Marketing: 7 Lessons From Super Bowl Commercials

What you can learn from the game day commercials.

If you’re like me and a loyal Chargers fan, you probably could have cared less about the 2012 Super Bowl match-up between the Giants and the Patriots. Regardless, I still watched although it wasn’t so much because of the game itself, but rather, the commercials. I find it fascinating that companies shell out millions of dollars for 30 seconds of exposure just to be part of what is considered the most watched sporting event in the United States. 

While spectators look forward to the commercials for entertainment purposes, I enjoy analyzing them from a public relations and marketing perspective to see if the company was on point with its strategy or if it failed miserably in promoting its brand. Here are seven tactics utilized in many of the commercials and which others may want to consider when devising their next campaign.

Appeal to animal lovers: If this year’s commercials taught us anything, it’s that people like dogs. While dogs might have nothing to do with a brand, companies incorporated them into their ads and they did it well.  Some of the best dog ads included Volkswagen’s The Dog Strikes Back, Sketchers GOrun Mr. Quiggly featuring MarK Cuban, Dorito’s Man’s Best Friend and Bud Light’s Rescue Dog Weego.

The Bud Light commercial was not only entertaining and humorous, but also communicated a heartfelt message—help rescue dogs! At the end of the commercial, the dog pulled out a cooler displaying that same message with the brand’s Facebook page. For every new ‘like’ the page receives, the company will donate $1 to the Animal Rescue Foundation. Bud Light scored big with beer drinkers and pet lovers on this one and it just goes to show that you don’t need people to create memorable ads. Also noteworthy, the four dog commercials are currently ranked in the top 10 on USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter.

Evoke emotion: When it comes to the auto industry, you probably wouldn’t think they’d be good at inducing emotion among its viewers. However, Clint Eastwood proved us wrong. In a commercial that lasted more than two minutes (that’s $7 million), Eastwood delivered a powerful message in Chrysler’s Halftime in America commercial. The exceptional ad used powerful language and spoke to the moment; not only was it halftime at the Super Bowl, but in America as well. Eastwood delivered a top notch performance that triggered emotion and will be remembered by many.

Keep it classy: W Promote devised an infographic illustrating that sex sells 16 percent of the time, but comedy is still the leader at 49 percent. When critiquing the Super Bowl commercials, I’d say that most brands did a good job of promoting their company in a sexy manner. For example, H&M’s David Beckham Bodywear ad was a hit at the party I attended. Will viewers remember that trunks are $14.95, the Twitter hashtag or website at the end? Maybe. What’s interesting is that only 17 percent incorporated some level of social media into their campaigns to continue the buzz. Supermodel Adriana Lima got her fair share of the spotlight. She appeared in the Kia A Dream Car. For Real Life and the Teleflora Give commercials.

However, there comes a point when brands cross the line and things can go south. The GoDaddy commercials are the first that come to mind. The company released Body Paint and The Cloud—two risqué ads that currently have the lowest ranking on the Ad Meter. Truth is that sex does sell, but companies need to know how to do it right and keep it classy.

Display a personal side: Whenever companies can show their true colors, it bodes well with viewers. While the General Electric commercials weren’t exactly what anyone would call funny, they revealed an up close view of the company that allowed viewers to become familiar with their organization. For instance, Building Something Big highlighted their people and how they work while Power and Beer demonstrated a specific example of how they’re involved in the beer making process; they produce the power that makes the beer. In addition, GE also included Twitter hashtags at the end of their commercials.

Incorporate kids: There’s just something amusing about kids doing and saying funny things. People get a kick out of that kind of stuff and brands can benefit from using this strategy in campaigns. One of the best examples this year was by a company that is known for creating humorous baby ads. Etrade’s Fatherhood commercial does a great job of including key messages in a comical way.

Use of celebrities: While it might cost a pretty penny, some brands opt to go the celebrity route to garner attention. The Tease commercial hosted by Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt featured John Stamos and made for a memorable and entertaining ad. Brands should keep in mind that they don’t always need to have a celebrity in their campaign for it to be a success, but it can help. After all, this year proved that our four-legged friends can yield the same results.

Promote online offerings: Nowadays, there are an abundance of opportunities to be had online. Instead of using a mailer or email to feature various offerings, some brands took to the Super Bowl stage to showcase their goods. For example, TaxACT’s Free to Pee ad promoted the company’s free Federal Return. According to the company’s website, the story reminds viewers how good it feels to be totally free, the same feelings unique to TaxACT's free product. In addition, Drew Brees and his son were featured in Chase’s Football ad where he demonstrated how users can pay with their smartphones and transfer funds to anyone’s account via the firm’s QuickPay service. Lastly, while people may have previously thought that Priceline was strictly for online bidding, The Bus commercial educates on the ability to get hotels on sale without having to bid, as well as how it can be done on a smartphone. 

Clearly there are various tactics that companies can employ when creating campaigns. And while Super Bowl commercials are known for their entertainment value, it’s important to incorporate calls to action in the message. For example, some brands shared their Twitter hashtag, Facebook, YouTube or website following their ad, and others created microsites. If your company is creating a campaign, no matter how big or how small, it’s important to make the most of that opportunity.


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