Five Content Takeaways From The Super Bowl
So, it’s over for another year.
If you’re an American Football fan, the final whistle of Super Bowl 50 heralded a few hours of delirious celebration (if you’re a Broncos fan), a desperate lunge into bed for a fitful hour of sleep (if you didn’t get the day off work today) and the prospect of a long, long wait until the NFL returns in September (unless you count the player trade speculation. And the draft. And training camp. And the… ah, forget it).
But the Super Bowl is more than just a game. It’s also a giant exercise in marketing and content creation, eclipsing the rest of the year’s events like an unsightly mothership of money and ratings domination.
As the ticker tape and over-priced burger wrappers drift off into the breeze for another year, what did we learn from the bulbous media monster that was Super Bowl 50?
1) Yes, the ads are expensive. We get it already. But…
Let’s get this out of the way, because we know you’re dying to know. This year, CBS said the cost of a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl started at…
FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.
That’s a lot of Pepsi Cola, folks. It’s also about 76% up on 10 years ago.
But, remember, advertisers are also drawing in a big, big audience. Last year, NBC’s coverage of “the Big Game” (which isn’t trademarked by the NFL yet – not that they haven’t tried) drew in 114.4million viewers, and Super Bowl 50 was widely expected to end up around that mark, if not higher.
Super Bowl ads have become a bonafide audience-magnet in their own right. Some viewers legitimately love the creativity, while others just like slowing down to rubber-neck and find out what a multi-million dollar budget buys you in ad-world.
With that much of a budget at stake, creators can’t afford to be that reactive and spontaneous (although there is some scope for choose-your-own-ending ads driven by social interaction). As a result, they’re often celebrity-packed, dramatic, or just plain weird.
However, one misconception about the Super Bowl ad is that it’s a one-shot deal. With that much cash leaving their wallets, advertisers haven’t been shy about revealing their big creations before Super Sunday itself. Take 2014, for example; between December and January, more than 6 million hours of teasers and ads for that year’s Super Bowl were devoured. And Google has said that 37% of the total time devoted to watching these ads was before the game itself.
2) Is Twitter still a big player for brands in the run-up to the Super Bowl?
Everyone remember Oreo’s Dunk In The Dark tweet in 2013? When the biscuit brand’s nimble social media team leapt on an unexpected Super Bowl blackout, they highlighted that the canny use of social can sometimes get you as much attention as mortgaging the house (And garden. And car. And surrounding villages) on a Super Bowl ad.
Despite Twitter’s well-documented identity crisis, it remains a go-to for brands looking to be reactive and creative around Super Bowl time. That’s mostly because it gives you a chance to jump into the stream quickly, and pick up buzz right at the time that something’s becoming a talking point.
The microblogging platform has seen an 885% rise in content published by brands on gameday since 2012. In 2015, that growth amounted to 11,800 gameday tweets, up 82% on the previous year.
Brands are also choosing to publish a lot earlier, with notable rises in content released two or three weeks before. However, while brands are active on Twitter, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going all in with ads. There’s a lot of scope on the platform to take advantage of live events, but rival platforms are eating into its natural market as they appear to offer more engagement than Twitter’s fast-paced chronological stream.
In an interview with Bloomberg Business, Wix’s chief marketing officer Omer Shai said:
“The Twitter budget is so small, I don’t even remember. Most of the power audience is on Facebook and YouTube.”
It’ll be interesting to see how much Google crashes the party this year. The Godzilla of Search unveiled its own “Real-Time ads” format a couple of weeks before the Super Bowl, giving brands the chance to pre-create ads and edit one element to reflect a late-breaking trend or water-cooler moment (Think 2013’s blackout, or 2015’s Left Shark). Expect that experiment to continue later in the month, when the Oscars rolls into town.
3) Did the generation shift crash the Doritos Super Bowl party?
Super Bowl 50 marked the last year of the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest; the annual ad event in which the tortilla brand threw open its doors (and a coveted commercial break spot) to budding creatives.
This year, Frito Lay offered the winning entry a million dollars, an ad spot during the game, and the chance to work with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder. And it showcased two joint winners this year; a short called Doritos Dogs and a more unusual effort entitled Ultrasound. So why is the company canning the contest now?
In an interview with Fortune, chief marketing officer Ram Krishnan said that the idea originally targeted millenials, an audience that has “grown up” over the last decade. Now the game is different.
“Our Doritos target is [now] Gen Z consumers and they’re already content creators. You don’t need a brand to play a role”, he said.
The Verge was less convinced, declaring that “what began as a supposed opportunity for aspirational filmmakers has become a cheap and tacky campaign that exploits creators of free labor and promotion”. And, of course, the company isn’t entirely over the crowdsourcing bug. It’s now pushing a year-round call for content known as The Legion of the Bold.
So while Frito Lay doesn’t seem likely to give up on the promise of user-generated content, it probably reckons it’s prudent to announce that it’s adjusting the terms of its agreement with a new generation of savvy creators.
4) Sport continues to push the boundaries. But how far will audiences go?
Just like religion and pornography, sport has the money and the audience to keep it at the forefront of technological trends. This year’s Super Bowl wasn’t too far from the tech hive of Silicon Valley, and it promised innovations such as the FreeD EyeVision 360 system. The set-up consisted of 36 5K cameras positioned around the field, designed to give CBS the chance to swirl and poke around in replays of the action in immersive 3D.
Virtual Reality is becoming a hot topic of conversation yet again, with the much-heralded Oculus Rift soon to join the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard on the market. Microsoft thinks fans won’t want to stop at just sitting in the middle of the action, however. Late last week, it released a video showcasing the future potential of its HoloLens technology. This innovation could give viewers the chance to overlay text and stats on screen, and create little interactive stadiums on their coffee table like an NFL version of the little Princess Leia that R2D2 beamed out at the start of Star Wars.
American sports fans are more into their stats than the average bear, so if it’s going to work with anyone, it’s going to fly with them. But, while it’s undoubtedly shiny, it’s worth remembering shiny doesn’t mean sticky. It’s got to feel natural and meet a need for the average consumer, otherwise it’s just a fly-by-night add on with a slick sheen (hello, 3D cinema).
5) Puppies are still box office
Cute cats and dogs rule the internet, which is still great news for Animal Planet. Puppy Bowl XII once again proved a heart-melting warm-up to the big event, and this year it even had 360-degree video and its own fantasy league option. It’s a good bet that some of the people who tuned in weren’t necessarily Super Bowl fans.
Umm…did we mention there were puppies? Because there were. Enjoy.