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Super Bowl Ads a Bargain?

Jan 25, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Super Bowl stalwarts General Motors and FedEx are sitting on the sidelines this year. NBC is still hawking unwanted inventory a week before the event. A Miller High Life campaign is mocking rival Anheuser-Busch’s seven spots in the big game as an out-of-touch extravagance.

They must have a point, right? Surely, spending $3 million on a Super Bowl ad in the midst of a crushing economic downturn is a foolish waste when chief marketing officers’ jobs are on the line.

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On the contrary: It’s a hell of a bargain.

The Super Bowl presents not just a huge platform with astounding audience numbers where consumers actually lean forward to watch your ad. It also pays surprising ancillary dividends in awareness: reams of press coverage that drive word of mouth and stampeding traffic to Web sites. Most important, for the right company, it can establish a relationship with key consumers and sell product.

“Super Bowl week is now the seventh biggest selling week of the year for our company,” said Anheuser-Busch InBev North America President Dave Peacock. “It’s the only week in the top 10 that’s not in May, June, July or August. We’ve created a beer occasion.”

Beyond that, Mr. Peacock argued, the buy isn’t even all that risky for A-B. The game routinely draws roughly 50% of the viewing public, and last year it drew 46% of adult beer drinkers, according to MRI. And, in an era when ads are routinely time-shifted into oblivion, consumers seeking to get a second look at A-B’s ads drove up traffic to its branded Web sites 600% during the week following the game. (According to Nielsen BuzzMetrics, A-B’s ads drew 21 million views in the seven days following last year’s game.)

Hyundai also can attest to the power of the big game. The automaker purchased two spots in the third quarter of last year’s Super Bowl to promote its luxury Genesis model. The ads, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, were designed to drive people to Web site HyundaiGenesis.com; the URL got two subtle plugs in each ad. It worked—and how: More than 300,000 people went to the site during the game, staying an average of five and a half minutes, said Joel Ewanick, marketing VP at Hyundai Motor America.

Smaller-scale marketers also find the game a great opportunity to build awareness.

Consider GoDaddy, the Web domain registrar known for its raunchy, censor-flustering ads. “The day before we ran our first ad in 2005, our market share of new domain registrations was 16%,” said Bob Parsons, GoDaddy’s founder-CEO. The following week, it rose to 25%, “and held,” he added. “The next year, it moved from 25% to 32%. We had a nice bump every game. Right now, we are at 46% worldwide.”

Needless to say, GoDaddy is back in this year. A Super Bowl ad “will pay for itself before the year is out,” Mr. Parsons predicted. “We have not been in a Super Bowl that didn’t make [us] money.”

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