How the Super Bowl became the championship of advertising and how to win it today

  • The Super Bowl is the rare television event where the audience is actually willing to watch the commercials, which has turned it into a advertising showcase.
  • According to legendary advertising duo Silverstein and Goodby, the Super Bowl is not the time to sell hard, it is a time to entertain while making a simple point about the client.
  • The US CMO of AB InBev Marcel Marcondes says the most important thing is to find the sweet spot between what the brand stands for and what is culturally relevant.
  • The cost of running an ad during the Super Bowl has continued to increase while viewership has started to fall off. Despite that, advertisers still say it is worth it and that the value lasts longer than the game.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Every year as we approach the Super Bowl you start to see football themed food and products everywhere. You might get an invitation to a Super Bowl party from a friend who hasn’t watched a football game all year.

It is more like a national holiday than a sporting event – one that involves watching, evaluating and discussing television commercials. This tradition has turned the Super Bowl into the championship of advertising.

The Super Bowl ad that changed everything

Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad is credited with paving the way for the advertising showcase that the Super Bowl has become.

1984 apple adYouTube/Steve Hayden1984 Apple ad with original story board art.

Steve Hayden, who was one of the creators of the ad, talked about how it ended up running during the Super Bowl in an interview with Business Insider’s “Brought to you by…” podcast. Hayden said that Steve Jobs wanted an ad to announce the advent of Macintosh that would stop the world in its tracks. After someone suggested the only place to do that would be the Super Bowl. Hayden recalls how Jobs said he didn’t know anyone that watched the Super Bowl.

The ad which was directed by Ridley Scott almost wasn’t shown at the Super Bowl but is now hailed as a major turning point in Super Bowl advertising.

The CMO of the NFL, Tim Ellis called the move brilliant and brave.

Rich Silverstein of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners says the 1984 ad changed everything and made the Super Bowl an advertising event.

Doing it right

Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby are the cofounders of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and are responsible for many famous ad campaigns including “Got Milk?”. They have also have been behind many Super Bowl commercials including the E*trade chimpanzee, the Budweiser lizards, and Pepsi’s 2019 “More Than Okay.” Silverstein and Goodby now have an advertising course on MasterClass with one full lesson dedicated to the Super Bowl.

The duo stopped by Business Insider ahead of Super Bowl LIV to share their insights on what works for the Super Bowl. They say it is important to be funny but in an intelligent way. The Super Bowl is not the time to sell too hard according to Goodby, it is a time to entertain while making a simple point about the client.

How things have changed

Bud Light SeltzerBud Light Seltzer

AB InBev US CMO Marcel Marcondes says the most important thing is to find the sweet spot between what your brand stands for and what is culturally relevant. Marcondes says that for brands like Budweiser there is a consistency around what the brand stands for, but keeping up with what is culturally relevant can be challenging because things change so fast.

Marcondes says in the past you would be able to plan for things like this four to six months in advance, now he says, things change overnight. He explains that AB InBev decided just two weeks before the game to let consumers decide which Bud Light Seltzer ad they would air – helping both commercials rack up views ahead of the game.

Is it worth it?

The price of a 30-second Super Bowl spot continues to climb with Fox charging as much as $US5.6 million this year. Even though, Super Bowl TV viewership dropped each of the last four years to the lowest level in a decade in 2019.

Silverstein says, “you cannot ignore the Super Bowl.” He insists it is worth it because it isn’t just the ad in the Super Bowl, it’s before the Super Bowl and there is an afterlife as well.

Last year, the major Super Bowl commercials that were released before the game were already watched over 100 million times online by Friday morning before the game, according to analytic company Pex that tracked ads across different platforms.

Studies have shown that the economics do work. Movies with trailers that aired during the Super Bowl were found to boost opening weekend sales by more than twice the cost of the ad time.A Stanford study showed that Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads boosted its sales by almost twice what they spent on the commercials.

Marcondes points out that “it’s rare to see a country that has a moment like this when the whole nation stops in front of a TV set to really watch the game. This is one thing, but I think Super Bowl brings something else on top of this, which is the fact that people are willing to see the commercials. This doesn’t happen anywhere I guess. Right. It’s a an advertising festival as well.”

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