The Super Bowl is a little over a week away and ad land is building up with typical gleeful abandon for its biggest night of the year. I've always struggled to enjoy American Football to be brutally honest. The immediacy and skill appear lost in the theatrics and spectacle of it all, and the stop-start nature of the sport seems engineered to give people an excuse to grab a beer or go to the toilet, which is fair enough, but doesn't, in my eyes, make for edge-of-the-seat entertainment. One thing that has always fascinated me, however, is the relationship between the sport's biggest match of the year and the advertising industry. In many ways, the ads are almost as important a part of the Super Bowl as the half time show (this year to be performed by Lady Gaga, who will undoubtedly use the platform make some grand anti-Trump gesture) and the game itself. So let's dive in and explore what's been kicking off in adland so far in the build up to the event on February 5.
Hyundai tap Peter Berg to shoot a live documentary during the game
Most Super Bowl advertisers spend months on their ads, but this year, Hyundai will condense the process into roughly three hours by filming its spot during the game. As an official NFL sponsor, Hyundai is set to film a 90-second documentary during the upcoming game that will capture some of the best off-the-field Super Bowl moments. The spot will run in the “post-gun” slot; the first commercial break that immediately follows the conclusion of the game and just before the trophy ceremony. Hyundai has tapped renowned director Peter Berg (Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor), Film 45 and Pony Show Entertainment to shoot, edit and produce the documentary in real time. Leading into the Super Bowl, Hyundai have also released two teasers (above and below) featuring NFL Legends Joe Montana and Mike Singletary discussing the importance of off-the-field action. While Hyundai's approach is unique (and sure to grab the kind of attention that Super Bowl advertisers crave), it is not the first time a marketer has used same-day Super Bowl footage. In 1994, Reebok ran a Super Bowl ad that spliced in footage from the Cowboys-Bills game underway. The difference with the Hyundai spot is the automaker's claim that it will create the entire ad during the game, rather than just insert some game footage.
Hyundai is a long-time Super Bowl advertiser and 2017 will mark the ninth time in the last 10 years that it has participated in the game. The Super Bowl creative is under development by Hyundai’s agency of record, Innocean Worldwide. Hyundai’s Super Bowl marketing program will also include an on-site activation in Houston at Super Bowl Live. The Hyundai space will include an opportunity for fans to interact with Hyundai vehicles and learn about its history of innovation, the overall theme of Super Bowl Live. Put on by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, Super Bowl Live is a free-to-the-public nine day fan festival that will feature live music, entertainment, and sponsor activations for fans to enjoy. Advantage International will be managing the activations on behalf of Hyundai. Dean Evans, CMO of Hyundai Motor America, said: “Super Bowl is the biggest day in advertising and following our incredibly successful 2016, we wanted to push the creativity and storytelling even further. Our brand commitment is to make things ‘better’ and we are going to give some deserving fans an experience they will never forget. Peter Berg and his team will be capturing it live during the game and we can think of no one better to tell what will be an amazing story.”
GS&P and Tostitos create a bag of crisps that tells you when you're drunk
Realising that its potato chips (crisps) are often in close proximity to beer and other libations during the Super Bowl, the Tostitos brand has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Uber to create what the brand has dubbed the “Party Safe Bag,” a limited-edition bag equipped with a sensor that can detect traces of alcohol on a person’s breath. When alcohol is detected, the LED lights on the bag turn red to form a steering wheel that includes an Uber code and a “Don’t drink and drive message.” Anyone who feels like they’ve had too much to drink can redeem the code to receive a discount on their Uber ride. According to Tostitos, 25,000 football fans will be able to take advantage of the offer on Super Bowl Sunday. The limited-edition bags, which were created in partnership with Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P), are available at retailers across the US. It's very similar to the Budweiser campaign featuring Dame Helen Mirren, which promoted sensible drinking via a partnership with Uber, and just goes to show that Uber are really (and wisely) jumping on the safe driving bandwagon when it comes to their promotional partnerships.
“We designed the technology and the bag from the ground up and then had to scale it. It had to function as a beautiful bag and also like an alcohol detector. It was form and function together” Sam Luchini, GS&P Creative Director
Lady Gaga takes the Bud Light tour of the US in preparation for Super Bow performance
As the Patriots and Falcons head to Houston, Texas to face-off on February 5, Lady Gaga has been crowned the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI (that's a mouthful) half-time performer. But the singer, who also starred in this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with The Weekend and Bruno Mars, has apparently been preparing for Houston for a while. As the official beer sponsor of the event, Bud Light, with the help of their agency, Wieden + Kennedy, got creative with the superstar and created the Bud Light x Lady Gaga Dive Bar Tour. The idea is so American it hurts, and chimes nicely with Lady Gaga's new album, “Joanne,” which marked a shift away from the mechanical electro pop of her earlier albums, towards an earthier, Americana sound.
