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Why Super Bowl ads still matter

In the age of YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, why are marketers still willing to throw down millions of dollars for ...

Posted: Feb 1, 2018 12:17 PM
Updated: Feb 1, 2018 12:17 PM

In the age of YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, why are marketers still willing to throw down millions of dollars for a 30-second Super Bowl ad?

It's simple. The NFL's marquee event is TV's biggest game in town, and nothing else even comes close.

"A lot of the trends that we've seen in the media world over the past decade have only made the Super Bowl more important," said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Calkins, who has studied Super Bowl commercials for years, said the game bucks advertising trends in an important way. While network TV ratings are struggling, the NFL championship remains the best way to reach as many people as possible at once.

About 112 million people watched last year's matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. More than 61 million tuned in for the post-game show, according to Nielsen.

Other NFL playoff games trailed the Super Bowl by tens of millions of viewers. The only non-football telecast to crack the top five most-watched events was the Academy Awards, which was watched by a comparatively paltry 34 million people.

Related: President Trump opts out of Super Bowl interview

The Super Bowl is also just as much about the commercials as it is about the game itself.

"There's a symbolic nature of Super Bowl advertising that just isn't the same as other platforms," Calkins said. "A Super Bowl ad used to be a Super Bowl ad, but over the past decade, it's really become a two-week extravaganza."

M&M's is teasing this year's ad with a 15-second YouTube spot featuring actor Danny DeVito swimming in a pool of chocolate.

Calkins said another common tactic is for a company to release its ad ahead of time on YouTube. It might seem counterintuitive to give away the surprise before you have a captive audience, but Calkins said a good spot can generate welcome buzz.

If someone watches the ad on YouTube and enjoys it, he said, there's a chance that person will talk it up to friends at a Super Bowl party before it even hits the air.

A prime example of that phenomenon: Volkswagen's successful Passat commercial in 2011. The ad, titled "The Force," featured a child in a Star Wars costume attempting to use the franchise's special powers on his dog, a laundry machine and eventually, his parents' new car.

The minute-long YouTube version was a hit, and the kid even gave several interviews after it went viral -- including to an anchor on CNN. Time magazine called it "the ad that changed Super Bowl commercials forever."

"That got much more mileage than maybe you would have anticipated," Calkins said.

Related: Wendy's mocks McDonald's in Super Bowl spot

Although Super Bowl marketing can boost a brand's popularity, advertisers still have plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the event.

Player protests during the National Anthem have polarized the NFL, its fans and the country, and concussions have become an unavoidable threat to the sport's future.

It's also hard to ignore the regular season ratings. Viewership has been down the entire year, potentially owing to more competitive TV options, boring games and player injuries.

Some companies are also finding ways this year to capitalize on the Super Bowl without spending their money on TV.

Skittles, for example, is opting for a social media gimmick instead. The candy maker is showing its Super Bowl ad to a single teenager in California, and then broadcasting his reaction on the brand's Facebook page.

That kind of alternative marketing could become a trend, predicted Yanhui Zhao, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

"You want to make a commercial more interactive for the consumer," he said. "Marketers really want to win the second screen exposure. If the ad can be interactive, and if there's the motivation for consumers to share the ad on their social media, it can really increase exposure a lot."

Calkins, meanwhile, said the viewership issue on TV hasn't translated to the Super Bowl just yet. And without another way to guarantee that an ad sees that many eyeballs, he said it's hard to believe that advertisers would shy away.

"If it's 100 million people, it is still dramatically bigger than anything else that's out there," he added. "It all goes back to: What's the alternative?"

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844951

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161002006
Mobile741871379
Madison53279732
Shelby38325368
Baldwin38068589
Tuscaloosa36009641
Montgomery34482781
Lee25550263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22451406
Etowah20013517
Marshall18777316
Houston17727425
St. Clair16875358
Limestone16135218
Cullman16044303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14968306
Talladega14189299
DeKalb12967269
Walker12020380
Blount10714192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10157194
Coffee9414192
Colbert9334208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7254201
Russell707765
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6932195
Franklin6340108
Chambers5783142
Marion5401130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318189
Cherokee317563
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254460
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184947
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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