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Super Bowl – For More Than Just Sponsors Part IV

Super Bowl – For More Than Just Sponsors Part IV

5 minute read

  • Non-sponsors are allowed to advertise during Super Bowl, creating opportunities to associate with the league’s biggest event in a peak awareness moment.
  • In many of the league’s key sponsor categories, competitors of the official partner are active Super Bowl advertisers.
  • One example of this is official NFL sponsor Pepsi who owns the halftime show while Coca-Cola was an active advertiser during the broadcast.

In Part Four of our Super Bowl analysis series, we look at how this night offers both official NFL sponsors and non-sponsors the opportunity to leverage the Super Bowl to make bold statements and communicate messaging. While similar marquee global events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup that help protect corporate sponsors from ambush by requiring broadcasters to offer official sponsors first right of refusal for advertising time during programming, the NFL does not apply sponsor exclusivity to TV advertising during the Super Bowl broadcast. Air-time is available to any brand willing to invest. See below for advertising activity of some official sponsors versus non-sponsors that competed within the same category:


MKTG will take a closer look at the official sponsor versus non-sponsor activity within the following categories: Technology, Beverage and Automotive.

Marketing activity from broadcast partner Amazon acts as competition against Microsoft within the technology category

Official technology partner Microsoft did not play a spot during the Super Bowl and faced competition from Amazon (who currently streams Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime). Both Amazon and Microsoft are large conglomerates that transcend many product categories with both having the opportunity during the Super Bowl to promote products that will transcend throughout each brand.

Microsoft uses their technology partnership to reinforce the Surface tablet as the NFL`s Official Tablet. The Surface tablet is used to assist coaches when reviewing plays and tactics to make more informed decisions during the game. On the other hand, Amazon has heavily promoted Alexa in 2017 and supplemented their marketing efforts with the following spot for the Echo which was a well-received creative. This spot was one of many that launched before the Super Bowl to gain traction and leveraged the power of high profile personalities such as Gordon Ramsay and Rebel Wilson.

The competition is derived from the rise of digital assistants in the world, where both Microsoft and Amazon play. Amazon may be taking the attention off Microsoft with consistent promotion throughout the year supplementing Alexa marketing with a popular piece of creative. Consumers may relate more to the personalities used in the campaign and promoted convenience of owning Alexa in contrast to Microsoft’s NFL deal which is less consumer focused.

Coca Cola’s diversity celebration strategy competes with presenting sponsor Pepsi

Pepsi Co. has been a long time sponsor of the NFL and presenting sponsor of the NFL Halftime Show. Pepsi Co has taken ownership of this property through a ten year NFL sponsorship deal made in 2011 and uses this platform and halftime experience to position themselves as a pop-culture savvy cola brand. Non-sponsor Coca Cola Co. made a statement by playing ads during the broadcast for Coca Cola and Diet Coke.

Diet Coke took advantage of this high viewership moment to run ads to promote a new line of products. Moreover, Coca Cola`s corporate brand spot is one that made a larger statement. Coca Cola played an ad regarding diversity which has been a very controversial topic within the NFL - throughout the season players have been “taking a knee” during the national anthem which is a protest against police brutality and racial inequality. This is not the first time Coca Cola has used this type of marketing as they launched and ad on equality during the 2014 Super Bowl. Coca Cola’s ad is primed for viral attention to strike a chord in public dialogue. Pepsi’s approach as an official sponsor has allowed them to build equity in a consistently leveraged asset and get direct integration into the stadium environment (a rare feat in NFL sponsorship) and an event they can build anticipation for which extends the engagement window.  Despite Pepsi’s dominance, Coca Cola has committed to use the platform of the Super Bowl to speak to their corporate values.  

Official sponsor Hyundai breaks free from sponsorship clutter within the automotive category with a fan festival pre-game activation

Since 2015, Hyundai has been an official sponsor of the NFL, leveraging their official rights to sponsor events such as the NFL Draft. This, in combination with this year`s notable Super Bowl activation, allows Hyundai to differentiate themselves in the cluttered automotive category. The activation is titled the NFL Super Bowl Experience Driven by Genesis (Genesis is a car manufactured by Hyundai).

At the activation users can:

  • Experience the NFL in virtual reality
  • Receive free autographs from NFL players
  • Take a photo with the Vince Lombardi Trophy
  • Visit the NFL Shop, the largest spot for exclusive NFL merchandise and more.

Here is where we see an official sponsor utilizing their category exclusivity at the Super Bowl where non-sponsors cannot compete. Hyundai will be seen responsible for providing this special opportunity to consumers which is something a non-sponsor cannot claim. This activation and the ability to use the NFL logo and IP allows Hyundai to supplement their broadcast activity (see one of their official spots here) and differentiate themselves in the auto category.

The Super Bowl provides a platform for sponsors and non-sponsors to communicate key messaging and captivate a large audience. Official sponsors face a high amount of marketing competition but have the ability to leverage their official sponsor assets to stand out and protect themselves from non-sponsor ambush techniques.

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