Super Bowl payoff

Jan 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

So Super Bowl 2003 is history.
For those marketers who participated the annual question is: Was it better to create a one-hit spectacular, or did the advertisers that chose to go the multiple-buy route benefit from a halo effect?
Brand managers are still tallying the reactions, but the planners’ inquests will begin this week. The more interesting question, from a planning point of view, is what do you do with your brand if you passed on the game because of reasons of exclusivity or cost?
Of course, the answer is entirely dependent on client and category. How you responded to Reebok’s first Bowl appearance in a decade was very different depending upon whether you were Puma or Nike.
Puma is the hot brand of the moment. It clearly felt it was both too small and too cool to worry about the event. Paul Woolmington, CEO of the Media Kitchen, Puma’s agency, said you do not plan launches around the Super Bowl; you pursue your own agenda.
If you are Nike, however, you have a history of subverting rival brands’ “official” efforts at events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup. Last week, Nike was all over TV screens with its hilarious new “streaker” commercials during the “alternative” television events: the championship games, the Golden Globes, “American Idol.” But it is not the only strategy.
“Puma just doesn’t play the game,” Mr. Woolmington said. “If you were to try, though, you go local or to an unwired network. You collaborate with the local cable operators, and/or you go to multiple cable networks like AT&T Comcast. Instead of being a top-down buy, it’s a bottom-up buy. You buy on a local level.”
If there is an average of 91/2 minutes of advertising available each hour (this does not include ABC’s own trailers) then there are perhaps eight minutes sold by the network and 11/2 minutes available locally.
And of course not all advertisers must be national. However, if you did try to pull together a virtual national buy, then you could expect to pay a severe premium. A full unwired network might cost as much as $3 million for a 30-second spot, but no one really does that. The premium over a network buy might be as high as 300 percent.
Instead you obtain a better cost per thousand going to AT&T Comcast, for example. And although it risks the wrath of an Anheuser Busch by selling its airtime to, say, Miller, AT&T Comcast is under no obligation not to.
An alternative strategy
Miller, like Nike and Coke with its new “real” campaign, is all over TV screens right now with its controversial “catfight” commercial starring a blonde and a brunette who fight in their underwear. Not only has Miller’s TV buy been heavy this past week or so but it has also exploited the full PR potential of the ad.
It’s turned a negative into a positive: It can’t be in the game, so “catfight” has been in almost every Super Bowl story as the “ad you wished you could see.” It cleverly piggybacks the strategy of the Bowl advertisers. They have created multiple events around the Super Bowl-some on site-all linked to the sexiness of the ad. They promoted this using print, outdoor and online. The idea is to spend half as much again of the cost of making the ad and buying the airtime on promoting the fact that you are doing it.
You can choose to ignore the Super Bowl, but if you are a blue-chip mainstream brand, this is really not just about economics, As Mr. Woolmington said: “No one buys the Super Bowl on the basis of the one-off buy. It’s a turnkey event. During the six-week period before and after you can plan and introduce new products, and it’s emotional. It’s about making your staff, your suppliers and your sales force feel good.