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Super Bowl Ads are Really Worth $4 Million

Jan 30 2014, 3:30am CST | by

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Super Bowl Ads are Really Worth $4 Million

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Super Bowl Ads are Really Worth $4 Million

This article is by Rob Siltanen, founder and chief creative officer of Siltanen & Partners, a Los Angeles-based advertising agency. Mr. Siltanen has created several Super Bowl commercials, including “To the crazy ones,” which launched Apple’s celebrated “Think different” campaign.

Last year the Super Bowl was the most watched event in America with more than 108 million viewers, but the really fascinating thing is why people watched. Several studies have proven that 50% of the Super Bowl audience tunes in just to watch the ads.

Commercials are often considered interruptions to the entertainment we love. But Super Bowl ads are different—instead of being intruders, they are like the “must have” guests that keep a party rockin’.

Despite America’s love affair with Super Bowl commercials—many marketers believe their enormous cost is not worth the price. This year, a 30-second spot is an eye-popping $4 million while a 60-second spot goes for a jaw-dropping $8 million. And let’s not forget the cost of producing a Super Bowl commercial. The average Super Bowl spot has a production cost that’s north of $1 million and, based on how extravagant the concept is, some can easily double or triple this price.

Take this enormous cost, mix it with the possibility of receiving poor creative reviews, and combine it all with the fact that you have zero guarantee your brand’s sales will increase—and you can see why a lot marketers don’t want any part of the Super Bowl.

I have long believed the Super Bowl to be one of the smartest investments a company can possibly make. In fact, the Super Bowl makes more sense today than ever before.

Why the big game is the nation’s biggest bargain.

When I say the Super Bowl is one of the best investments a brand can possibly make, people often reply, “That’s easy for you to say—it’s not your money on the line.”  That’s true, but only partially.  As the owner of an ad agency, my income comes from the continued success of our clients and if we fail them, it’s virtually certain our agency will be fired. So I do have a certain amount of skin in the game. But my enthusiasm for the Super Bowl isn’t because I love to gamble—quite the contrary. It’s because I prefer to play it safe with money. And, for good marketers with smart and creative ad agencies, the Super Bowl is one the safest bets I’ve ever seen. What other venue better assures that people are going to watch your commercial or talk about your brand more than being on the Super Bowl? What other venue says you’re a first-rate, big-time, trustworthy brand more than the Super Bowl? What other place allows you to catch the eyes of 108 million men and women with one fell swoop? What event can better excite and motivate your internal staff, sales force, or franchise network? What event can better tie-in and harness the power of digital and social media? And what other event better allows your brand and products to be talked about for weeks leading up to the event, during the event, and for weeks, months, and even years after the event?

There isn’t one.

The PR value and “replay value” of a great Super Bowl spot alone can be worth the game’s high media cost.

In 2012 and 2013, we created Super Bowl spots that helped introduce a new line of performance running shoes for Skechers.  These spots worked in combination with a PR push, a social media effort, theme-related window displays, and in-store materials.  The fun, engaging 30-second spots ranked among the highest in consumer likability polls, and they were featured on shows ranging from Good Morning America and The Colbert Report to The Tonight Show. The spots were also replayed in their entirety on over 200 news stations across the country, were reported on by hundreds of newspapers, were shown and written about on hundreds of blogs, discussed on the radio, and received millions of YouTube hits.  The value of the PR garnered from these spots easily quadrupled the actual Super Bowl media cost.

But advertising and PR buzz is worthless if it doesn’t lead to sales. So what has happened with Skechers sales since that Super Bowl effort in February of 2012? Well, over the past two years Skechers has increased its sales by an average of 26% and its stock price hit the point of tripling. Meanwhile, its performance shoe division was recently named “Brand of the Year” by the footwear industry’s largest trade magazine.

Can all of this success be attributed to the Super Bowl? No. Skechers has made a number of excellent moves during this period and they have really good products. But there’s no denying that having the right Super Bowl advertising effort served as a lightening rod for the entire Skechers brand.

The magical power of the Super Bowl has also played a key role in redefining and jump-starting sales for brands such as Audi and Chrysler. Audi has now been in seven-straight Super Bowls, and with cool commercials like last year’s 60-second “Prom” spot, it’s no surprise that the carmaker has become the new darling of the luxury-car segment—doubling their market share since 2006.

Chrysler has also leveraged the Super Bowl with “game-changing” commercial efforts over the past several years. They debuted on the event in 2011 with a blockbuster 2-minute spot starring Eminem and followed it up in 2012 with the stellar 2-minute Clint Eastwood-starring “Half-time in America” spot, and over the past three years their sales have shot up by an impressive 54%.

Should you go or should you stay?

The Super Bowl is not for everybody or every brand. If you have a serious message you need to convey, you might think twice about delivering it in front of an audience that is wired to party. It is my belief that delivering a serious message in this venue requires at least a one-minute spot because it takes a good thirty seconds to put the audience in the proper mood. The Chrysler Eminem spot was two-minutes long, as was last year’s “God made a farmer” Dodge truck spot —which, in my opinion, was one of the most impressive commercials in the game. If you don’t have huge money to spend on an extended length spot, other tent-pole events like the Academy Awards and Grammys might be a wise, cost-effective alternative.

The Super Bowl also isn’t a good place if you don’t like public scrutiny. The game brings with it every type of rating poll, measuring system, and press review imaginable. Come Monday morning, your brand’s commercial performance will be ranked against all competitors and talked about via TV, newspapers and social media across the world.

But if you want to give your brand or product instant notoriety and the buzz of a billion bees, there’s nothing like the Super Bowl.  If you tackle it the right way, orchestrate a comprehensive game plan, and deliver relevant and attention-worthy creative, you’ll meet or exceed your goals.

The slots for this year’s Super Bowl sold out more than two months before the big game, so the time to start thinking about next year’s game is now. Give it some serious thought. Yes, it will cost some major dough and put some butterflies in your stomach, but it’s really the best marketing value you’ll find anywhere.

Fortune favors the bold, but it also favors the smart. And for marketing savvy advertisers, there’s no smarter place to be than on the Super Bowl. It’s worth every million.


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