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When Super Bowl XLIX kicks off Feb. 1 in Arizona and on NBC, it will bring plenty of the standard sentimental marketing messages. But already trends have emerged that will define this year's big game for the ad industry.
Fewer Auto Ads
You will see far fewer car ads during the Super Bowl this year. The last four Super Bowls contained a glut of auto advertisers, but this time around, several regular advertisers are hitting the brakes, including General Motors, Honda and Volkswagen, the brand behind 2011's Super Bowl hit "The Force." In 2014, 11 auto brands spent $113 million in commercial time, according to Kantar Media. But this year, just six nameplates -- Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Kia and Lexus -- are currently confirmed to run ads. One reason for the slowdown is the timing of new car launches. Automakers that don't have new models launching early this year are opting out of the game. While General Motors isn't buying a spot, it will, however, award a Chevrolet Colorado to the game's Most Valuable Player.
There will be at least 15 brands advertising during the big game for the first time, according to NBC. These include smartphone-accessories maker Mophie, glue giant Loctite, cruise line operator Carnival, Skittles, web development platform Wix.com, Weight Watchers and Avocados From Mexico, a marketing unit that promotes the produce in the U.S. This year's first-timers, several of which typically run little to no national advertising, are attracted to the Super Bowl's massive reach and potential to raise brand awareness. Brands like SodaStream, Wonderful Pistachios and Oreo received plenty of buzz in recent years with their first Super Bowl ads. And with fewer auto marketers in the game, ad time has opened up for these brands. Kantar Media, which counts parent companies in the game (as opposed to the individual brands NBC is counting), said recent Super Bowls have seen a steady influx of newcomers, with first-time parent companies accounting for 23% of the ad lineup in the 2014 game.
While advertisers such as Coca-Cola, General Motors and Cheerios last year promoted diversity in their Super Bowl spots, XLIX is poised to be the Daddy Bowl. Nissan, Dove and Toyota are tapping both famous and regular dads in a series of vignettes, online videos and social-media campaigns leading up to their Super Bowl ads. The brands hope to join the growing conversation over the role of fathers in the household and to remake the image of masculinity in media.
Nissan is tapping YouTube creators to make short online films that celebrate the ways that dads make life better for their families and strive to find a work-life balance. Unilever's Dove Men+Care released an extended 60-second version of its upcoming Super Bowl commercial, which pieces together fathers interacting with their children. And Toyota has released a short film for its "One Bold Choice Leads to Another" campaign, featuring current and former professional football players and their children discussing their relationship with their fathers. The brands are trying to build buzz online by promoting hashtags like #withdad, #realstrength and #oneboldchoice.
Weaker Ad Market
There's no doubt NBC will be sold out of Super Bowl commercial time come kickoff, but the Peacock Network has experienced some of the same woes that have plagued the overall TV industry. NBC said earlier in the month that it was about 95% sold out of the game, and as of press time it did not have an update on the status of ad sales. Seth Winter, exec VP-sales and sales marketing, NBC Sports Group and NBC Universal News Group, previously said the Super Bowl was not immune to what has been a lackluster TV ad market, where brands are holding back dollars to spend later and generally rejiggering their marketing mix. The Super Bowl may attract a huge audience, with about 112 million people tuning in to the 2014 game, but advertisers are still exploring other platforms, like digital media, to target customers.