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Evolution of Advertising During the Super Bowl

By Andrew Coleman Comm 393: Senior Portfolio/ Senior Thesis 12 Apr 2012 Instructor: David Logan


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For most Americans, the Super Bowl consists of gathering with friends and family, enjoying your favorite food and beverages in a fun atmosphere, while cheering for your team and being entertained by Super Bowl advertisements. Super Bowl advertisements have become almost as important as the Super Bowl itself for many reasons. Although the likeability of Super Bowl advertisements has continued to grow over the years, there hasn’t been much research on the evolution of the advertisements. The first major television event for the Nation Football League was in 1958, for the World Championship Game. The mass amounts of publicity created by this first game helped secure the World Championship game as an annual event, later being renamed the Super Bowl. During these games, there would be short advertisements, promoting their products to all of the viewers, across the world. The first advertisement that caught the public’s attention was the Noxzema commercial with Joe Namath. This really set the stage for advertisers, showing them the mass amount of viewers there missing out on and possibly target in on. Advertising companies consider the Super Bowl one of their biggest times of the year, show-casing their products and helping sell their services to millions of people all over the world. These advertisements help “set the stage” for their product, and possibly giving them a boost in sales and profits. The amount of money put into these advertisements, along with the amount of money used to purchase the time during the Super Bowl is way too much. “With an average cost of $3.5 million for 30 seconds of air-time, these advertisers better know what they’re talking about” (Smith,1). Before the Super Bowl now days, sponsors and advertisers offer sneak previews of their advertisements via newspapers and electronic media. Commercials are the backbone of companies, keeping their company in the consumer’s eyes and promoting their products. Commercials are becoming so prevalent in the Super Bowl now a days that some advertisers choose to air their commercials weeks before the actual game on internet websites,


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allowing you to vote on which is your favorite. If that isn’t enough, there is even a website providing information about Super Bowl spots and when they will be seen during the game. After the game, there are polls to see what the most popular commercial was, along with nextday analysis on talk shows, and on internet web pages. Overall, commercials have come to compete with the big game in many different ways such as attracting new fans, stopping viewers from changing the channel when a commercial does come on, and seeing whose commercial was the most popular. Commercials have become as important as the game itself. Advertisers must be able to catch the viewer’s attention and keep it, which is a hard thing to do. Many of the sporting events that we know today were built over years and years of tradition such as the World Series games, boxing matches, and even Nascar. These events have had a long tradition of supporters, viewers, and public relations. These events were usually viewed in person, unlike today, where we have the convenience of using electronic media such as the radio, television, and internet. Starting from the beginning of football, the NFL has had a lot of battles. Ever since the beginning of football in the 1920s, there has been a fight for public’s attention and participation along with other organization rivalries. The most important rivalry that the NFL had was the All-American Football Conference (AAFC), started in the late 1940’s. The AAFC was differed such as having a much smaller roster of teams and signing lower rated college players. This made the AAFC not as mainstream as the NFL, which hurt the league. The AAFC only lasted a few short years, disbanding in 1949. After the disbanding of the AAFC, son of a millionaire, Lamar Hunt, attempted to gain ownership of the Chicago Cardinals and move them to Dallas, or start a team in Dallas. Soon after the NFL absorbed some of the teams from the AAFC, the NFL went unchallenged for many years, until 1959.


