Super Bowl 53: America’s Big Game and the 3 M’s of Marketing

What to expect from one of the biggest marketing opportunities? A great experience.

This past Sunday, 100.7 million Americans tuned their televisions to CBS or streamed Super Bowl 53, America’s big game, to watch the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams. Spoiler alert, the Pats won. While the players for each team played a close, but uneventful game, the world’s biggest brands and their marketing teams watched what was most likely their most expensive and visible marketing campaigns of the year go live.

Super Bowl Pepsi ad

The Super Bowl is an event built and based around 3 M’s (Marketing, Merchandising, and More Customers). Household brands and powerhouse marketers like Budweiser, Toyota, and Pepsi lined up for the chance to engage potential customers before, during, and after the big game. Opportunities like this come with costs, however, with a price of a 30-second commercial eclipsing $5.1 million dollars this year.


Despite this, brands continue to look to the big game to build their business through these 3 M’s.  Here are few of the best examples of these practices.


By Consumers for Consumers – Famously known for having some of the game’s best commercials, Frito-Lay (Doritos) takes a different approach than most when marketing to new and existing customers. The brand mines consumer suggestions for their commercials and the snack giant consistently creates acclaimed ads that are geared towards what consumers want and what will draw in new revenue channels. And it works. This year’s ad was no different as “Boy Band” placed in the top 10 commercials again this year. This is user-generated content with a twist.


Chance the rapper for Super Bowl ad
Chance the rapper for Super Bowl ad

Bang for their Buck – Why be restricted to 30 seconds when you can sponsor an entire event? This was the question Pepsi asked itself when they renewed as the title sponsor of the famous Super Bowl halftime show. With yearly costs for sponsorship listed between $4-8 million dollars, the show has attracted notable acts like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake. This year featured Maroon 5 as the big headliner. The halftime show is Pepsi’s flagship marketing opportunity and they always make the most of the it. Pepsi built halftime excitement prior to event via social media and pre-game commercials and drove engagement during the 30-minute halftime period across numbers channels with post-event marketing to keep the momentum strong. Not everyone was a fan of Maroon 5, but Pepsi worked some magic with the promotions.


Merchandising & Product Placement: 


Building Consumer Loyalty – Whether you attended the big game, watched in a bar or at home, companies leveraged the Super Bowl to build brand equity with heavy merchandising of their products. One way this strategy was put into play was via complimentary events offered throughout host-city, Atlanta. For example, there was a string of block parties staged near the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium to attract fans. Fast-food giant, Chick Fil-A, offered backstage tours to attract new customers by offering free products and educating guests on the extensive history of the company. Brands utilizing experiential marketing and merchandising at the Super Bowl is a big opportunity to test messaging, products, and find new customers.


Product Placement in Action – If you watched the sidelines during the game, you saw some of the NFL’s best players holding blue touch screens. The Microsoft Surface, a competitor to the Apple iPad, has been a staple on NFL sidelines since they struck a deal in 2013. The Surface enables players and coaches to review previous plays and attempt to figure out the other team’s strategy. Their usefulness for the players and coaches is only part of why Microsoft shelled out $400 million dollars over five years to have a presence on NFL sidelines. Any fan who watched the game on Sunday or throughout the year saw those blue screens, and if Microsoft is right, will stay top of mind when it’s time to purchase a tablet.


More Customers:


Creating New Customers– In 2017, the average company that shelled out the $5 million for a Super Bowl ad saw a healthy increase of 13% in brand recognition. The challenge is turning brand awareness into revenue generation via new and more customers. More customers is one of the 3 M’s of marketing today. Two examples of successful branding tactics that drove new customer acquisition via Super Bowl ads were Square Space and In early 2000, these new brands were selling website domains and kickstarted their success with Super Bowl commercials. The ads launched a market and gained millions of new customers in the process. Branding is one objective of marketing, however, the ultimate objective is driving conversions and generating new customers. That is the metric that matters.


Make or Break –  How important can a 30-second advertisement really be? The answer for some companies may shock you. Super Bowl commercials can make or break yearly revenue expectations and impact the bottom line, for better or worse.  Adweek reported, “by activating their Super Bowl advertisements, brands can expand their reach, learn more about their most engaged consumers, and most importantly, drive outcomes with conversion-based activities that can measurably impact the business.”


For some brands, without the new customer acquisition opportunities these commercials create, a company’s fiscal year may be placed in jeopardy. It’s all about the ROI on the advertising spend, understanding the objectives of the ad, and setting expectations accordingly.


If you invest in advertising around the Super Bowl, like any marketing, branding or public relations effort today, it needs to be an integrated, omnichannel strategy. For brands that do it the right way; the payoff can be significant. We might not always remember who wins the Super Bowl every year, but many of us remember the ads and products promoted during the Big Game. Go Pats!