The Ultimate Marketing Ecosystem: What Marketers Need To Know About the Super Bowl

Ever hear the saying that the Super Bowl is just an excuse to watch the ads? Well, this year the game will become even less of the focus as Marketers move beyond simply driving ad recall via their Super Bowl marketing activities, and more toward driving consumer conversations and brand interactions that “feed” off of their ads and brand integrations.

In a recent Nielsen Wire post, Pete Blackshaw, EVP Nielsen Digital Strategic Services, and I discussed how the Super Bowl is the ultimate marketing “ecosystem’ of paid media and earned media (Disclosure:  I work for The Nielsen Company).

The Super Bowl is getting real about real-time.

For Marketers, 2010 will mean not only a Super Bowl mega-media buy, but also a new focus on how to leverage that investment into earned media that provides a long tail of consumer driven buzz and brand equity building activities.

Super Bowl Paid Media: How Does It Really Work ?

What should marketers keep in mind when planning their spectacular media-buy?

  1. The entertainment halo matters – Over the last three years, Nielsen IAG research has found that Super Bowl spots achieved +31% higher break-through and +93% higher likability than the typical TV ad. Why? Partly because the Super Bowl has higher than average TV program engagement, but mostly because the ads really are part of the show.
  2. Timing is everything – Ad recall across the game shows that 1st and 2nd quarter spots yield more yardage than second half spots. Fourth quarter spots have the lowest recall and are about comparable to a “normal” TV buy. It’s clear: advertisers should play early and sit on the sidelines in the 2nd half. 
  3. Consumers get finicky – The viewer’s ability to associate the correct brand with the ad as well as reported likability levels wane over the course of the game: 1st quarters are best, 4th quarters are worst. Super Bowl refreshment fatigue, perhaps?
  4. …But as the game continues, good spirits abound – Surprisingly, in-program product placement scores are just the opposite–they grow over time. Branded entertainment recall and brand opinion are lowest pre-game, moderate during the game, and highest post-game.

The bottom line for Marketers? Focus on ads early, and branded integration efforts late. Perhaps most importantly, the Super Bowl is a “touchdown” for brands: the average ad’s purchase consideration increases +13% in the week after the game versus pre-game.

Earned Media: Great Advertising Finds Life in Other Places

How does the Super Bowl shine light on free media and consumer conversation? A Super Bowl  ad may trigger a web site visit, a Google search, a Tweet, fan-page sign ups, or DVR rewind. Or it could bleed over into the Twitter stream of a New York Times or Ad Age reporter. My Nielsen colleague Pete Blackshaw provides another take on maximizing paid and earned media in an Ad Age article “Earned Media May Be Efficient, But It’s Far From Free.”  This whole paid vs. earned issue raises two important questions:

  1. The Impact of Earned Media – Positive playback about Super Bowl ads can provide brands with an almost endless stream of conversation — a “digital trail” of echo-like activities. This free media needs to be considered when brands try to calculate their return on Super Bowl investment. The question is: how can brands best design their “paid” marketing efforts to drive this free digital trail ?
  2. Trail Measurement – Marketers can quantify earned media by volume, reach, tone, source, or even depth of brand advocacy. Much of this can be understood in real-time. Marketers need to understand not just how much, but also how effective it is. And, what effect does “earned” media have on future paid efforts? Is it possible that the digital trail after effects actually produce better ad performance in the future?

Paid Media & Earned Media: Put To The Test

So in the end, it’s not as simple as “buying” high-impact ads and branded integrations at the right time in the years largest media circus–the Super Bowl.

The broader ecosystems matter — and Marketers have to figure out how paid media drives earned, how earned media impacts future paid, and how both of them contribute to building consumer engagement and brand equity.

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8 Responses to The Ultimate Marketing Ecosystem: What Marketers Need To Know About the Super Bowl

  1. Jay Sullivan says:

    Randall – Excellent commentary on Super Bowl ads. This is truly a marketing event where the ads matter and company reputations rise and fall with how they connect. Your commentary on early vs. late placement is something I have not seen before and very helpful to placement strategy. Keep the commentary coming! Jay

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Jay — Thanks for reading the blog and taking time to comment. Ad impact by quarter is really interesting. An obvious question is: does the game score make a difference? e.g. do close games deliver good ad scores while blowouts don’t ? The answer, interestingly, is that the game score makes no difference at all–average ad scores decline regardless of how close the game is. So, as a CMO, it’s always best to place your bets early and be prepared to watch the other guys late in the game.

  2. JimHolbrook says:

    Randall, a few random thoughts:
    1. I think ‘ecosystem’ implies some sort of closed-loop or at least connectivity… Super Bowl earned/paid media is still ‘dispersion’, right?
    2. I love it that Super Bowl ads are +93% ‘more likeable’ than typical ads… but if I don’t like any ads, or am not paying attention, then 93% more of zero is still zero, at least according to my daughter!
    3. leading with paid media and augmenting with earned media is still the sign of marketers who want to be in control… try earned media augmented by paid for a new way to think about getting the word out…
    4. Feb 7 in Miami: Vikings vs Steelers… Steelers by 10!!!


    • beardrs says:

      Hi Jim — Thanks for your insightful questions. Ecosystem refers to the fact that the different marketing elements around and within the SuperBowl “feed” off each other and are mutually dependent for success. What will be interesting this year is to see if it’s possible to measure the interactive effects of paid vs. earned media. That is, to what degree does paid media create earned, and does earned then improve paid efforts? Of course, which comes first is a matter of both strategy and desired impact. I simply led with the ads since this is traditionally where so much of the focus has been in the press and with consumers. To your daughters point, well, I can’t say I’m a fan of every SB ad either. And lastly, I think the Manning brothers still have a shot at it, but I’m not so bold as you as to actually predict a score ! All good points you make. Keep the thoughts coming.

  3. Greg Johnson says:

    Randall…another insightful installment. And as a fan of both the game, and the marketing of and within the SB, the perspective was truly appreciated. Best regards to you and yours over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend….Greg

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Greg — Thanks for reading the blog and taking time to comment. I think the Super Bowl provides a unique opportunity to learn about all kinds of marketing issues, chief among them, the interaction of paid vs. earned media. Brands are getting more sophisticated every year about how they leverage their ads in other mediums and provide consumers new ways of talking about them. This provides a great laboratory to learn about these emerging media issues. Have a great holiday season.
      Randall Beard

  4. […] must be prepared. What’s the plan to deal with any celebrity disaster fallout, including the digital trail of negative media that will live on for months and years on the web? And what’s the back-up Marketing […]

  5. […] Rob Norman – GroupM Interactive — Interestingly, the concept of program engagement seeped into Shelly’s interview with Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM Interactive Worldwide. Rob and Shelly discussed how TV advertising remains valuable in promoting brand visibility. Rob offered the example of Super Bowl ad buzz, which marketers can measured by the synergy between paid media and earned media. […]

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