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Super Bowl - For More Than Just Sponsors Part II

Super Bowl - For More Than Just Sponsors Part II

5 Minute Read

Article Highlights

• During the Super Bowl broadcast a number of non-sponsors advertise providing an opportunity to gain an immediate association with the NFL.

• MKTG breaks down the sponsor and non-sponsor activity during the Super Bowl broadcast.

• Sponsors can look beyond TV commercials to find ways to effectively activate during the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl advertising has been making headlines in recent days as it was announced that next year Canadian consumers will be able to see US commercials beginning in 2017. During next year’s commercial breaks, marketers will realize that it is not just NFL sponsors who are advertising during the broadcast, but non-sponsors as well. This can put pressure on existing sponsors who have invested all season with the league. as on the biggest stage in the NFL calendar, competitors can buy air time. This provides an opportunity for non-sponsors to draw an immediate association with the event through broadcast. To highlight this dynamic, MKTG is providing a follow up to a post from last year where we highlight sponsor and non-sponsor activity during the Super Bowl.

The NFL Values the Commercials & Viewing Experience

During the Olympic Games, only official sponsors are allowed to advertise on the broadcast. This gives protection to Olympic sponsors who are assured that they will be the only brands in their category advertising on the broadcast. However, since ads are a crucial part of the Super Bowl experience, restricting ads to only sponsors would limit the variety of commercials aired. The NFL has decided against this and prioritized the viewing experience which in turn has positively contributed to the brand of the Super Bowl. In the lone example of advertising exclusivity during the Super Bowl, brewing company AB-InBev has negotiated with the NFL for exclusivity rights. Beyond AB-InBev, there were a number of times when sponsors and non-sponsors conflicted during the broadcast of the Super Bowl.

This sponsor and non-sponsor dynamic can best be demonstrated in the automotive category. Despite Hyundai being an NFL sponsor, 8 other auto brands advertised during the Super Bowl. In addition to the automotive category, MKTG goes deeper into the Super Bowl advertising activity of sponsors and non-sponsors in select categories: 

Snack (Chocolate) - Confections manufacturer, Mars, is the official sponsor of the NFL and commonly use their sponsorship to promote their Snickers brand. This year, Mars aired a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers using actor Willem Defoe and footage of Marilyn Monroe. In addition to the commercial, Snickers ran a contest offering consumers a chance to win an ultimate Super Bowl 50 party package. The package includes chocolate or candy as well as a prize from the NFL Shop. Nestle, a main competitor of Mars, bought Super Bowl a Super Bowl commercial for their chocolate bar Butterfinger. In the lead up to the Super Bowl they partnered with former NFL receiver Terrell Owens to offer to pay the fines of any players that received penalties for excessive celebration. Through their partnership with Owens, Butterfinger recruited a football-themed endorser to gain an association with the game.

Telecom - Official telecom company of the NFL Verizon did not have a Super Bowl commercial this year, however their competitor T-Mobile did. T-Mobile appeared twice during the game with popular ads featuring Drake and Steve Harvey. In the Drake commercial, the musician poked fun at his song “Hotline Bling” while Steve Harvey made fun of his recent slip at the Miss Universe competition in his commercial. This continues T-Mobile’s trend of using culturally relevant celebrities in their Super Bowl advertising as last year’s Super Bowl commercial featured Kim Kardashian taking a series of selfies. Instead of airing a commercial, Verizon ran a contest called #Minute50 Rewards where Verizon rewarded customers at the 50 minute mark of every hour with different prizes including Super Bowl tickets and prize packs. Verizon was also the presenting sponsor of Super Bowl City in San Francisco, a fan village that was open in the lead up to the game. Finally, Verizon was the only carrier that allowed customers to stream the game. While T-Mobile was present in a peak awareness moment, Verizon was able to leverage their rights as an exclusive sponsor to deliver an experience only they could provide.

Payment - As an official sponsors of the NFL, Visa opted to maintain a heavy digital presence prior to – and during - the Super Bowl. Visa tweeted out a number of promotions showing fans using VISA Checkout to buy NFL apparel. They also ran a contest for residents in San Francisco, offering anyone who used their Visa card the chance to win tickets to the game. The week before the game, Visa integrated their brand into a segment on Conan O’Brien featuring Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski was shown buying a Super Bowl gift for Conan using the Visa Checkout. Finally, on the Ellen show, Visa awarded a child and his family a trip to the Super Bowl. PayPal, a competitor of Visa’s Checkout, ran a Super Bowl positioning PayPal as an innovative method for payment, dubbing themselves “new money”. PayPal also ran a contest through Twitter during the game with Fox correspondent Erin Andrews and awarded $500 to select followers. This was PayPal’s first Super Bowl commercial and it is unlikely that after one year they will erode Visa’s equity in the NFL who has been a sponsor since 1995.

The Super Bowl is consistently the most watched program of the year in the United States and as a result offers advertisers a valuable platform. The Super Bowl broadcast provides a chance for non-sponsors to gain an immediate association with the NFL. However, TV time is just one asset  and official NFL sponsors can use other assets to communicate their investment in the NFL.

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