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“As of 1959, the NFL only had a few teams west of Chicago and didn’t have any teams in the south. Even with the option of a growing league, the NFL still didn’t want any expansion. With Hunt being discouraged from the NFL expansion, he proposed the idea of a rival team or league, called the American Football League (AFL). This league featured eight teams across the country including Boston, Buffalo, New York, Houston, Denver, Oakland, and Los Angeles, signing NFL rejects and misevaluated players. Along with taking on the NFL rejects, the AFL introduced many new policies to football such as, the two point conversion, official time on scoreboard, player’s names on jerseys, one network television broadcast package for the league games, and the sharing of gate and television revenues” (Coniglio,2). Despite of all the bad media coverage, and the relocation of two of the AFL’s teams, the AFL survived, prospered and grew. Teams were attracting record-sized crowds all over, but one football player that brought a lot of attention to the football scene was University of Alabama’s quarterback. “Joe Namath's brilliance as a quarterback at the Univ. of Alabama earned him a three-year no-cut contract for $387,000 from the New York Jets before he had played a single minute of professional football” (Namath 1). Namath’s popularity from fans and his new contract created an increase in the number of viewers. Another reason fans were getting “wound up” is because of the interview done with Namath days before the game. “Hopes that the Jets might be able to sneak up on the overconfident Colts seemed to be put to rest three days before the game, when brash young New York quarterback Joe Namath—who had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns over the course of the 1968 season—announced, "We're going to win the game. I guarantee it" (Namaths Ad 1). A few years later, two of the biggest television networks were attempting to team up with the AFL. “ABC and NBC were the two television networks that


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broadcast AFL games. ABC televised the games the first five years with Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman as the main announcing team. Gowdy went to NBC in 1965, when the Peacock Network took over after paying $36 million for broadcast rights” (Coniglio, 4). With the rivalry between the two off the charts, the AFL and NFL started a massive bidding war over top college players, paying large amounts of money to unworthy college players. The competition continued between the two, but was shattered when the NFL’s Giants signed Pete Gogolak, a current kicker already playing for AFL’s Bills. The lack of trust resulted in revenge from the AFL’s new commissioner, signing eight starting NFL quarterbacks with both leagues spending millions. With the NFL worried about the rising popularity of the AFL, NFL officials initiated discussions with AFL owners to merge the two. These meetings were conducted without the knowledge of AFL Commissioner, Al Davis, and eventually met an agreement on June 8, 1966. This merge would retain all existing teams and help stop the bidding wars for college students, while still keeping the same schedules. “Beginning in January 1967, the two would face off in an annual AFL-NFL World Championship game, later referred to as the Super Bowl. “ Super Bowl III, played in Miami in January 1969, was the first championship game officially called "the Super Bowl" by the NFL. The name had first surfaced, informally, during high-level AFL-NFL merger talks back in 1966. Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt—whose children had recently been playing with an unusually bouncy rubber toy ball called the “Super Ball” —coined the term ‘Super Bowl’ as a kind of jokey internal shorthand for the AFL-NFL World Championship Game” (shmoop,1-2). As the new season started to approach, the league committee members were still unable to come to terms with a new catchy name for the big game. “Yet even before the season started, Hunt’s pet term had taken on its own momentum. Headline writers, commentators, and players alike were using the term. And by January 1967, it was becoming


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clear that it didn’t matter what the leagues tried to call the game, because “Super Bowl” had already caught on” (MacCambridge, 237). The two leagues continued on with their games until 1970, when they officially merged into one league with two conferences, known as the AFC and NFC. Advertising during the big game has opened another battle off of the field. The NFL has been involved with media and major television networks since the 1958 World Championship game. The success and popularity of the World Championship on television set the stage for many many years to come. “While the first Super Bowl's box office left something to be desired, the game proved more successful as a televised product. More than 65 million people tuned in to either NBC's or CBS's coverage of the contest, giving the game a larger TV audience than any previous sporting event in American history. A whopping 41% of American households with TVs tuned into one of the two broadcasts; 71% of all Americans who turned on their televisions that afternoon were watching the game” (Shmoop, 2). Publicity for this event became so major that it helped reinforce it as an annual event, while opening a new door for advertisers and their companies. As you know, the mass amounts of viewers and potential customers for these advertisers is endless which is part of the reason the Super Bowl is becoming so important to them. “Commercials have always been an integral part of the big game, but it was a commercial in the early 1980’s introducing Apple’s Macintosh computer that intensified the trend toward bigbudget, glossy commercials. Advertisers have called the 1984 spot one of the best commercials of all time. It was another example of the David theme of the under-dog conquering a Goliath, in


