By Katrina Olson
The Super Bowl is known for two things: football and commercials. The players invest a lot of energy and the advertisers invest a lot of money—about $5 million for a 30-second spot. That's a big price tag, even for the most-watched U.S. television event of the year, with an estimated 114.4 million viewers.
Most of us can't afford to run Super Bowl ads, nor should we, because the setting is more suited to consumer brands. But we can still learn a few lessons from these business-to-consumer advertisers that apply in our business-to-business world.
1. Get more bang for your buck. Some advertisers spend as much as 25% of the cost of their Super Bowl ad buy on actually marketing the ad itself. Prior to the game, Honda released short teaser ads on Twitter for its "Yearbooks" commercial featuring celebs like Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Robert Redford and Magic Johnson. When you host a big event or garner important media coverage, play it up before (if possible) and after by retweeting, reposting, reprinting or otherwise repurposing the content.
2. People like familiar faces. You may not be able to afford Peter Fonda like Mercedes-Benz did for its "Easy Driver" spot, but your customers would probably love to see real employees or company officers in your annual report, in your recruitment brochures, and on your website.
3. Brand building is important. Most ads we saw Super Bowl Sunday were not asking for a sale; they were about generating awareness and creating positive associations for their brands. For example, Ford's "Go Further" ad highlights its "new ways to help you move through life faster, easier and better." You don't even see a car until 60 seconds into the spot. Don't get so busy pushing product that you forget about your brand.
4. Good production matters. The average Super Bowl ad costs more than $1 million to produce. That's about 20% of the media cost. You may not have the budget for or access to sophisticated CGI (computer-generated imagery) like in the Kia's "Hero's Journey" ad featuring Melissa McCarthy. But just running ads or sending emails isn't enough. They need a strong message, a real benefit, and an attractive and complementary design.
5. Take (calculated) risks. Snickers ran the first-ever live Super Bowl commercial featuring Star Wars actor Adam Driver. The Mars brand also released teaser ads, held "casting calls" for horses and livestreamed from the set prior to the commercial airing. Will it pay off?
6. Be ready for the results. The 84 Lumber ad, "The Journey Begins," tells the story of an immigrant family's journey to America and asks viewers to visit their website for the rest of the story. The 90-second commercial generated so much traffic to the company's website, it crashed during the game. Whether you're introducing a new product or launching a promotion, make sure you can deliver the product, service or customer experience you promised.
Every year, the Super Bowl entertains us by bringing together heavily invested players to fight for a year (or more) of bragging rights. And this year, the competition was fierce. Oh, and the football game was pretty good, too. Congratulations, Patriots fans!
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine's print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine's Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.comor via her website at katrinaolson.com.