Are Early Super Bowl Ads Socially Stunted?

Feb 01, 2013

I love the Super Bowl. I can remember the first one (not called the Super Bowl), which was very special for this then very young Green Bay Packer fan. I pretty much enjoy everything connected to the event including the food, time shared with friends and family, hours of pre-game shows, the halftime entertainment, the commercials and, yes, usually the game itself (except for SB XXXII when the Packers lost).

In recent years, one thing I haven’t enjoyed is the early hype around the commercials intended for the game now aired days if not weeks before the kickoff. It may sound funny to some, but it takes away from the game when you’ve seen most of the spots before the broadcast. It also seems, at least to me, that not watching the commercials together with others during the game makes the spots less memorable. Shared laughs always beat those experienced alone.

I get the rationale behind trying to get spots to go viral with the pre-game publicity. Advertisers spend millions of dollars on the production and placement of the spots for the game and they want to get the most from their investment. Social is, after all, the name of the game these days.

But then I wonder: what’s more social than millions of people (broken up into mostly small groups) enjoying a commercial together for the first time and sharing a laugh or groan together in the same room? That has to count for something and isn’t it a more powerful act of social engagement than sharing "likes" on YouTube or sending out a tweet on Twitter?

Are brands missing out on the key social opportunity connected to the Super Bowl by airing commercials before the game? How would you plan advertising activity around the Super Bowl if you were managing a brand’s budget?

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "Are Early Super Bowl Ads Socially Stunted?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David Biernbaum

The early exposure of Super Bowl ads is the smart way for marketers to capitalize on a huge investment because the links to the ads become viral. Many consumers will view the ads more often which enables the ads to get far more attention, and make far more impressions, than for only once on Super Bowl Sunday.

Ryan Mathews

George, you need to get out more.

What’s more social than a bunch of people watching advertising together? Almost anything including being a hermit.

I don’t love the Super Bowl and have never, in fact, watched one—although for the record I once attended one, in a job related activity.

Full disclosure; I don’t like American “football” much at all, BUT my outsider observation is that the Super Bowl isn’t about a game at all. It is all about the ads.

And, if you are a marketer or advertiser, the name of the real game is exposure, not football. So all the “leaked” ads, all the racially controversial ads, all the teased ads, etc. just extend the number of eyeballs that—for better or worse—are getting the message.

Oh, George, there is a big game this weekend.

BBC America is starting their broadcast of the Six Nations Games this Saturday. Come on over. Who knows? You might like real football better.

Charles P. Walsh
Charles P. Walsh
4 years 9 months ago

Sentimentality and tradition aside, making the ads available online prior to the Super Bowl is smart marketing.

The cost of air time for ads during the SB makes it imperative that they are extending (pre and post SB) their effectiveness through social media and internet networks.

Ken Lonyai

I think this all goes back to what Apple accomplished with the infamous 1984 commercial. All brands want that iconic association (especially the agency people making the commercials) in hopes of ad immortality and big revenues. I’m not sure that revenues always follow ad success anyway.

It’s hard to say definitively what the best path is: wait for the game, or leak it beforehand. I would look at the product and brand and the target audience very carefully and then consider the best route. Not everyone watches football and those that don’t might get hyped up about a product/brand seeing an ad before it’s commonplace.

BTW George—you can step away from the Internet until after the game—RetailWire notwithstanding.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
4 years 9 months ago

The Super Bowl has become our Roman Circus with fast foods and beverages, social and raucous fun, wildly outlandish statements by a few zany players, clothes breakdown at half-time and mayhem on the gridiron.

We are entranced by the hoopla of those two weeks after the league championship game and the Super Bowl. There’s universal excitement in that time slot. Since Super Bowl commercials have become as costly as Congressional pork, the fiscal side of the brand manager can’t resist milking the money-laden cow for all it’s worth. So why not air those commercials early?

Now let’s see what else this Sunday in New Orleans brings.

Mark Heckman
Without the benefit of sales or consumer awareness numbers that may make a compelling case for early launch of Super Bowl ads, my gut tells me that waiting for the big day to launch the ad is the right call. First run Super Bowl ads have become a mainstay of the entire entertainment package fans wait for each year. I have been amazed at recent Super Bowl get-togethers how many people ignore the game, but jockey for a key viewing point to see the commercials. Much of this “excitement” is centered around a first showing of a clever ad that no one has seen before the game. While I understand the temptation to run these ads early and often for maximum play, re-running earlier launched commercials during the game diminish the tradition and the impact first run spots. Certainly, you can tease the ad in social media, and FSI drop, or other media, but the spot itself, should be reserved for the big day. There is plenty of time to run these spots a second and third time during the game and get them in the rotation during the weeks after the game, or even launch a subsequent campaign, sweeps,… Read more »
Joan Treistman

I don’t think that brands are missing out when their commercials air well ahead of the game. The free PR insures lots of exposure to the advertising and lots of discussion among “experts” and friends. By the time of the actual Super Bowl people have a lot more to say about the content and execution and the brand’s message has a better chance of registering on the minds of its audience.

There’s plenty of socializing and pontificating that happens…and it’s all good for the brands.

Cathy Hotka

Apparently, showing the ads in advance is becoming the norm. Hope advertisers are not offended when some of us bolt out of the room to avoid seeing them before game day….

Lee Kent

I totally understand the marketing advantages and all that stuff, but…why not put out teasers to get folks to want to see the ad during the game? Put some gaming around it with twitter and be sure to include the time of the spot (don’t know if that is possible). I’ll see hype for an ad and since I am NOT a football fan, I miss the ad. Just some thoughts.

Shep Hyken

I just saw the Mercedes commercial the other day. The president of Mercedes North America was interviewed when they showed it. The interview and commercial was a good part of our discussion at dinner last night. “Wait until you see the Mercedes commercial for Super Bowl. It has a star studded cast and they play Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones as the background music. Coolest commercial!”

That is exactly what the brands, like Mercedes are trying to do. Get us excited and talking about their ads before they “officially” air. I think it’s a great strategy.

Ralph Jacobson

Since these ads have been getting sneak peeks for years now, the brands wouldn’t keep doing it if they weren’t getting the groundswell of anticipation from their target markets. They are definitely getting more lift and more lifetime from their ads by having impressions on social networks, but actually more impressions on television news programs as well.

I would do exactly the same thing, and I might even add fuel to the fire by starting social chatter as the brand itself.

Zel Bianco

The commercials aired during Super Bowl are an important part of viewing the game. I agree that the group’s laughs (and groans) are an important social part of the ads during the game. The advertising is not cheap, so why release the ads in advance?

I would think the ads would go viral and be water cooler talk the day after the game. If I were managing the brand’s budget, I would push the ads more through online social media after the game—not before. Seeing the ads in advance ruins the surprise and anticipation of asking the question: “What will we see this year?”

Vahe Katros

WSJ’s web site ran a spot showing some highlights. The VW advertisement involves the real characters from highly popular viral videos. The VW spot plays segments from each video (crying over cats, people raging, the guy who does the Winnebago ad), and then has them all walking across a hillside in a fashion similar to the ‘It’s the Real Thing” Coke advertisements.

Sympathetic viral characters redeemed. The moral of the story—um, don’t be embarrassed driving our car since it’s cool to be quirky?

Ed Rosenbaum

Watching the ads during the game long ago became as important a part of the event as the game itself.


Take Our Instant Poll

Which is the most socially effective means of introducing a new commercial to consumers who watch the Super Bowl broadcast?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...