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this case using a sledgehammer against the system instead of a slingshot” (Davis, 236). “The historical “1984″ ad, which was shown on January 22, 1984, during Super Bowl XVIII to a TV audience of nearly 100 million in the USA, cost approximately two million dollars, of which about 800,000 dollars were used simply to purchase time during advertising breaks during the CBS television network’s broadcast of the game as well as another 900,000 dollars for production costs” (Dernbach). “By proving that high-concept, high-budget ads could really pay off when beamed out to the Super Bowl's immense audience, Apple's "1984" commercial ushered in a new era in Super Bowl advertising. Ever since, the game has provided a grand stage for the debut of ever more creative and memorable advertisements. Today, an astonishing 36% of Super Bowl viewers actually claim that they watch the game mainly to see the commercials, not the football” (Shmoop,4). Apple was introducing there Apple Macintosh computer and the NFL was having one of its biggest Super Bowls in history so far, which is why this was one of the most significant Super Bowl’s in history. Joe Namath’s Noxzema commercial along with Apple’s innovation of their advertisement set the stage for a lot of companies down the road. Now a days, the cost of advertising during the Super Bowl is astronomical. For some advertising agencies, this is the biggest time of the year and the most stressful. Tensions get high and money gets tight, while still trying to produce the best commercials possible. Over the past ten years, the price of advertisements for the Super Bowl has increased almost every year, making it more and more expensive for advertisers. “Starting back in 1995, the price of a Super Bowl Advertisement was around $1.1 million for a thirty second advertisement. A few years later in the 1999 Super Bowl, advertising costs rose all the way to $1.7 million dollars, and continually raising every year after that. By the year 2000, the price for a thirty second advertisement was $2.1 million dollars.” “The companies say the exposure justifies the


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expense."It's the only program in the whole year where advertising is the program," says Monster's CEO, Jeff Taylor. "I'd have to run an ad seven additional times to get the same focus that an ad gets in the Super Bowl." Both saw big increases in site traffic after previous years' ads. HotJobs and Monster say the timing of the Super Bowl makes an ad for them about as natural as one for beer: January is job-hunting season, says Marc Karasu, HotJobs' advertising director” (Hobson, 2). With the cost of advertising rising every year, this is making advertising companies more competitive and aware of how they are producing the commercials in order to save money. “The price of a Super Bowl ad spot climbed to a record-breaking $3.5 million this year, and that’s just for the 30 seconds of air time. Companies still need to invest in filming and producing their commercials, which ratchets the total investment upwards of $5 million. Companies making such a large investment must know what they are doing” (Smith 37). The rising cost of spots during the Super Bowl, to the higher production costs, are making advertisers much more effective in how they convey the message, making Super Bowl advertising a game in itself. These advertisers are doing everything they can in order to cut productions, and get there commercials viewed the most. Throughout the years, advertisers have tried many different techniques when considering what methods work best when communicating to consumers. Traditionally, Super Bowl advertisements haven’t been released until the actual Super Bowl, but advertisers seem to be changing the game plan. “In 2007, several advertisements actively promoted their involvement with the game and even revealed their advertisements on the web before the game. The data showed that an aggressive promotion strategy is the most effective way to generate postgame consumer discussion and demonstrate how the volume of the pregame traditional media coverage drives postgame activity” (Nail 2). The announcements of these advertisements are helping


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advertisers get discussion from the public, way before the actual Super Bowl! Another new tactic advertisers are using is having extended commercials on the internet. These advertisers may start off their commercial and suggest you finishing the rest at their website. Having the consumers view their websites helps the advertisers in many different ways. It helps advertisers get the consumer to their page, which helps put the advertiser in control instead of the viewer being in total control. Another reason that these are a good thing is that it helps the advertisers measure how many people are visiting there website and how many viewed their advertisement. Advertisers now have new tools to help them communicate more effectively with the viewer. Overall, these new types of commercials are helping advertisers and companies so much more than older commercials. Advertising for the Super Bowl has become such a large deal for advertisers that experts have examined and classified them into four advertising groups. “The first type of advertiser classified is “play-action advertisers, “which are the companies that announce their advertisements prior to January 14, received higher coverage. Their volume index (comparing the total volume of coverage and discussion of this group to the median volume of all advertisers) is 203, showing that they earned twice the volume of the typical advertiser. The next group of advertisers focused on is the Pregame warm-up brands. These companies announce in the last two weeks of January also got substantially higher coverage before the game. Next, the kickoff squad is the companies that announce their advertisements during the weekend of the game, showing volumes way below the median. The last type of advertisers is the “bench warmers.” Bench warmers are the companies that didn’t announce any type of advertisement before the big game, hoping that there advertisement will be promoted” (Nail 3). There have been several researchers that have focused on the sales-related impacted of the Super Bowl


