The Super Bowl is nearly here and most of Madison Avenue will be paying as much attention to what’s going on between quarters as during them. To give you some insight on how the advertising narratives will unspool on February 3rd, here are some of our game-day projections.
Consumers Want More Advertising and Less Advocacy
At a time when simply choosing to be—or not to be—associated with the Super Bowl can seem politically-charged, and advertisers are more eager than ever to serve as bullhorns for the interests of their audiences, consumers are starting to say ix-nay on the advocacyway—at least on game day. It’s not that viewers object to issue-oriented advertising, but rather that they believe there’s a better time and place for it. So while Amy Schumer, Cardi B., Rihanna and other Hollywood figures continue to use the Super Bowl as a platform for voicing their positions on social issues, two-thirds of consumers would prefer that brands not follow suit, according to a recent study conducted by the Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today. Baby Boomers are the most opposed, with 77% believing brands should back away from the political vs 55% of millennials and 43% of Gen Z.
Many brands, having already anticipated this sentiment in consumers, will likely develop 2019 creative around altruistic or product-based messaging rather than the issue orientation of recent years. Anheuser-Busch InBev, for example, ran an ostensibly political ad in 2017 that referenced the immigrant beginnings of Budweiser. This year, however, the brewer’s eight spots and six minutes of total air time will steer clear of political leanings.
Brands Big and Small Will Target Women Viewers Directly
Female-focused ads have never figured prominently in the Super Bowl—only about 25% feature women in leading roles—yet nearly half of today’s NFL viewers are women. Stephanie Robertson, director of North American skincare for Procter & Gamble, told AdAge that P&G wants to address this imbalance by bringing its Olay brand to “TV’s biggest stage” with a message aimed at “entertaining” female viewers. Empowering them is what Bumble has in mind with its first-ever Super Bowl ad that enlists tennis pro Serena Williams to help signal its evolution from dating platform to social networking app with proactive messages around all the relationships in women’s lives rather than just the romantic. The last time a major beauty brand aired a Super Bowl ad was Unilever’s Dove in 2006, so perhaps this year’s P&G and Bumble spots herald a future in which ads will be more reflective of audience makeup.
Automakers Back in High Gear
This year’s auto presence on game day promises to be much bigger than in 2018, perhaps to give 2019 sales a little boost given that sales projections for this year are lower than last. Five automotive companies were among the first half dozen advertisers to secure spots in the show and the growth has held steady ever since. Mercedes, which sat out SB LII, will feel at home given that LIII will be played in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hyundai returns for its 11th appearance in 12 years and will feature Jason Bateman in ads that go for the laugh rather than drama. The Korean auto brand also announced that 2019 would be its last as a sponsor for the Super Bowl, citing a desire to maintain its football strategy going forward but with a different spend strategy. Kia and Toyota will be back and Fiat Chrysler, Ford and additional German and Japanese brands are expected to join the fray, suggesting that the Super Bowl’s most important category is on its way back.
An Appetite for Light
In the food category, Doritos will feature Chance the Rapper promoting Flamin’ Hot Nacho Doritos and promising “more entertaining surprises” on game day. And while we prefer to focus on brands taking to the big screen for their advertising efforts, some are making a Super Bowl splash without airing any ads at all. Skittles and Gillette are capitalizing on viewers’ interest in game-day advertising without paying the $5 million+ for a 30-second spot by using the run-up to draw awareness to the brands and their social campaigns.
Game day is likely to present as many surprises on the advertising front as on the field, but marketers can expect to see a lot of brands staying off the soapbox and getting back to entertainment basics. We’ll be watching along with you so we can provide a synopsis on all the hits and misses of the day after LIII has called it a wrap.