The Super Bowl: The Largest, Most Anticipated, and Most Expensive Marketing Event Ever


Super Bowl commercials were once tightly held secrets, locked away in a secure location until they were aired. Until recently it was easier to steal the coach’s game-plan than it was to catch a clip of the commercials before they aired during the Super Bowl.

Now companies want to create buzz about their commercials by posting teasers or asking fans to vote for a spot. With Super Bowl ads costing up to $3.5 million per 30 seconds (prices vary based on when the ad runs), companies are looking for additional ways to create value from their advertising spend.

Most marketers however, don’t have $3.5 million to spend on a Super Bowl commercial. Instead, a lot of companies use event marketing to showcase their brand to the masses. From a marketing standpoint, isn’t that what the Super Bowl is— just a really, really, expensive version of event marketing? Think about it:

  • Significant investment (price mentioned above), which results in tremendous pressure from senior management to drive actual sales.
  • Large collection of potential buyers in one place (115 million estimated viewers for the Super Bowl this year, a good percentage of whom will be at a Super Bowl party)
  •  A lot of competition from other brands (Estimated 31 brands running commercials for Sunday’s game)
  • A very small window to capture customers’ attention
  • People may forget your brand a day later

Aren’t these similar challenges marketers face in their event marketing strategy? So how do we take what Super Bowl advertisers have done with their pre and post commercial campaigns, and replicate it for event marketing?

  1. Send out invitations beforehand: Companies make significant investments in providing a fun, and memorable experience for people who attend their events. But where they fall down is that they very rarely take the extra step to driving people to them. Savvy marketers run pre-event campaigns that are designed to drive their target consumers to them, rather than hoping their ideal customer stumbles past their tent. This is the direction Super Bowl advertisers have been taking the last couple years by releasing teaser videos, or even leaking the full commercial on YouTube to generate buzz and attention prior to the spot running on Super Bowl Sunday.
  2. Data Collection: The most critical— and typically most overlooked— step in event marketing is data collection. Without an effective way to capture basic profile information, marketers are missing out on a huge opportunity to follow-up with attendees. Data collection can be as basic as paper-based registration cards, or as elaborate as a text-to-win campaign with a bounce back SMS registration form. The important thing is that you are able to capture attendee information and store it in a way that allows you to quickly deploy your follow-up campaigns. Event marketing is a great way to rapidly grow the size of your marketing database, but without a way to capture data on-site you lose the ability to extend the event experience and drive additional sales with these customers. Many of the top Super Bowl ads are driving viewers to the web to get them to register online. Think Go Daddy and Danica Patrick.
  3. Follow-Up: Event attendees are not at the event to interact with your brand. They are there to watch the football game, experience their favorite band, watch the NASCAR race, or to run in a 5K. On top of that, your competitors are also there, fighting for their attention. So as much as we would like to think each person we interacted with is going to buy our product simply because of the great experience we provided, the reality is that they probably won’t remember your brand a week later— unless you remind them. Once the event is over, send everyone you interacted with a personalized thank you, and remind them of all the fun they had. “Thanks for stopping by” cards are a perfect way to re-engage event attendees and extend the experience beyond the actual event. You could take it a step further and include a compelling offer and a list of stores nearby where they can buy your product. Now you can go back to management and show that your event marketing strategy was more than an expensive PR campaign—, it drove actual sales.

Very few marketers will have the opportunity to work on brands that actually air a commercial during the Super Bowl. But looking at the current landscape, the Super Bowl is really just an expensive, 30 second version of event marketing. The question is this: Are you getting the most out of your event marketing strategy? Or are you just running a $3.5 million commercial and hoping for the best?