Subpar Game, Super Advertisements
The lowest-scoring Super Bowl game in NFL history concluded this past weekend, with the New England Patriots defeating the Los Angeles Rams 13 to 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Both teams set tied records for the lowest-scoring performances in Super Bowl LIII victory and defeat, tying records held from Super Bowl III and Super Bowl VI.
The lack of football entertainment was compensated for in the form of television spots and public relations strategy.
Although viewership was down from last year’s statistics, according to Nielsen data, the annual event still had 98.2 million viewers. To put that figure in perspective, Investopedia reports that an advertisement in Times Square garners only 1.5 million daily impressions.
A Bloomberg article reports that ads for LIII cost between $5.1 and $5.3 million for 30 seconds of air-time. The scope of this night presents numerous opportunities for promotion beyond a simple TV spot.
To Be Continued…
The hype, energy and online engagement around the event presents a viable opportunity for PR and marketing efforts that proliferate past the trophy presentation. The real action and longevity of advertisements come in the form of social media engagement following their airing.
Among some of the best trending campaigns of Super Bowl LIII were a group of awareness-raising Bud Light commercials, Pepsi’s attempt to shift a paradigm and an unexpected advertisement from a print publication.
PSA, Bud Light Is NOT Brewed With Corn Syrup
Bud Light commanded a strong narrative of their beer not being produced with corn syrup (unlike their competitors, Miller Lite and Coors Lite). Possibly one of the most memorable commercials of the game was the Bud Light medieval cast traversing all over the land with a humongous barrel of corn syrup, attempting to benevolently deliver the product to their competitors, since the Bud Light brewery has no use for it.
Bud Light has been known for their lightheartedness, and their following commercial also drove home the ‘no corn syrup’ narrative, an issue that has never had its day in the spotlight before.
The key takeaway from this successful campaign is that spreading awareness is about repetition, and changing consumer habits requires those consumers to come face-to-face with unsettling knowledge about the products they purchase. While at a bar or in a liquor store, if consumers even consider that some products have corn syrup and others do not, the campaign did its job.
Pepsi is More Than Just OK
The age-old debate between cola companies Coca-Cola and PepsiCo has long been fodder for conversation, but when it comes to patron ordering habits in restaurants, supporters of either drink are sometimes left wanting. Ordering a Coke in a Pepsi establishment, and being asked if Pepsi is okay is an antidote many consumers can relate to.
PepsiCo decided to play up this scenario, with a waiter asking a patron who ordered a Coke, “Is Pepsi okay?” This question was followed by an enthusiastic Steve Carrell asking if images like a shooting star or puppies were just okay. After some fanfare and a Lil Jon and Cardi B appearance, the resounding takeaway for the patron is that Pepsi is more than just OK, it’s even better than Coke.
An important lesson is learned after considering this advertisement. Drawing upon relatable experiences will connect with audiences quickly, bypassing any learning curve or need for back story.
According to iSpot.tv, this advertisement garnered 84 million social media impressions, so clearly audience members could relate and wanted to impart on their own experiences.
Brave and Bold
Advertisements during Super Bowl LIII were largely apolitical, and in such a turbulent political time, companies were likely playing it safe. There was one exception to this trend.
The Washington Post broadcasted an advertisement drawing attention to the brave work of journalists around the world, ending the ad with the phrase, “Democracy dies in Darkness.” This message followed a quick clip paying homage to the late Jamal Khashoggi, a Post journalist that was assassinated in 2018 by agents of the Saudi Arabian government.
In a climate where news is scrutinized for legitimacy, and the general consensus is that news is intended to influence and deceive rather than disseminate information, this advertisement was perfectly timed.
Branding journalism as brave requires the journalistic institution to be brave as well. Standing by advertisements and remaining authentic creates a winning strategy.
Similar Methods, Smaller Scale
LIII’s advertisements offered both entertainment and opportunity for discussion during a sporting event that seemingly lacked both. These advertisers won the day because of their creativity, relatability and fortitude. Similar practices can be utilized on a smaller scale to generate compelling and viral campaigns that create meaningful conversations.
Aidan MacIsaac is a public relations and marketing intern at Flackable, a national, full-service public relations and digital marketing agency headquartered in Philadelphia.