For Super Bowl LV Advertisers, It Pays To Be Brave

9th Feb 2021

This year's Super Bowl will be unlike any other. Stadium attendance in Tampa is limited to 22,000, a fraction of the record braking 100,000 fans in past years. Economic uncertainty and new Covid-19 variants surging across the globe create a charged atmosphere that many experts believe brands should avoid. Certainly, many advertisers have opted not to spend the reported $5.5 to $5.6 million per 30 second commercial this year. Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Hyundai and Walmart are among the advertisers sitting this one out. Yet, there is a very good reason Viacom/CBS sold out all its Super Bowl ad inventory. The brands sitting out this year are paying a different price for their absence. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the advantage of advertising in Super Bowl outweighs the cost

A Significantly Lower Super Bowl Ad Tax 

The price per 30 second spot during the Big Game is at 0% growth in 2021. Viacom CBS is asking the same rate as Fox in 2020. While the price per ad generally increases each year, the last five years have seen more modest growth between -2% and +6%. Furthermore, the rate of Primetime broadcast is growing significantly faster. Consequently, the ad cost premium of the Super Bowl is decreasing in velocity. The last three years show the Super Bowl premium reduce from 69% to 40% of that of Primetime, the lowest in over a decade. 

For the first time since 2010, the projected year-over-year growth of the Super Bowl television audience will be greater than the year-over-year growth of ad costs. It’s no coincidence that both coincide during economic downturns – the Great Recession of 2009 and today’s Pandemic Recession. This bolsters the argument of the value of reaching a mass audience. Super Bowl LV advertisers will reach the American plurality at modest rates relative to the projected audience. 

A Record Shattering Audience 

We project this years’ television audience to top 115 million viewers. Should this come to pass, it would top 2015’s record of more than 114.4  million viewers and represent a 15% year-over-year increase in audience size. The Big Game audience has not grown at that rate since 1993. Given the limited number of mass audience events in broadcast combined with the uncertainty of future live sports events, Super Bowl LV advertisers are likely capitalizing on one the remaining mass advertising opportunities in 2021. 

Momentary Escapism Grows Out Of Pandemic Fatigue 

What’s driving such audience growth? The very environment of uncertainty that created the pandemic and struggling economy have left consumers fewer options for entertainment and starving for a short reprieve from their insecurity, pain and worry. Advertisers brave enough to give the pandemic-fatigue population a moment of national levity and further moments of virtual watercooler connections will reap the reward of positive brand impressions. 

Some commercials strike a more serious tone, including Toyota’s inspiring story of Paralympian Jessica Long, glucose monitor Dexcom’s spot with Nick Jonas or Chipotle’s ode to young farmers. These are strong conceptual ads that communicate compelling brand propositions. However, their tone misses the levity opportunity. Indeed, the most powerful brand communication strikes an emotional chord with consumers. The best ads take us to a place we long to go. They offer us aspirational value. This year, this time, that value is entertainment. 

Which advertisers are striking the right tone? 

Amazon, “Alexa’s Body” 

A female exec day-dreams Alexa in the form of Michael B. Jordan in a spot created by Lucky Generals. 

Cheetos, “It wasn’t me” 

Shaggy helps Mila Kunis get away with stealing husband Ashton Kutcher’s Cheetos in the spot by Goody, Silverstein & Partners. 

Doritos, #FlatMatthew 

Matthew McConaughey is feeling a little thin in this spot for Doritos 3D by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. 

General Motors, “No Way, Norway” 

Will Farrell is put off by Norway’s progress with electric vehicles. The spot by McCann features the GM EV line up. 

Jimmy John’s, “Meet The King” 

The sandwich makers quality ingredients angers the mob boss of cold cuts, played by Brad Garrett and created by Anomaly. 

Michelob Ultra Seltzer, “All Star Cast” 

This humorous spot, created by FCB, stars Don Cheadle and a cast of celebrity look-and-sound-alikes. 

Uber Eats, “Tonight I’ll Be Eating” 

Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey and Cardi B “party on” and promote eating local in a Wayne’s World reprise from The Special Group. 

To understand the business and technology trends critical to 2021, download Forrester's complimentary 2021 Predictions Guide here.  

This post was written by Principal Analyst Jay Pattisall, and it originally appeared here

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