Is the Super Bowl the Last, Great Shared Media Experience?

Streaming services, social media, on-demand content, virtual and augmented reality, apps, and other new media channels have all been credited with hastening the death of traditional media, but while these technological marvels have each stolen marketshare from the old top dogs like broadcast TV, they still haven’t dethroned it.

For proof, you need look no further than our yearly homage to the pigskin. The Super Bowl remains the undisputed king of reach, consistently drawing over 100 million simultaneous live viewers.

“New media has tricks the humble television can’t match like interactivity and far more granular engagement metrics, but it presents a fragmented landscape.”

Big audiences invariably attract big brands hoping to associate themselves with a widely beloved cultural moment. NBCUniversal, which aired the game last year, raked in around $500 million on game day, a new all time high for the company. 30-second spots sold for an average that topped $5 million, and in-game advertising accounted for over three-fifths of their record haul.

This year is shaping up to be as successful, if not more so, for CBS, who has the rights to Super Bowl LIII and after a two year decline, the NFL is projecting an overall ratings increase of five percent.

Food and Beverage Brands Buy In

PepisCo returns as the official halftime show sponsor, and the soft drink and snack brand is still feeling confident in their investment and the prospect for its labels to gain brand equity through big advertising buys during the rest of the broadcast.

Last year, the umbrella brand won acclaim for a 60-second dual spot for Mountain Dew and Doritos that featured Morgan Freeman lip synching Missy Elliott and Peter Dinklage mimicking Busta Rhymes. This year, they will be plugging Pepsi, Doritos, and their one-year-old sparkling water product, Bubly. Each will get a 30-second spot.

Stella Artois started the party early, releasing their spot well before the game. The ad features Jeff Bridges reprising his role as the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” and Sarah Jessica Parker once again playing Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City,” only this time they are opting for a Belgian pilsner rather than their signature drinks.

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It’s no surprise that food and beverage advertising is big during the Super Bowl, a broadcast associated with parties, chips, sodas, beer, and over-the-top bacon creations, and Pringles isn’t about to let Doritos have the limelight to itself.

Comedian Bill Hader helped launch the brand’s “Flavor Stacking” campaign at the 2018 Super Bowl, with a commercial called “Wow,” that encouraged mixing, matching, and stacking of different Pringles flavors. The concept will return this year with a third quarter spot.

It Wouldn’t be a Party Without the Guac

Everyone likes chips, and Avocados From Mexico is hoping to be the dip of choice to go with them. They’ll be back for their fifth consecutive Super Bowl to launch a new campaign called “Always Worth It.” For the spot, over 3,000 diners were asked if they’d be willing to pay an extra $2 to add avocado to a restaurant meal.

More than just a time to get top of mind and build brand awareness, NFL advertising is a proven revenue booster for the Mexican marketing alliance. More avocados are eaten on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year, which is no small feat for a product that is usually associated with the warmer months.

In addition to in-game advertising, Avocados From Mexico is partnering with AB InBev’s line of ‘Ritas’ beverages and Tabasco sauce for joint merchandising displays and promotional offerings.

Automakers Are Back Too

In addition to food and beverage brands, automakers have also traditionally used the Super Bowl as a platform for announcing new products and spreading brand awareness. Both Audi and Hyundai have already confirmed major buys for the 2019 championship.

Audi passed on last year’s game, but secured a 60-second spot in the second quarter this year to kickstart excitement in its new line of electric vehicles. The brand took a hit in 2015 over Dieselgate, the emissions scandal linked to parent company Volkswagen, and this move foreshadows a major pivot.

Nearly 30-percent of its U.S. customers are expected to be driving full electric vehicles by 2025. Loren Angelo, VP of Marketing for Audi of America, said in a press release: “We’re returning to the biggest advertising stage to let America know that electric has gone Audi.”

Few car brands have had more success at the Super Bowl lately than Hyundai, the official car and SUV of the NFL. They have aired ads in 11 of the past 12 Super Bowls, and according to Ace Metrix, scored top-10 ads in each of the past seven broadcasts.

This year they will run a 30-second spot during the pregame show and a 60-second piece in the first quarter. Details on the creative haven’t emerged yet, but in 2017 they showcased a heartfelt message about returning U.S. military members. In 2018, “Hope Detector” featured pediatric cancer survivors benefiting from the brand’s non profit initiative. Both were extremely well received, so a cause marketing-centric spot could be coming again this year.

Still the Undisputed Champion

New media has tricks the humble television can’t match like interactivity and far more granular engagement metrics, but it presents a fragmented landscape. The people on Instagram aren’t always seeing what’s happening on LinkedIn, and everyone watching Netflix or listening to Spotify right now is having their own algorithmically-customized experience.

TV, however, is one of the last great bastions of shared experience, and the Super Bowl, in particular, is still one of those big events that draws an audience across age, income, geographic, and even gender boundaries (women have been a growing percentage of overall NFL viewers for years).

Top brands are still drawn to be a part of such an immense, communal experience, perhaps more now than ever. With so many unique subcultures, online niches, and disconnected demographics to contend with, it’s something of a relief to know there are still a few spectacles big enough to bring us all together.