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Why are Video Marketers Ditching Super Bowl Ads?

For decades, running an ad during the Super Bowl was the ultimate video marketing power play. The audience was huge, and it wasn’t uncommon for the ads to earn almost as much buzz as the game itself. This year things have changed. A long list of brands have chosen not to run video ads during Super Bowl LV.

These include: Budweiser, Hyundai, Coke, Pepsi, Avocados from Mexico, Facebook, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups…the list goes on. 

But why? Some experts claim that the Super Bowl is played out as an advertising platform. Others point to the economic pressures of the pandemic and the high cost of Super Bowl Advertising. The truth is more interesting and yields some valuable insights for brands crafting their own video marketing strategies. 

First some Super Bowl ad history

The first Super Bowl aired in 1967, but it would be 17 years before this football event became the Vince Limobardi Trophy of the advertising world. Apple’s 1984 ad changed the game. Suddenly the Super Bowl became a big-ticket advertising event. The combination of production value and evocative story line changed the face of video advertising forever. It pushed marketers to engage and entertain rather than just inform viewers.

The 2015 game set a viewership record of 114.4 million viewers across traditional and streaming services. Except for a slight dip in 2019, viewership has stayed consistently above 100 million for the last 10 years. To put that in perspective, 29 of the 30 most-watched TV broadcasts in the United States have been Super Bowls. 

As the viewership of the game grew, so did the cost for advertising. In the 60’s the average cost for a 30 second spot was around $40,000 according to Business Insider. By 2020, that number grew to $5.6 million. Meanwhile, audience viewing habits were shifting. 

Media consumption habits evolve

It’s probably not news to you that more people are watching online video than ever before. Mobile video now accounts for more than 75% of video viewing worldwide. Meanwhile, traditional paid TV viewership is dropping as more households cut the cord. Social media, YouTube, and OTT video is growing in importance. 

These shifts in how people consume video have led some experts to speculate that Super Bowl ads are on their way out. They point out that YouTube and other online ad placements can achieve a more targeted result at a fraction of the budget. Some used the big brands ditching the Super Bowl this year to support their point. But the brands tell a different story. 

Impact of the pandemic

A few brands have shifted their ad spend in response to the pandemic. Anheuser-Busch, the parent of Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, and Stella Artois has rethought its approach. It announced that it will skip the usual in-game Super Bowl ad for Budweiser and reallocate that budget toward public awareness and education for the COVID-19 vaccine effort. That decision made headlines, but it’s not the whole story. 

Anheuser-Busch still has four minutes of advertising air time which it will use to advertise Bud Light and Michelob products. So they haven’t given up on Super Bowl LV entirely. However, other brands have. 

Avocados from Mexico won’t be running one of their bright, weird, ads featuring a celebrity this year. But again, it seems their decision is the result of the pandemic, not loss of faith in the Super Bowl. As the Marketing Dive reported, Avocados from Mexico advertises during the big game because everyone loves guacamole at a Super Bowl party. It makes sense to connect their brand with parties and gatherings. With social distancing in place, these types of events just aren’t happening. The brand thought it would be better to focus on more personalized channels to target the home cooks and people cooking for their families.  

The story is similar for other brands that have bowed out. PepsiCo won’t be advertising Pepsi soda, but will sponsor the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show and run ads for other brands in its portfolio. It’s doubling down on the half-time hype by using its ad spot to promote the show. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola says sales are down with so many restaurants, stadiums and theaters still closed. The investment just isn’t in the budget this year.  Yet almost all of these brands have stated an intention to return to the big game when the crisis has passed. 

The truth is, most brands still see the Super Bowl as a valuable part of their video marketing strategy. 

Takeaways from the Super Bowl LV Ad Shift

So what can smaller brands learn from the decisions of these multi-million dollar organizations? Three things: 

1. Stay nimble – Even if a video marketing strategy has delivered good results for years, you should still reexamine it regularly. Markets shift, media changes, and audiences evolve. Create a flexible video marketing strategy optimized for today’s audience. And be prepared to pivot as things change.

2. Tailor your advertising decisions – Parent companies like Anheuser-Busch are creating custom strategies for each of their product lines. They’re not trying to create a one-size fits all approach. Nor are they trying to match the strategies of other beer brands. They’re making individual decisions based on the factors affecting each brand. You should too.

3. Work to understand the market – It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that TV advertising is dead because more people are streaming entertainment, or that the Super Bowl is no longer relevant because brands are skipping it this year. But both of these situations are more complicated than they first appear. Build a video marketing strategy based on your unique audience, not the generalizations of pundits. 

Now for the good news

The best results come when you strategically place video ad content, whether that’s during the big game, or on a YouTube pre-roll. Ad placements on social media, YouTube, OTT platforms and display ads can also capture big audiences. Targeted video advertising placements can make sure the right people see your ad at the right time. 

Of course, whether your ad runs at the end of the third quarter or between rounds of Candy Crush, you’ll need a winning video. Reach out to the video experts at IdeaRocket to create a video that captures viewer attention and showcases your brand. 

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