The Marketing Behind Super Bowl Ads

Emily Artus, Staff Writer

Forget football. From a marketing standpoint, the Super Bowl is about one thing: the commercials.

North Greenville University marketing students explain strategies behind the most expensive and influential commercials. 

In 2016, a 30-second spot ran for $5 million, and for a marketer, the pressure is on to reward that investment.

“To have an effective advertisement, you must realize that you are trying to reach people and not just customers,” said Ashleigh Wyatt, a student in brand management.

To reach people, many marketers play on human emotion.

According to Jacob Kern, also a student in brand management, consumers remember iconic Super Bowl ads like Coca-Colas’sMean Joe Greene” and Apple’s1984” because they appeal to emotion.

“Emotional branding causes consumers to remember the brand better,” said Kern. “Whether they laughed, teared up or the hairs stood up on the back of their necks, they related to the ad on a personal level.”

The Super Bowl’s large audience means marketers cater to a wide interest range. So marketing teams also rely on the appeal of the bizarre, such as Mountain Dew’sPuppymonkeybaby” and Doritos’ “Ultrasound."

“While both commercials are a bit strange,” said Melanie Rice, a brand management student, “They are remembered for being funny and unique.”

Mountain Dew and Doritos created appeal through strangeness, which draws football fans and casual viewers alike. 

Though bizarre commercials stand out, standing out too much can be negative.

“Sometimes a memorable commercial is not what you want,” said Benjamin Whitman, president of the Student Marketing Association. “Sometimes it’s memorable for the wrong reasons.”

Whitman explained Doritos “Ultrasound” gained attention from a controversy between pro-life and pro-choice groups. 

Similar negative buzz surrounded Nationwide’s 2015 “Make Safe Happen.” Meant to raise awareness of preventable childhood deaths, the ad quickly became known as “The Dead Kid” commercial.

Super Bowl commercials are a high-risk investment for companies, and marketing teams have one shot to create a memorable and iconic commercial.