Super Bowl Advertising: From Exposure to Engagement

The Super Bowl is a coveted advertising vehicle because of the tremendous reach that it possesses. Sunday's game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will attract nearly 100,000,000 viewers. If the audience size were not enough, the Super Bowl has the added characteristic of an audience that looks forward to commercials rather than avoiding them. What more could a marketer want? How about brand engagement.

Achieving brand exposure is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for selling a product. Let's face it, brand awareness can be created against someone's will through repetition and a consistent message (I am thinking of those "memorable" Head On commercials). So, Super Bowl commercials will be seen by tens of millions of people who will do what? Remember the brands advertised? Maybe. Like a Super Bowl advertiser more because of exposure to a commercial? It is possible. Awareness-based metrics are problematic if the aim is to have relationships with customers. For this reason, more Super Bowl advertisers are shifting efforts toward engaging consumers beyond the 30-second spot.

Two examples of advertisers using Super Bowl commercials as a way to drive engagement are Levi's and Denny's. Levi's Dockers brand will be featured in a commercial that encourages viewers to "tag" the ad using a phone app. The app will give access to branded content as well as an opportunity to enter a pants giveaway promotion. Denny's is repeating its free Grand Slam Breakfast promotion, promoting a food giveaway that will take place Tuesday, February 9th. In addition, Denny's will be doing a free burger and fries for a year giveaway among persons who register for Denny's Rewards online. The promotion drives traffic to stores and builds Denny's e-mail database. At the same time, visitors can learn how to connect with Denny's on social networking web sites.

The costs of the promotions planned for Dockers and Denny's add to the cost of being associated with the Super Bowl. The question is whether being seen on the big game (i.e., exposure) is a good enough outcome to accept. Engagement is the name of the game in marketing today, and tactics that make engagement more likely must be pursued.

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