We Asked Stagwell's Global Leaders: Does the Super Bowl Matter?
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Americans swear by the marketing value of the Super Bowl and a host of mythologies surround ideal slot placement, annual “best of” lists, and more. But price tags, declining viewership, and the global pivot away from traditional TV advertising makes us wonder. As the Super Bowl concludes and the Olympics continue, we asked global leaders from Stagwell and our affiliate partners for their thoughts on this key question: what is the value for modern brands in major sporting tentpoles like the Super Bowl, World Club or Olympics? Explore four POVs below.
WTF (Where’s the Freaking Value?)
Toby Southgate, Global CEO, Forsman & Bodenfors
Welcome, both linear and on-demand viewers, to the annual season of marketing insanity that is the Super Bowl. Welcome to lists, best-ofs, some epic voiceover casting and – for a limited time only! – music licensing and talent fees that’ll make grown adults weep.
This year, as happens with frequency on our rolling global events calendar, we get to layer the Winter Olympics on top of the Super Bowl boondoggle. “Where should I be investing my media dollars?” comes the plaintive cry of marketers across the land. “Who cares, it’s the freakin’ Super Bowl! Snap it up while you can!” And when snapping up comes in at a couple hundred thousand dollars a second – airtime only – then maybe a cynical voice of reason somewhere should ask the simple question: WTF? Where’s the Freakin’ Value?
Whoever it was who really said “half my marketing budget works, I just don’t know which half” could probably hold up the Super Bowl, or any one of the other tentpole global sporting properties, as the primus inter parus examples of this dichotomy. If you’re there and you get it right, people will talk about you. If you’re there and you get it wrong, people will talk about you. If you’re not there, people will talk about you not being there.
For Super Bowl specifically, there’s a purity of value by association that no other event can command. This remains the most-watched live event on the planet. It happens in one evening (unlike the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup), and – here’s the incredible part – it’s maybe the one televised event where real people in the real world will engage in conversations about the advertising they see. You could probably run a very simple segmentation analysis and find 3 major buckets of Super Bowl advertising – the funny, the emotional, and the weird. All have the power to engage and stimulate, or to isolate and offend. But what unites every marketer committing to this opportunity is the knowledge that just being there is no longer enough.
What happens around the 30 seconds your brand is on air? If you do break through sufficiently to provoke a conversation in the real world, how do you keep that momentum moving? How do you translate it into commercial impact? If your agency partners aren’t pushing that agenda as hard as they are the creative execution of the timing of the placement, then they’re not helping you resolve the “which half works?” question. Because now it’s all linked. And it all has to work.
Unifying Moments Make the Investment Worth It
Anna Panczyk – Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board, Brand New Galaxy, UK
For me, the answer is built into the question. Yes, the world is fragmented and people do feel disconnected – and so now, especially after the past two years, there’s a renewed impulse for people to find reasons to connect and be together. Sport offers a great way for brands to connect to families, groups of friends and fans – and sometimes even a whole country – with a straightforward common understanding and message.
Sports allows brands to generate this reach and awareness on a huge scale, but also to tie itself into those personal feelings of togetherness, connection, pride. Sport involves powerful emotions – and let’s not forget, playing, watching and sporting is enjoyable and fun.
On the other hand, being directly commercially involved in these sort of events is one of the most expensive routes to market. Brand Keys research (https://brandkeys.com) showed that only about 20% of the brands that advertise during prestigious events like the Super Bowl actually emotionally engage viewers. So, you could say – and many do - that involvement like this s a waste of money. But the actual impact of these things is harder to measure. There are plenty of Olympic or Super Bowl ads that stay with you, resonate beyond, become shared, transform into memes. And there are plenty of lower–level activation that don’t carry the same cost, but still allow brands to benefit (activations on social media, sales promotions etc).
What sporting events prove to us every time is that it is always about the journey you take, not just the ultimate goal. And the same logic applies to those great campaigns which – yes, at the level of buying a Super Bowl ad, can also be hugely expensive. But brands continue to recognise the fact that these are rare and unique moments to be shared with their potential users or brand lovers. Moments of national unity, mass awareness, positivity, togetherness and fun – which brand wouldn’t want to get involved?!
Sport is the New Fireplace in a Modern Household
Ashish Khazanchi – Managing Partner, Enormous Brands, India
Where does broadcast stand in the time of Reels, Stories, OTT and the severely divided attention economy? Sport, for most, is possibly the last remaining bastion of appointment viewing across the world. The bigger the stage, the bigger the draw of it.
Events like the Super Bowl, FIFA, Olympics, IPL are important for brands for reasons larger than just the univariate way of looking at it for pure reach. The key for brands really is the intense engagement. Sport for most audiences is a part of identity, and identity narratives. There’s intense identification with the heroes and the myths and their teams. This makes big sporting moments the last remaining lean-forward viewing platform in the era of skip ads and incessant scrolling. Sport is the new fireplace in a modern household. It gets families, friends and communities together. There’s joy, conversations, laughter, tears, jubilation and people huddled together over shared nervous energies. These moments are prime for brands to tap into this energy and audience engagement to drive the conversations towards greater brand love.
How Can Culturally Important Moments Help Tell Brand Narratives?
Daniel Felipe Cuervo – Strategic Planning & Growth VP, Buentipo, Colombia
Culturally important moments for each country, such as the Super Bowl, World Cup, or Olympics, are moments that brands should take advantage of, for the good and not for the bad. These types of events are perfect for brands to talk about their values and beliefs beyond the product they want to advertise or sell.
The budget investment that brands need for these spaces should be leveraged as a long-term strategy, rather than their bottom lines in the short-term. Our recommendation to brands: Be smart. Take advantage of this space to create advertising pieces that are highly relevant and above all, tell a story that answers why your brand exists. Go beyond the hunger to sell your product and use this as a chance to communicate your purpose, values and beliefs as a brand.
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