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Breaking down the 2020 Super Bowl Commercials

It’s that time of the year again. America’s most expensive annual sporting event has come and gone, the NFL’s Super Bowl LIV (yes, they’re roman numerals). Sparking anticipation, excitement, and controversy, this event is as enthralling for sport-lovers as it is for marketers dedicated to watching the iconic Super Bowl commercials.

This year’s big game had over 102 million total views. That’s a fair share of Gridiron lovers (jargon for American Football). In fact, the Super Bowl is historically the world’s single biggest annual advertising platform for brands, accumulating almost $400 million from ad revenue alone thanks largely to the 77 advertising slots sold to brands.

For clients, the investment is huge. Prices for a 30 second spot reach $5–6 million, and other media, digital, agency, PR and production costs bring the total average spend anywhere up to $20 million. Although the price tag may seem hefty, the magnitude and reach of the Super Bowl makes it an unparalleled platform for driving impact for a brand. That’s why, year after year, the big spending categories return to advertise: FMCG, food and beverage, automotive, retail, tech, financial, insurance and government.

This year, we invited our Brisbane clients along to enjoy the best and worst Super Bowl spots and tease out the key themes, accompanied by American beers and comfort food.

To kick start (pardon the pun) the party, our Head of Strategy, Caroline Starecky and Creative Director, Lindsay Thompson walked us through the big hits and wide misses. Unlike previous years, 2020 Super Bowl ads took a side step from anything too controversial and steered clear of any political statements. Brands generally made more attempts to be playful, light and humorous.

Diving further, we categorised the Super Bowl ads across six key themes that emerged: movie references, brand mashups, female empowerment, emotional journeys, celebrity endorsements and nostalgia.

We saw brands like Amazon, Dashlane and Hyundai bring their product features and benefits to life through humourous and relatable scenarios. These commercials were well received by the public, stirring up conversation and creating major uplifts in brand interaction.

Movie references were masterfully executed by the likes of Jeep and Mountain Dew. The Jeep ad saw Bill Murray reprise his role from iconic film ‘Groundhog Day’, changing up his boring repetitive days into exciting adventures thanks to the new Jeep Gladiator. The spot was recognised as the number 1 Super Bowl ad this year according to USA Today’s Ad Meter live consumer poll.

Some brands created emotional journeys to connect with customers, such as in the ads for New York Life Insurance, Microsoft and Google. Microsoft leveraged the story of Katie Sower becoming the first female to coach in the Super Bowl to stir emotions. And Google evoked a moving love story between a man and his late wife, Loretta, using a simple voice interface.

Once upon a time, a successful Super Bowl spot was its own strategy. Now, the Super Bowl ad experience involves a multi-month, omnichannel strategy for brands that want to get noticed. Typical campaigns now consist of launch teasers, tactical social media, dynamic digital and other media platforms, all geared to make the Super Bowl ad the hero of the campaign.

Snickers incorporated their #SnickersFixTheWorld campaign effectively across all media platforms, including pre-purchasing a media spot in the paper for winning City, Kansas, using the simple line “You’re Welcome Kansas City”. Genius.

The staggering audience the Super Bowl attracts, gives brands a unique opportunity to assert themselves in the minds of consumers and generate long-term brand building on top of short term sales. Brand tracking research shows that the exclusivity of being a part of the Super Bowl gives advertising brands an advantage in perceived superiority, preference and trust against their competitors. At the same time, Tourism Australia’s 2018 Super Bowl commercial, for instance, generated an immediate 900% lift in Australian holiday bookings.

Ultimately, whether your brand is or isn’t a part of the Super Bowl ad experience, we can all appreciate (and potentially, critique) the creativity and innovation that emerges from an arena where the stakes are so high. So bring on Super Bowl 2021. We can’t wait to see the ads (oh, and who wins the game).

Author: Stephanie Collins

GrowthOps Brisbane, Junior Strategic Planner.

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