Advertisers buy the Super Bowl because it has the biggest audience—and one where many people actually want to watch and talk about the ads. Advertisers are prone to open their wallets wide for production, too, given the ads cost $5.6 million per 30 seconds to air this year.
Yet once the game is over, many of those ads are quickly forgotten. About half of last year’s Super Bowl ads were essentially one-shot deals that got few or no subsequent airings, according to iSpot.tv data. If that seems like a waste, that’s because it usually is.
“Most brands have a plan for how you release a Super Bowl ad” with teasers, websites, promotions and more, says Jim Stengel, former Procter & Gamble Co. chief marketer and now consultant. That only makes sense since “we’re in a two- or three-week period where people want to engage with advertising, so it’s stupid not to take advantage of that. But I don’t know why we don’t continue that after the game, when you still have heightened attention.”
The postgame plan is inevitably far different from a pregame plan, but it can pay dividends. Here are some tips for keeping your Super Bowl ad top of mind after the game is over.
Don’t count on long-term organic interest
Organic interest in Super Bowl ads doesn’t last long. Google Trends data show a consistent pattern annually: a gradual increase in searches for “Super Bowl ads” starting about two weeks before the game, ramping quickly the week prior, then trailing off even faster after the game. A week after the Super Bowl, search activity dies down to levels typical for the rest of the year—close to nil.
So, while Super Bowl ads receive some additional organic views for a day or two, most postgame exposures have to be paid for, either on TV or online.
Once is not enough
Super Bowl ads tend to be different from others, says Pranav Yadav, CEO of neuromarketing firm Neuro-Insight, which he says tested nine of the 55 ads that ran in last year’s game and will likely test a similar number this year. Super Bowl ads are more often like one-off jokes that might not bear repetition, he says.
Testing by syndicated research firm ABX shows Super Bowl ads on average tend to underperform other TV ads in effectiveness. Part of the reason: Pressure to make ads stand out in the game means marketers and agencies are reluctant to introduce prominent branding elements early on, Yadav says. For this reason, many Super Bowl ads have story arcs that conclude before the branding element ever shows up, which means people are prone to pay less attention by the time the brand is introduced. Subsequent airings of the same ad after the game won’t do much to fix this, Yadav says.
Even so, the ability to recall some Super Bowl ads improves with repetition, he says, as people notice things they missed the first time. And Yadav says it might also help to use a different cut for postgame airings that advance the storyline or make the brand more prominent. Generally, he says memory encoding tops out with three to four exposures for most TV ads, but it might take 10 to 12 post-game airings to get those exposures.
Added exposures can boost purchases
Postgame airings might help in ways beyond simply making people remember the ad or the brand behind it. A 2018 study by researchers from the University of Tampa, Mississippi University for Women, Delta Modeling Group and BDJ Solutions found that people tend to have an initial emotional connection when they see an ad once or twice, a more reasoned cognitive response with three to 10 exposures, and a deeper emotional connection after more than 10 viewings, particularly with stronger creative. After more than 10 times, ads produce a significant lift in purchase intent, according to the research. Generally speaking, showing an ad only once can waste a lot of potential impact.
Follow-up buys don’t have to be on TV
Postgame exposures don’t have to be on TV to boost impact. Indeed, people might remember secondary exposures better in mobile, according to research by Marketing Evolution.
Movie studios tend to do the best job overall with Super Bowl advertising from an ROI standpoint, says Marketing Evolution CEO Rex Briggs, in part because they’ve got a new product to sell—a movie. Since those movies usually don’t debut immediately after the game, the studios tend to follow up with a postgame plan that might include TV, but also mobile and out-of-home ads to reinforce the Super Bowl ad, Briggs says. Those postgame efforts need not focus on repeat airings of the Super Bowl ad to be effective, he says, and ideally will include some new trailers and other “news” to keep interest alive and promote social sharing.
“Other brands launching products [in the Super Bowl] should take note of how entertainment brands reinforce their launches,” Briggs adds.
While movie studios might have postgame follow-through nailed down as standard operating procedure, Briggs also points to Frito-Lay’s Doritos routinely doing a good job of postgame follow-up with its winning user-generated ads.
The Pepsico unit combines pregame suspense-building and advertising, online and off, with an in-game “reveal” of a winning ad, followed by a postgame blitz giving the ad additional exposures, Briggs says. The postgame effort usually includes a continuation of the in-store promotion that leads up to the game. It all adds up, he says, to “a powerful reinforcement” that should be easy for any Super Bowl marketer to replicate.
Anheuser-Busch InBev is one advertiser that almost always gives its Super Bowl ads additional media weight after the game, albeit with mixed results last year. Bud Light’s ads noting that rival brews were made using corn syrup not only got additional postgame play, but they also generated howls of protest from corn farmers and the rivals who painted the spots as deceptive. Bud Light eventually got slapped with an injunction barring it from running the ads in May and a ruling requiring it to remove the “no corn syrup” language from its labels in September.
Have a broader postgame plan
Beyond media buys, Briggs says it makes sense for Super Bowl advertisers to have a comprehensive post-game plan, which includes analyzing return on ad spend from the game and surrounding media buys. He also says advertisers should note what they see other advertisers doing—both what they liked and didn’t like—as they plan for a follow-up next year.
At best, a Super Bowl ad has an uphill battle to generate return on investment, and not just because of the media cost, says Joel Rubinson, CEO of research firm Rubinson Partners. His research suggests packaged-goods brands and others with short purchase cycles do better with media buys that target frequent category buyers with relatively frequent exposures timed to reach them just before purchase. None of that is consistent with a one-shot Super Bowl buy.
So even if the objective was to broaden brand awareness and reach prospects usually missed by more targeted buys, the best postgame plan, as Rubinson sees it, might be business as usual. That means more frequent, targeted smaller-reach buys, be it with Super Bowl creative or not.