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Advertising’s Big Day During NFL’s Biggest Game

posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 by Mallory Phillips

The NFL’s biggest game has consistently been one of the most-watched broadcasts each year during its 47-year history. Some may argue that commercials have grown to be as big of a spectacle as the game itself. Over the years, companies have been more creative and taken bigger risks with their ads than ever before. Despite the efforts, many ads have been forgettable. Others, however, will live in consumers’ minds for eternity: Mean Joe Green, Budweiser Frogs and 1984, anyone?

There were 108.4 million total viewers that tuned in for the NFL’s Big Game last Sunday, Beyoncé’s halftime show and, of course, the commercials. USA Today conducted a live poll of this year’s ads during the game (USA Today Ad Meter), enabling more than 7,000 panelists to rank the 55 ads on a zero to ten scale.

Anheuser-Busch scored the highest-rated ad with its touching spot “Brotherhood.” Fittingly, “Brotherhood” is the third most shared commercial of all time and on game day, Anheuser-Busch was the most mentioned brand on social media. This is evidence to how Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms can extend a brand’s message far beyond 30 or 60 seconds.

Even if the commercial is ranked the worst, having an ad air during the Big Game still brings widespread attention and conversation around your brand. For example, GoDaddy’s ad ranked dead last in the USA Today poll, yet drew the most social media mentions. The company also recorded its largest sales day in history on Monday.

There is a certain allure to having a commercial on the NFL’s biggest stage, but the decision to invest in an ad is extremely costly. This year it was $3.8 million for a 30-second spot, and that doesn’t count ad’s planning and creation. More and more commercials are released before game day, gaining viewers and pre-game buzz online, which could help warrant the cost of air time.

Doritos used this tactic to its advantage. Not only did Doritos post ads online prior to game day, but again accepted user-generated videos and allowed people to vote for their favorite. The brand skipped on celebrities and went with a crowdsourcing approach. The brand had the No. 4 and No. 7 spots on the USA Today Ad Meter. People like to feel like they’re part of something significant – whether it’s voting on an ad or helping choose a new Monopoly piece.

Besides the commercials, one of the most talked-about aspects of this year’s big game was the blackout. Oreo took full advantage of it with a timely and relevant tweet, thanks to a mission control team that was ready to capitalize on social media. Although not the only brand to mention the blackout, Oreo was the most recognized for it. More and more people are enjoying “second screen experiences” while watching TV, so it’s beneficial for brands to chat along with their audience and be on watch 24/7.

Year after year, some of the most popular Big Game commercials are those that tug at the heartstrings and create an emotional connection between the viewer and the ad. Like “Brotherhood.” It was not about beer, but a bond between a man and his Clydesdale. Tapping into someone’s emotions is more powerful than appealing to their rationale. At the end of the day, people choose a brand or product because of how it makes them feel.

What did you think about this year’s ads? Do you agree with the Ad Meter rankings? Tell us your thoughts below.

Jimmy Chaffin, Cheryl Bak and Michael Graham also contributed to this post.

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  • HeatherMac

    I was one of those who participated in USA Today’s Ad Meter and LOVED it! Great fun and for the most part agreed with how they appeared. Had that negative posts, and they should have been, pushed Go Daddy so high in rankings. Wish no one would have talked about them!

    • Michael Graham

      Thanks for the feedback Heather. It appears Go Daddy doesn’t mind the negative posts as long as people are talking about the brand. Good or bad, that’s their strategy and it seems to works for them. I’m glad you enjoyed your experience with the Ad Meter. It’s a great way to engage viewers.

  • Jon

    Hard to beat Paul Harvey

    • DVLpradical

      Very true, Jon!

    • DVLpradical

      Jon, you’re right. The Paul Harvey spot was one of the favorites this year and finished third in USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings.