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Brand building, like football, is a game of inches: why the Super Bowl is no exception

5 minute read | Tina Wilson, Global Head of Product, Outcomes, Nielsen | February 2022

Super Bowl ad placements offer brands a massive pool of consumers who could potentially enter the sales pipeline. Millions of people watch the Super Bowl each year, with 43% of consumers watching specifically for the ads. In the U.S. alone, sports programming accounted for 98% of the most-viewed programs across broadcast, Nielsen research found, and 72% of the most-viewed programs on cable television between January and September 2021—with last year’s Super Bowl LV accounting for 20.3 billion minutes viewed. 

To win big with Super Bowl advertisements and ensure the $6 million investment is driving returns, an ad needs to shine long after that 30-second spot. While an ad during the Super Bowl is typically a strategy to boost brand awareness—even for brands that are already market leaders—that ad spot must be considered as part of a more robust campaign strategy, so consumers are nurtured long after game day is over.

Brands should always strive to be top of mind for consumers; but focusing too heavily on awareness tactics shortchanges the potential of Super Bowl ads. Marketers should incorporate their ads into a full-funnel approach, continually executing on brand-building initiatives that support the upper funnel and nurture prospects and returning customers as they move toward the bottom of the funnel. By considering every consumer touchpoint surrounding a brand’s Super Bowl ad to be a brand-building opportunity, marketers can achieve more cohesive campaigns that deliver a stronger impact.

Transform awareness into brand building

To achieve more than short-term lift for the brand, Super Bowl ads should reinforce brands’ regular TV advertising, not replace it. A consumer who has already heard of a brand may finally be compelled to purchase that product following the Super Bowl, whereas a consumer who is learning about a brand for the first time on game day may only add the brand to their consideration set. Similarly, Super Bowl placements can reinforce brands with key stakeholders, such as distributors for beer or dealerships for cars. A secondary benefit of Super Bowl ads is that these placements block competitors from using the airtime for themselves—so marketers will want to use this moment when their brand is top of mind for consumers to its full advantage.

To increase the reach of their Super Bowl ad and solidify its impact on audiences, marketers can air the commercial outside of that 30-second TV slot. More organizations are choosing to share their ads ahead of the game, with brands like Amazon already releasing their 2022 Super Bowl commercials. Additionally, continuing to air Super Bowl ads after the event also strengthens brand building efforts by increasing wear-in, which grows the ROI on the placement. Known as the halo effect, ads aired again after the game are more recalled and liked by viewers who tune into the Super Bowl than those who did not watch the game, underscoring how repeated brand exposure can solidify a consumer’s relationship with a brand.   

Play the long game

Super Bowl advertising is useful for increasing awareness and quickly achieving reach goals—but zeroing in on short-term tactics loses marketers the opportunity to drive bigger returns over time. Nielsen historical data shows that the ROI for Super Bowl advertising is lower than typical TV spending, meaning the short-term lift from these placements isn’t as impactful as marketers anticipate. To expand a Super Bowl ad’s impact, marketers should think of the Super Bowl ad moment as a launch point for a bigger campaign. Given how many viewers tune in specifically for the ads, Super Bowl ads tend to fuel higher-than-usual ad recall (e.g., Nielsen Ad Intel found that ad recall for a Super Bowl ad from a major food and beverage company delivered 80% higher recall than the brand’s other TV investments). However, remembering an ad isn’t the same as acting on it, which is why marketers need to establish a path of consumer touchpoints that prompt future action.

Social media can be a powerful channel for follow-up touchpoints. After airing, Super Bowl ads typically reap the benefit of social media chatter and people engaging with the advertised brand. Many consumers also seek out ads they missed during the game, further increasing viewership. Marketers should use this buzz to reinforce connections with consumers. In addition to call-to-actions that encourage sales, ads should direct consumers toward actions that keep them in the brand’s atmosphere, like following their social channel, using a hashtag, or joining a loyalty program. By establishing an omnichannel brand-building campaign that continuously reinforces a brand’s value to consumers, marketers will see the ROI of each individual tactic—like a Super Bowl campaign—increase.

Even Super Bowl ads can serve as a learning experience for marketers to tighten their messaging and strategies over time, which is why marketers should have a mindset of continuous optimization for their campaigns—along with a dynamic martech toolbox. Using the right tools to understand all the touchpoints between top-of-funnel efforts and bottom-of-funnel ones drives better understanding of the value of each investment that has been made, so marketers can acutely assess performance and better plan future initiatives.

The Super Bowl represents a shining moment for brands. Beyond a brand awareness play, marketers should use Super Bowl ads to establish long-term relationships with key audiences. In doing so, they ensure Super Bowl ads continue to score long after their initial run.

This article first appeared on DMCNY.

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