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Super Bowl – For More Than Just Sponsors Part III

Super Bowl – For More Than Just Sponsors Part III

6 minute read

  • The NFL’s biggest night of the year provides an opportunity for both sponsors and non-sponsors to secure airtime during the broadcast
  • Sponsors can look to leverage league assets to ensure their Super Bowl messaging truly stands out amongst their competition
  • The CRTC ruling on the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl came into effect this year which provides new considerations for Canadian advertisers

With a large, captive audience, corporations have a unique opportunity to make a defining statement for their brand and organization through a Super Bowl advertisement. The Super Bowl also presents unique challenges and opportunities for official league sponsors, as the broadcast is open for any brand (sponsor or non-sponsor) to purchase airtime during football’s biggest night of the year. This can open the door to non-sponsors to gain an immediate association with the NFL and secure some equity with the league during their biggest night of the year. To truly ensure their association with the NFL, sponsors can look to supplement their broadcast spot with league assets that only they would have access to. It is also common for a sponsor to forgo a Super Bowl spot altogether, and primarily focus on activating their assets through other channels. This can provide the sponsor with the ability to create a fully comprehensive Super Bowl strategy that can reach consumers on multiple touch points, leveraging NFL assets.

To highlight the approaches between sponsors and non-sponsors, MKTG will select three key categories and discuss their activity during the Super Bowl.


The automotive category is commonly highly active with multiple brands looking to capitalize off the Super Bowl and create a memorable commercial spot. This year was no different with each auto brand providing distinct messaging through their ad. NFL sponsor Hyundai created a highly unique “Short Documentary” which was shot during the game itself, and aired directly following the game. Hyundai was onsite at a U.S. military base in Poland, with service men and women watching the game. Hyundai had three military personnel enter a room outfitted with a 360-degree screen where they were able to watch the game alongside their loved ones in the United States. Hyundai filmed the soldiers’ reactions and quickly edited the footage to create a 90-second spot that aired after the trophy presentation. As a sponsor, Hyundai was able to use game footage to create their spot, something that is available only to sponsors.

Alternatively, Audi used the Super Bowl as an opportunity to speak to the social issue of equal pay. Their spot titled “Daughter”, showed a father considering how to tell his daughter about the disadvantages she faces as a female. At the end of the spot, Audi highlighted their commitment to equal pay for equal work. Audi continued to promote their message on Twitter, engaging with various celebrities who were commending the brand on the powerful commercial.

Laundry Detergent

NFL sponsor Tide also capitalized on their relationship with the league to create their Super Bowl commercial. Tide’s spot featured Fox NFL analyst Terry Bradshaw in what looked like the NFL broadcast, only with a very noticeable stain on his shirt. The spot then had Bradshaw rush out of the stadium looking for a way to clean his shirt, which he eventually did with Tide. Leveraging NFL assets such as league and team logos, Tide was able to create an authentic looking commercial that appeared like it was part of the Super Bowl broadcast. This strategy, however, did not allow for Tide to post their campaign online ahead of the game, as the brand did not want to spoil the impact of the fake broadcast segment. Posting a campaign online ahead of the game is a common practice for today’s advertisers to lengthen the engagement window and have a greater ability to measure the performance of the spot. During the week following the Super Bowl, Tide’s commercial quickly achieved over 5 million views.

Meanwhile, competing laundry detergent brand Persil aired a Super Bowl spot with notable scientist, Bill Nye. Persil supplemented the spot by uploading bloopers of the commercial to their YouTube channel and engaging with other Super Bowl advertisers through their Twitter account. While Persil’s commercial achieved high awareness, it did not achieve the same breakthrough effect as Tide as it has achieved just over 600,000 online views.

Soft Drink

NFL sponsor Pepsi did not air a Super Bowl commercial spot for their master Pepsi brand, instead choosing to air a spot for their new water brand, LIFEWATR. Pepsi opted to use their master brand to heavily promote the halftime show, in which they were the title sponsor of. Pepsi ran exclusive contests offering Lady Gaga fans to be guests of honour at the halftime show. Pepsi also hosted exclusive content on their YouTube channel, including behind the scenes footage of Lady Gaga rehearsing for the performance, as well as the entire halftime performance for fans to view after the game. Instead of a commercial, Pepsi opted to leverage their sponsorship with the NFL to secure valuable content to publish on their channels. Pepsi has also built significant equity in the halftime show as they have been the title sponsor for five years. They now own a unique piece of Super Bowl inventory which can help distinguish them from the high number of brands that purchase a Super Bowl commercial.

Pepsi’s main competition Coca-Cola, ran a spot during the Super Bowl demonstrating how their beverages pair well with food, ultimately bringing people together. They also posted the commercial to their social media while also posting the commercial they aired during last year’s game which promoted the diversity of the country.

The CRTC Ruling on Creates a Fragmented Audience for Canadian Advertisers

This year marked the first year Canadians had an opportunity to view American commercials as the CRTC put an end to airing Canadian commercials during the Super Bowl. Canadian advertisers could still air commercials during the game, but they would air on CTV instead of the American broadcaster carrying the game. The new ruling created a new consideration for Canadian advertisers, as they could no longer rely on the entire Canadian Super Bowl viewing audience to see their commercials. The brands that did advertise on CTV, including Coca-Cola, Mazda, and McDonald's took this into account and chose to run commercials that have previously aired, opting not to invest in a new commercial spot for the Super Bowl. With the Canadian Super Bowl audience now fragmented between the American and Canadian broadcasters, Canadian brands will have to further consider the best approach to broadcasting Super Bowl commercials.

The Super Bowl provides a valuable platform for both sponsors and non-sponsors alike. However, only official NFL sponsors are able to leverage valuable league assets to create a Super Bowl campaign that can truly stand out amongst the competing brands.

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