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commercials. “The study found that, during the first week of the promotion, a Super Bowlpromoted film achieved twice as much in total US box office revenue as non-Super Bowl promoted movies” (Kim 10). This here shows how important advertising is becoming, especially during the Super Bowl now days. Advertisers are announcing advertisements earlier, spending more money on them, and being as competitive as they can be in order to catch your attention. Another tactic advertisers are using more recently is the use of longer advertisements. Advertisers are focusing on making longer advertisements in order to tell a story, keeping the audience’s attention while drawing the consumer in closer. In previous years, there have been advertisements as short as one-second. Master Lock’s 1998 Super Bowl commercial was so short that if you turned away from the television set, you may have missed this commercial. In this commercial, one of Master Lock’s locks was being shot by a sharp shooter and still functioning afterwards, keeping locked. This created a memory in many people’s minds because of how short and “thoughtless” it was, yet people still remembered it and loved it. People are lazy readers and viewers, which makes advertising that more difficult and interesting. The advertisers have to design the commercials on a thin line because commercials can’t be too complex for some to comprehend and shouldn’t be too short for others. Scott Keough, Audi of Americas chief marketing officer believes a longer ad gives consumers room for discussion beyond just product and price, and offers them better reasons to buy in an uncertain economic climate. “People want to purchase things that have substance, that represent them and aren’t viewed as trivial” (Steinberg 2). One of the bigger commercials in this year Super Bowl was Volkswagen’s popular “Darth Vader” advertisement. Jim Haygood, editor of the Darth Vader ad, told Creativity that, “everyone was in love with the 60 second, so we struggled to get the 30 to capture the same


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magic…I think we all feel that the 30 second didn’t quite capture the full feeling of the 60 second advertisement, and in the end it was just a function of time” (Nail 2). Along with advertiser’s using longer advertisements to promote their products, advertisers are also relying on word of mouth from consumers. Word-of-mouth has always been a nice benefit for advertisers because it’s free for them. As long as they have a product that consumers are talking about, they will continue to get free advertising. Word-of-mouth can go both ways; consumers can depict your product just as fast as they started liking it. Overall, the changes in advertising techniques over the years have changed drastically. From the new types of technology, to the evolution of social media and web pages, technology has been the key factor in why media has changed. Just like most things in today’s world, advertising in general has a very fine line, but especially advertising for the Super Bowl. Advertisers are under a lot of stress, especially when creating advertisements for the Super Bowl today. The game is becoming so important that the game hardly even matters to some of the viewers. The first Apple commercial really set the mark for other advertisers because the commercial made the viewer figure out what was really going on. It made them think. Advertisers seem to be going with longer advertisements, partially because people want to purchase things that have substance, that represent them, while showing them what they’re getting. While watching Master Locks one second commercial, I almost felt cheated out of what was really going on, but that’s partially what they wanted. They wanted the viewer to double and triple think what just happened, which helps ingrain there locks into the consumer’s memory and that’s what they got.


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Overall, the rise in Super Bowl advertisements during the game has sky rocketed compared to twenty years ago. Looking back at the beginning of football, there wasn’t hardly any advertising done compared to now days. Viewers and the advertising companies are spending so much more time and money concentrating on the Super Bowl advertisements that these advertisements have almost become a show of their own. Some of the iconic Super Bowl commercials from the past set the stage for current and future advertisers, from Master Locks one second advertisement, showing advertisers that every advertisement doesn’t have to be long, to the Joe Namath’s smooth face getting shaved by a young lady. Now days, the use of longer commercials is becoming more and more prevalent compared to just a few years ago when 60 second spots were not common at all.


Senior Portfolio Senior Thesis