One of the biggest challenges for brands around a Super Bowl campaign is properly assessing risk. The upside of a Super Bowl ad is obvious, thanks to the large scale of the audience. But if the TV spot's messaging connects, will a brand be prepared to amplify that message online? The earned impact can be massive. However, with a 30-second ad now costing more than $5 million dollars and with a 2014 study by research firm Communicus finding that 80% of Super Bowl ads don't actually help sales, there's no guarantee that even universally praised ads are actually achieving the campaign's objectives unless the right metrics are identified before, and optimized for with an agile digital strategy.
That said, there are four types of Super Bowl campaigns where a TV spot is consistently impactful, driving return on investment and opening up greater opportunities for brands to engage online audiences. These are the campaigns types that are reliably providing cross-channel wins around each year's big game:
Super Bowl ads drive product awareness and upcoming films are new products for the entire audience. A Super Bowl ad potentially can have a huge impact for box office results. A Berkeley study of 70 movies that were advertised during the 2004-2014 Super Bowls found that on average the films saw an incremental increase of $8.4 million during their opening weekend from their Super Bowl ads, which at the time cost an average of $3 million dollars, meaning the ads generated 2.8 times more income than they cost.
Paramount this year plans to use Super Bowl LI to promote "Baywatch," starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, and "Transformers: The Last Knight," coming out this June.
Becoming a Household Name
For brands without name recognition, a Super Bowl ad can instantly put them on the map, and that's not just talking about awareness. For instance Wix.com reportedly saw a 54% growth in revenue in the three months following its first Super Bowl ad ("It's That Easy"). Avocados From Mexico's sales grew around 35% in the fiscal year on the heels of its Super Bowl spot ("First Draft Ever") compared to growth of about 13% for the avocado category in general during the same time period. That doesn't mean that their Super Bowl ads were these brands' only marketing efforts but when consumers don't already have preexisting relationships with a product, there's a lot of room to improve in purchase consideration. Many Super Bowl advertisers are already beloved brands, making it much harder to move the sales needle with one ad.
Ownership Over A Social Issue
Sometimes a Super Bowl ad is an opportunity to generate thought leadership and more digital engagement around a brand. For instance, P&G may not have been looking to directly impact sales when it brought its highly acclaimed #LikeAGirl campaign to the Super Bowl, but as an opportunity to align the brand with a cause -- female empowerment. If the strategy was to affect everyone's perception of the phrase "Like A Girl," the ad's placement was perfect. Positive sentiment around the phrase reached 96% in just three months while during the same time period, Always tripled its number of Twitter followers, with subscriptions to its YouTube channel increasing by 4339%. Brands can deepen the relationship with their audiences by using the Super Bowl to speak out on an issue that align with core values.
Long-Term Engagement Campaigns
The longer a brand can leverage the cache of a Super Bowl campaign into active audience engagement, the better the chances the campaign will succeed. The most successful example of this strategy is Doritos with its "Crash the Super Bowl" campaign, which crowd-sourced open submissions to create Super Bowl ads. The contest usually started in September or October, meaning that there was audience activity around the brand's Super Bowl campaign for nearly half the year. Sales of Doritos increased by 12% in January 2007 around the first "Crash the Super Bowl" promotion (see "Live the Flavor"), and the decade-long campaign played a huge part in growing Doritos from a $1.54 billion U.S. brand in 2006 to a $2.2 billion brand in 2016. Doritos had a huge opportunity to extend awareness around the brand before, during and after the campaign with their digital strategy.