So, instead of traveling from huge arena to huge arena, the brand took Lady Gaga to dive bars (shitty pubs to you and me) across America, where she played her new music for the first time for tiny crowds of little more than 200. Of course, the shows were also live-streamed at home to millions. The tour included three live productions (Nashville, New York, and LA), four films, music videos for four of the songs, and many more social assets to maintain excitement throughout the month, all orchestrated by Wieden + Kennedy. The half-time show and the digital content from the dive bar tour and the behind-the-scenes Super Bowl shorts on Pepsi.com come at a time where Bud Light is looking to reconnect with fans. After a tough third-quarter in 2016, according to the company, despite “The Bud Light Party” campaign with Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer, they are focusing on sporting events to ramp up sales.
Steve Stokes, Chief Strategy Officer at DUKE offers his opinion on the conventions of the big Super Bowl ad.
Running a spot during the Super Bowl is more than just reaching a large audience or embracing its social moment. It’s a big statement of strength; the modern equivalent of banks in small towns having the most impressive buildings to convey that the town’s money was safe there. However, this has obviously created its own mini ultra-competitive environment, where each brand endeavours to “win the ad SuperBowl.” Whilst this should be a perfect environment for bolder and bolder work, most brands are currently working to a tried and tested Super Bowl ad formula: Animals, Characters, Comedy sketches, Patriotic emotional tales and Gratuitous celebrity cameos. There are often gems, such as 2016’s surreal Puppy Monkey Baby for Mountain Dew Kickstart, or Snickers’ Marilyn, but there are also those who could have made more from their huge investment, such as Avocados from Mexico; which just didn’t hit the mark. I’d love to see more work in 2017 that polarises opinion, rather than gather wide indifference and work that takes inspiration from outside of the Super Bowl ad conventions. At DUKE we often judge the potential of a bold creative idea by asking two related questions - Where’s THAT from? And What’s THAT doing in this category? And to “win the ad SuperBowl,” this is even more pertinent. As for this year, I have a funny feeling that we’ll see more work that tries to unite a divided nation – I can’t imagine why.
Matt Smith, Vice President and Principal Media Evangelist for the media business unit at Brightcove, explores how brands use the Super Bowl as a catalyst for campaign growth.
In less than two week's time, viewers all over the globe will witness the culmination of the NFL season, otherwise known as the Super Bowl. Aside from the World Cup, this annual event is the most watched event across the world. With audiences that have no rival, it is not hard to see why this also represents the beginning of many ad campaigns, too. And why not? With such sizable audiences, advertisers have no better opportunity to get their new concept and brilliant ad idea in front of audiences they hope will Tweet, fave or otherwise socially amplify their message. If they’re incredibly lucky, perhaps their advert can become the next viral video or social meme. The big game is a tale of inverse concepts. For the NFL, it is the end of a season and (hopefully) the highlight of the year. For creatives and advertisers, it is their beginning (like NASCAR, where their Super Bowl is the beginning of their season), where they take the biggest audiences on both television, streaming and social and use these launching pads for campaigns that may run the next many months or even the full year. Historically, the game (specifically the commercial breaks) has had its own living room, and lately, social commentary around which ads move us, make us laugh and generally catch our attention with their concepts. The Super Bowl is a tale of money too. Every year, it seems that the average cost for a thirty second advert rises - understandably. As Super Bowl audience numbers climb year-over-year (111 million average viewers in 2016*), advertisers are clearly spending their dollars where they matter most with massive audience. The past few years has also meant that these advertisers (and those who broadcast the Super Bowl) are also targeting audience on a growing universe of mobile devices. They are absolutely looking to get ads in front of those streaming audiences, too. I fully expect that we will hear that both the total number of Super Bowl streams and in-stream adverts delivered this year will exceed those in 2016. We’re already seeing reports of video technology advances taking center stage in this year’s Super Bowl ads. Live video is showcased as Snickers is reportedly airing the first ever live Super Bowl ad, social video continues to dominate brand strategies across the board, 360 video is front and center in Intel’s commercial featuring Tom Brady, and local ads are finally getting their piece of the pie with ad buys in the game's online stream. This is the largest stage (and audience) and a complex universe of screens. One thing’s for sure - we’ll all be watching.
Of course, the big day (or very early morning for us here watching in the UK, where we won't even get to watch the spots because the coverage is being helmed by the BBC) is still more than a week away so there's still plenty of time for more big news drops. If you can't get enough Super Bowl ad news, I will also be featuring some more Super Bowl spots in the Ads of the Week, and there is even more news to explore in my Super Bowl 2017 Celebrity Endorsements piece. So fill your boots people. Tis the season after all.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.