Goodell, Gaga and 'Deflategate': Hello Super Bowl Sunday

February 03, 2017

The 2016 NFL season has been quite the roller coaster ride. Colin Kaepernick kicked off the year holding media headlines hostage as a result of his protest; Tom Brady missed the first four games of the season as punishment for “Deflategate”; the continuance of the concussion and CTE conundrum; and we went the winter without seeing number 18 screaming Omaha while wildly flailing his arms (you know who I’m talking about). The two-a-days, countless hours of training and film study culminate this Sunday with Super Bowl 51, with The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons waging war for the Lombardi trophy.

While the play on the field is the intended focus, many merely watch the game for its commercials. So, for the casual fan, they don’t care about Tom Brady’s revenge or the Atlanta Falcons first Super Bowl appearance. Instead, the few minutes of breaks between the gridiron action become must-watch TV. For marketers this is one of the biggest days of the year – considering they’ve spent and estimated $5-5.5 million per 30 second spot, according to Variety.

The regular season was nothing short of a rocky one for the NFL, and Commissioner Roger Goodell, as TV ratings have not met expectations, losing ground to last year’s numbers.

When you look at the Super Bowl ratings over recent years, the number of viewers is on the rise however, market share and ratings have been rather steady. Regardless, each year the cost of commercials continue to rise for the marquee event, with marketers across the spectrum of industry making the investment in visibility.

“There are very few moments like the Super Bowl — it’s an event that transcends sport and has become an integral moment in pop culture…We wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work,” David Lee, chief creative officer at Squarespace told Variety.

This year will feature something old, something new, something blue (PepsiCo is sponsoring halftime) and some controversy as well. PepsiCo is investing in halftime, but Frito Lay is ending a 10-year run of advertising in the Super Bowl, which means no Cheetos, Doritos or Sun Chips commercials. A spokesperson from Frito-Lay stated it “did not fit with our marketing plans.”

The lineup is still stacked, including Melissa McCarthy teaming up with Kia, Cam Newton for GM, a sexier than ever Mr. Clean and much more (maybe even some Tebow Time too!). Two advertisements at this point stick out, for me, however.

For anyone in the United States, it’s tough to argue this election cycle has been nothing short of disruptive. For years, the American political systems has moved further partisan, and politics will take center stage at Super Bowl 51. Trump’s recent travel ban has created quite a stir, and it is safe to say we will see celebrities step out and take a stand on Sunday. Lady Gaga – one not shy to share opinions— is performing at halftime, and has promised no wardrobe malfunctions but that doesn’t mean political rhetoric.

Budweiser has a rich history of Super Bowl commercials. It’s unclear if “Born the Hard Way” was created with politics in mind, but it sure feels like it. The NFL is clearly a piece of Americana, and “Born the Hard Way” appears to embrace our melting pot mentality as a nation.  See below:

Another spot that caught my eye (thus far) is from the NFL, who is still fighting to retain a strong female viewing presence brought back its popular Super Bowl baby ads, except this year NFL fans are sure to get a chuckle.  And, broadly, women love babies See below:

There’s another commercial I’d like to introduce to the discussion, one that was intended to air in the first quarter, but you will not be seeing. GNC announced in December its excitement about participating in the gridiron classic, however, because it is listed as one of the “prohibited companies” in a memo from the players union and the NFL. While GNC is tempted to take the league to court, players have been warned about working with the nutritional supplement company as it is “associated with the production, manufacture or distribution of NFL banned substances.” You can view the banned ad below:

Glory is gained on the gridiron, but mega events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics serve as the optimal launching pad for marketers. From brand awareness to introducing a new look or product, the platform is one  that’s highly regarded – note the high price tag. For days, maybe even weeks, water cooler talk will be monopolized by debates over the best Super Bowl commercials.   

Whether the Falcons win their first, or the Patriots take down their fifth, Super Bowl 51 should be chock full of excitement and could give Goodell a breather from criticism. Sunday is set to provide the best of both worlds. The casual fan can eat until they have their fill, and enjoy creative, engaging and entertaining commercials, while the diehard NFL fan finds the league’s top two teams do battle on the biggest stage of the sport.

Are you ready for some football?

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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