What has become the third most-watched program in history, Super Bowl LVII averaged 113 million viewers this year, according to Forbes. Feeling the effects of COVID-19, the 2021 Super Bowl only attracted 96.4 million viewers but managed to redeem itself in 2022 with an average of 112.3 million viewers, 700,000 less than this year, according to CNBC.
Even so, the Super Bowl continues to hold the reputation for the most ambitious and most expensive commercials shown throughout the program. Yet, why does it continue to be the prime opportunity for advertisement when its viewership ratings constantly fluctuate?
Why are advertisements important?
In the simplest form, an advertisement is a company’s way of gaining attention toward its product. For instance, Super Bowl viewership peaked this year during Rihanna’s halftime performance with 118.7 million viewers. She seized the opportunity to promote her makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, by pulling out a compact and touching up her makeup in the middle of her performance.
When attention is all focused on one program, the chance to put your best efforts out is never wasted, because no matter what it will have people talking, according to Patrick O’Donovan, director of business leadership at McCann Toronto, an integrated marketing communications agency.
“What is the relevant way in which I can make this brand play a meaningful role in my audience’s life?,” he said. “It’s basically finding the connection between what that role does.”
How do campaigns work?
Money, time and effort are poured into advertisements made for the Super Bowl because its broad target audience is so important.
“Marketing plans are how a firm knows how big an audience to target, which audience to target, what type of stories will be relevant to the target and which media vehicles to employ to reach the target,” said David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto.
When planning an advertisement for television, companies will buy a certain amount of gross rating points (GRP) and time, meaning the advertisement must be seen by a certain amount of people before it stops being played in its specific time slot.
“Marketing plans are an integral part of driving sales. No marketing means fewer sales and consequently fewer profits,” said Daniel Tsai, a professor of arts and science at the University of Toronto.
Why is the Super Bowl prime advertising?
The advertisements of the Super Bowl have become a culture of themselves. When tuning into the program, viewers are expecting to see new and outstanding advertisements made specifically for Super Bowl night. This has become an event where people are tuning in for more than just football — it’s the spectacle of the program. The halftime show brings an entertainment element to the Super Bowl, ensuring it’s about more than football and widening its audience.
“It’s taken years for the Super Bowl to build up to this. Now it’s just expected with all the hype around it,” said Tsai.
No matter what, a commercial played during the program will be seen by millions, but the credit that comes along with being a company that advertises during the event is a win in and of itself.
“There’s no other property where people are watching to see the ads, public relations and everything like that is diminishing that every single year more and more,” said O’Donovan.
How do companies succeed when creating Super Bowl ads?
Advertisements are deemed successful when their message reaches their intended audience, but in an event where the audience is filled with millions of different viewers, a shot in the dark is sometimes all one can do.
Some companies take a hard-hitting approach like with advertisements surrounding domestic abuse, as rates tend to rise during the NFL season in the United States, according to a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
Others take the comedic approach, such Tubi. At this year’s Super Bowl, the streaming service ran a 15-second ad that had viewers believing the channel was being changed in the middle of a climactic end to the game.
The commercial upset millions, but accomplished its goal in the company being talked about for days following the game.
“If this is happening, how can we really get our message with the highest amount of impact possible … I think you absolutely have to hit a mood and a tone to properly advertise,” said O’Donovan.
No matter what, the Super Bowl is a golden opportunity for companies to be seen and talked about. Advertisements are what drive company sales, and in a market where millions will be watching, and anticipating great commercials, the Super Bowl continues to be a prime opportunity.