Playing the Field: Releasing Super Bowl Ads Online to Increase Value

Feb 10, 2017  |  By Civil Admin  |  

Let’s face it, not all of us are avid sports fans. Nonetheless, every first Sunday in February, we gather around the T.V. anxiously awaiting the kickoff.

For some, the two teams are irrelevant. We aren’t watching to see an old band rehash former glory during halftime, either. Instead, each year, we tune in for the most consistent performer of all: The Brands.

Less than a decade ago, the ad agency Deutsch created a campaign for Volkswagen that forever changed the way viewers engage with Super Bowl brand content. Rather than focusing solely on the gameday debut, Deutsch took to YouTube and released “The Force,” the Wednesday prior to the Super Bowl.

Needless to say, there were mixed feelings in the advertising community. But numbers don’t lie. Before kickoff, “The Force” had accrued 17 million views. From a financial standpoint alone it was a complete success. CEO of Deutsch North America, Mike Sheldon, put it best saying, “It paid for itself before it ever ran.” The ad remains the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time and the second most-shared television ad of all time.

Six years later, this is now standard practice. To those who looked forward to the excitement of experiencing the spot for the first time during the big game, it is slightly disheartening. Similar to the online leak of an album or movie debasing its official debut, formality has been replaced by instant gratification; reflective of current content consumption trends in the digital age.

With Super Bowl ad costs at an all-time high of $5 million for a 30-second spot, brands are often budgeting as much for promoting the ad as they spent on producing it—a somewhat paradoxical concept.

Last year, the American car company Buick followed tradition and debuted its ad on the day of the big game. One year older and (decidedly wiser) they chose to release their ad early and doubled their social media efforts.

Another automobile company, BMW, released their nostalgic ad, featuring the Today Show’s Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, early as well. Even before the game, they experienced a 42 percent increase in Twitter followers and a 58 percent growth in Facebook followers.

The standout campaign of this year was Mars Chocolate. Acknowledging the necessity to supplement traditional television advertising, VP of Marketing for Mars Chocolate noted “Television advertising continues to be an important part, but on its own it’s not enough anymore.” An innovative hybrid of socially-grounded hype and anticipation, Snickers orchestrated the Super Bowl’s first live commercial this year, promoting it with a 36-hour live stream leading up to the commercial via social media.

Gone are the days of awaiting ad debuts on Super Bowl day and talking about them the next day with colleagues ”around the water cooler.” Now these conversations happen online and are monetized through key performance indicators such as click-through-rates and engagements.

Volkswagen ushered in a new era only several years ago and the guidelines of this new media environment are broad and undefined. Advertisers must continue to push creativity in more ways than one to revolutionize two spaces: television and digital.

Looking forward to 2018, developing standout content is not enough. Brands must also develop unique ways to release this content that will amplify its value leading up to, during, and long after the Super Bowl.


Time Inc. 

The New York Times



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