What Australian marketers can learn from Super Bowl ads

Apr 7, 2022
Brand MarketingContent MarketingVideo Production

Innovative advertising and the NFL Grand Final go hand-in-hand. 

It’s a cultural event on a scale that Australian marketers rarely, if ever, get to experience. With multimillion-dollar ad spots and a global viewership four times the size of the entire Australian population, each year delivers a slew of iconic new ads that inspire creatives worldwide.

It’s true that our own televised sporting events – the AFL Grand Final, Melbourne Cup, Australian Open, and State of Origin  – can’t hold a candle to the sheer scale of the Super Bowl. However, marketers in Australia can make use of the same advertising tactics to create impactful, best-in-class campaigns.

As Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem at Hubspot, said; Super Bowl ads are “a terrific 2-3 hour window into the minds of the top creative leaders in the advertising industry.”

Image: AdAge

The power of risk: present the unexpected

In 2022, it’s rare for advertisers to take their audience by surprise. Many small-to-medium size businesses resist ad concepts that sit outside their comfort zones; whether for fear of alienating their audience, wasting their budget, or otherwise missing the mark. By contrast, Super Bowl ads are renowned for pushing the envelope in order to stand out.

The fact is, when viewers experience the unexpected, they’re substantially more likely to engage with an advertisement. There’s great power in a creative, well-crafted campaign that surprises its audience. 

Brands like Uber Eats and Amazon are known for Super Bowl ads that think outside the box, and stand to achieve substantial cut-through as a result. Taking inspiration from these blockbuster ads, marketers can strike a balance between their established brand voice and an unexpected creative concept to captivate their audience.

Doritos “Goat 4 Sale”
Image: Method Studios

The growth of user-generated content

In recent years, user-generated content has become a core component of many Super Bowl ads. What used to be a single-slot advertisement to a captive viewership has become an opportunity for connection. More than ever before, brands are in a position to make their audience feel like they’re part of something bigger.

From teaser content and hashtags to challenges and Snapchat filters, Super Bowl ads highlight just how impactful user-generated content can be. In their iconic 10-year-long Super Bowl campaign, Doritos asked their audience to create their own 30-second ads; taking a different direction, Huggies tapped into human connection by featuring their customers’ newborn baby pictures in their campaign.

Brands with a medium-to-large following on social platforms can take advantage of this trend with a well-positioned strategic concept. Effective, community-based audience collaboration can develop a life of its own online, resulting in a highly engaged outcome for your brand.

Guy Fieri's In The Super Bowl Commercial For Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda – Hollywood Life
Image: Hollywood Life

Connecting pop culture talent to brands

Gone are the days when advertising was a one-way channel. Advertising material endorsed by an influential figure continues to grow, holding the power to cut through competitive marketplaces. It’s why celebrity appearances have become a staple of Super Bowl ads; from Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher in their spot for Cheetos to Guy Fieri making an appearance for Bud Light.

Celebrity endorsements are by no means a new phenomenon. However, in recent years countless brands around the world have aligned with both broad-reaching and niche influencers in a bid to be seen as more relatable. Today’s multifaceted and fragmented marketplace demands that brands connect with reality, as customers continue to tire of feeling advertised to. In short, audiences are more comfortable watching advertising material when it doesn’t feel like an ad.

This presents an opportunity for marketers to strategically use influencer marketing to reach new audiences and strengthen authentic connections with their existing audience. In fact, 89% of marketers find ROI from influencer marketing comparable to or better than other marketing channels. It all comes down to finding the right influencer that genuinely connects with your brand values.

Keanu Reeves Surfs a Motorcycle in Squarespace's 30-Second Aspirational Super Bowl Spot – Squarespace
Image: Squarespace

Context and the mindset of entertainment

There’s a time and a place for highly retail-driven or educational ads, but it isn’t during the Super Bowl. Instead, it’s a unique opportunity for advertisers to reach an immense captive audience that craves entertainment. A high-stakes challenge for the creative teams, but one that can lead to significant reach and retention if handled well.

We know that social media conversation is key when it comes to effective Super Bowl ads. It’s no surprise that the most viral commercials are also the most entertaining ones, from a sultry Mr Clean commercial to a lip-syncing Keanu Reeves for Squarespace. These are the ads that audiences are willing to re-watch online days or weeks after the event, as well as share on their own platforms and discuss in real-world conversations. They’re aligned to the viewership’s entertainment-focused mindset, and therefore deliver a satisfying experience.

Marketers are used to considering the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ of their brand and audience. Beyond this, there’s a goldmine to be found in focusing on why they’re viewing a campaign. Are you interrupting their newsfeed online? Are they watching TV for entertainment? Much like a Super Bowl ad, a campaign that meets your audience in their present headspace is likely to satisfy viewers in a way that overt branded messages struggle to.

Super Bowl Ads: Fans React to Timothée Chalamet As 'Edward Scissorhands'
Image: Insider

Conceptual brilliance and high quality production

With the world’s brightest creative minds working on enormous global brands, unique concepts are the name of the game when it comes to Super Bowl ads. By investing in large-scale, non-traditional ideas, they strive to shine amongst a relentlessly competitive landscape. 

There’s no expense spared to get the perfect commercial. Brands like Cadillac, M&M’s, and Michelob Ultra pour vast amounts of money into celebrity talent, not to mention the immense costs incurred in conceptualising and producing the ads, plus up to $7 million USD to book a single advertising spot. Interestingly, it’s not just the expected beer, snack, and car categories striving for brilliance; in 2022, even cryptocurrency businesses are getting on board. 

For Australian marketers watching it all unfold, these blockbuster ads exemplify the impact of investment in creativity, strategy, and production. It’s true that most marketers don’t have access to the astronomical budgets of these global brands. However, the creative leadership on show can be taken as a well of inspiration. As the advertising world’s ‘grand final’, the Super Bowl represents an opportunity for marketers to look ahead, challenge themselves, and be motivated by the power of a brilliant concept, produced to perfection.

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