where customers can take all the time they want to research every detail about a product, the differences don’t make the difference they once did. “If you’re stuck on the differences of a product and think that’s going to drive the sale, that ship has sort of sailed.”

Brand loyalty has deteriorated, so marketers look to larger issues to engage consumers beyond a “transactional” relationship.

“Ultimately, what drives the sales,” Hebets explained, “is if you can make the brand about something much bigger and say, ‘we’re all in this together.’”

But some fans are not in this together – specifically, those who have an affinity with either the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers. Does it really matter which teams make it in?

Ran Ben-Yair, CEO and co-founder of location intelligence platform Ubimo, outlined the wide range of opportunities from national to local. For big brands, the Super Bowl is like Christmas in February – spend, spend, spend.

“Every year, major brands, like Coca-Cola and Tide, buy expensive commercial spots for the Super Bowl hoping to capitalize on the large viewership of the game,” Ben-Yair told me. “For many brands, televised ads during the game are too expensive, there is an opportunity to reach more targeted audiences – the fans of the teams participating who are already their customers. By knowing more about the fan base and their preferences, brands can reach out to the fans of the Super Bowl teams with tailored messaging that enhances customer relationship to the brand.”

Ben-Yair added, “Understanding the fan base of a team, where they shop, and their preferences can help marketers put together tailored, impactful local Super Bowl campaigns. Unlike broad national ads for the games, brands can reach audiences with more effective local messaging.”

He explained, “For example, Chiefs fans enjoy eating burgers at Five Guys. With this information, Five Guys can run a Super Bowl promotion in the Kansas City area encouraging Chiefs fans to grab a Five Guys burger and watch the game.”

Other insights from Ubimo’s analysis show that the 49ers have an older fanbase (35 – 64), while Chiefs fans are younger (25 – 54). San Francisco fans have a higher income (skewing above $75K), while both fans are attracting fans in the very high income set ($250K and up). If you’re a marketer in automotive, note that the top brands for 49er fans are Dodge, Harley-Davidson and Chrysler. For Chiefs fans, they prefer Ford, Chevy and Lincoln. If you’re a dealership in either of these markets, act now!

Ubimo also notes that 49ers are the most “bandwagon” fanbase currently. They doubled their audience size from pre-season to playoff time. The Chiefs, behind electric QB Patrick Mahomes, and sentimental favorite head coach Andy Reid, have enjoyed a steady fan following, with only 9.6 percent growth over the 2019 season.

However, it appears that the Chiefs’ following is more local and concentrated.

Taboola, an engagement platform for publishers and advertisers, analyzed 260K news articles and 180 million readers over the last six months, and found that the 49ers receive twice as many readers than Chiefs in all states except for Missouri and Kansas. The 49ers claim 66 percent of readership, overall. But in terms of star power, Mahomes has 75 percent readership share. For readership about coaches, Andy Reid has a slight edge of 52 percent over the 49er coach Kyle Shanahan’s 48 percent.

Sure, the Super Bowl is the top week when readers are engaged with NFL content. But Taboola also points out that overall, engagement starts out big at the beginning of the season. On deadline, Dave Struzzi, director, public relations, checked with the Taboola data scientists and provided this takeaway: “The interesting finding about the spike of readership at the beginning season, and waning interest over time, is likely due to people’s teams getting eliminated [and] doing poorly and losing interest. It’s a good lesson for advertisers to get a ‘bigger bang’ for their ad spend at the beginning of the season versus middle of season.”

We can’t go back in time, no matter how many Patriots fans would like to. Marketers have to seize the moment they’re given, and advertisers are spending. This Sunday, they’re set to dole out nearly half a billion big ones on Sunday alone.

According to a poll from knowledge-sharing community Brainly, 64.7 percent of respondents will be watching the game with their family, and 83 percent on TV. Sixty-two percent will be using social media during the game, about 30 percent on Instagram, specifically. And even if they aren’t watching the game itself, a third of those respondents who said they wouldn’t watch the game will still be searching out the commercials online.

So what are the ads to watch for? I checked in with Benjamin Hordell, partner at DXagnecy, about the trends he’s eyeing.

“While there will be some purpose-driven ads, I do see a majority of the spots involving some form of celebrities, comedy or silliness,” Hordell told me. “These are the spots that make the Super Bowl so fun.”

He will be “really curious” about several spots, including political campaign spots.

“As many families and friend have ‘No Politics’ rules, it will be interesting to see how the spots from Bloomberg and Trump are received. My guess is that it will be along party lines.”

Microsoft will be flexing their presence on TV and at the game with their spot featuring trailblazer Katie Sowers, 49ers offensive assistant coach and first woman to coach in the Super Bowl.

“I expect big things from this spot,” Hordell said. The fact that Microsoft has sideline presence with their surface tablets and that Katie Sowers will be on the sideline as a coach in the Super Bowl is perfect [and] with families together for the big game and plenty of young girls watching. As a ‘#girldad’ this spot hits close to my heart.” 

Meanwhile, Kraft Heinz has pulled back on a mock campaign about the death of the fictional Mr. Peanut.

“This is a tough one,” Hordell explained. “Making fun of tragic accidents is a risky move and the timing could not have been worse with the death of Kobe Gryant, his daughter and seven others. I applaud the agency for scaling back their digital spend leading to the big game, but I still am concerned how the whole thing will play out.”

Like the 49ers and Chiefs, all the Super Bowl advertisers have their game plans in place. But the game still has to be played, and outcomes are yet to be determined.

And until the final whistle is blown, the Patriots will still technically be the defending Super Bowl champs. This fanbase will be applauded, and jeered at, by Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” ad.

“New England always seems to be in the Super Bowl, don’t they?” Hordell said.

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