Super Bowl – the rise of the advertising blockbuster

sodastream super bowl scarlett johanssonAs memories of mince pies and the Christmas ad battle fade away, the global television event of the year is almost upon us. Whilst Seattleites and Denverites are eagerly awaiting the Super Bowl to will on their team to claim the mantle of world champion, for others, it is the commercial breaks that are the real draw. This year is no different, with celebrity-laden adverts taking the limelight before and during the big day. But why is it that the adverts capture the imagination of people almost as much as the sport itself?

Christmas in the UK is the main advertising event of the year where brands battle for the hearts – and wallets – of consumers. With the John Lewis’ Bear and Hare ad notching up over 12 million hits on YouTube to date and companies such as Cadbury investing in its first ever Christmas campaign, it’s a time when companies look to capture peoples imagination and showcase the brand to the world.

Whilst both Thanksgiving and Christmas are fairly major events in the US advertising calender, there is one date that eclipses them both as the day to blow the ad budget – the Super Bowl. This Sunday, over 100 million Americans will tune in to watch the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos battle it out. In addition, over three million UK viewers stayed up until the early hours last year and similar numbers are expected this year. This presents a huge opportunity for advertisers in the US and globally.

The budgets for Super Bowl ads are renowned for being the most expensive in television and this year is no different. As one of the most watched events in the world, it is no surprise that a Super Bowl ad slot is the one that every brand wants, and there is little surprise that brands are willing to spend big bucks to achieve that. What is perhaps a little more surprising is the lineup of brands making an appearance this Sunday. Wonderful Pistachios is teaming up with Stephen Colbert, Scarlett Johansson is booked as SodaStream’s brand ambassador (pictured); even Danone is grabbing a slice, or should I say spoonful, of the action.

Over the last few years advertisers have made their Super Bowl adverts available online ahead of the big event. However this year many have moved towards the Hollywood movie model of releasing teaser trailers before airing it in full. These trailers, aimed at creating extra buzz and media coverage, have surpassed the expectations of many. M&M’s uploaded a 20 second teaser onto its YouTube page less than a week ago and has already racked up over 775,000 views. This move towards serialised adverts is a natural progression as brands have moved away from a simple sales pitch to creating rich story lines and likeable characters which appear regularly, creating a story around the brand itself.

This year YouTube is cleverly tapping into the now global obsession with Super Bowl adverts by launching its own ‘Ad Blitz’ portal, a one stop shop allowing people to watch, vote on and share their favorite commercials. This portal already has more than 70,000 subscribers and over one million page views. An impressive figure, but a drop in the ocean compared to the 100 million TV viewers expected on Sunday. With the popularity of the teaser trailers, plus the myriad of articles on Super Bowl advertising it is clear that the adverts have become as much of an event as the game itself.

At the end of last year we predicted that ads will become as anticipated as the TV programme, the Super Bowl strategy reflects this, and shows what we can expect. Adverts are now blockbusters in their own right, with celebrity headliners, million pound budgets, a press and social media frenzy and viewing figures which rival some TV shows. So, which will be your favourite this year? I don’t think I’ll be staying up till the early hours on Sunday, but the first thing I will be checking on Monday will be which advert, not team, won.

Liam Plowman is head of strategy and propositions at Sky IQ.