Deconstructing the Big Game: A Marketer’s Perspective on the Super Bowl

Deconstructing the Big Game: A Marketer’s Perspective on the Super Bowl

Football on field

As marketers, there is a certain fascination with the Super Bowl. This sporting event provides the largest stage for television ads, with close to or exceeding 100 million viewers every year. Naturally, we are curious how marketers will use their creative promotional platform.

Last year, the Kilts Center for Marketing held its first annual Super Bowl event, providing an outlet for MBA students to learn more about advertising during the Big Game. This year might have been in a virtual format, but as co-chairs, we were really excited to help plan this event with the Kilts Center. While last year’s event focused more on the analytical assessment of marketing during the Super Bowl, this year we wanted to change it up and dive deeper into how commercials and promotions resonate with consumers and how we determine success in a qualitative way.

To kick off the event, we had a fireside chat Q&A session with Julie Rubin ’15, Senior Marketing Manager, North America Media Team, PepsiCo, who was interviewed by our fellow Marketing Group co-chair, Kwaku Frimpong. Julie spoke about her experience working on the Doritos brand team at PepsiCo on a Super Bowl ad that aired in 2019. A highly memorable ad, starring Chance the Rapper and the Backstreet Boys, the audience was immediately curious how an advertisement like this gets dreamt up and then executed. Julie discussed how the team works to determine their strategy for the ad, align on their goals, and work with creative agency partners to make it a reality. Julie was asked how they determine which celebrities to work with, and she explained that many times they seek out celebrities that they feel align to their brand, sometimes even being a loyal consumer of the brand. However, with more stakeholders there are more voices in the vision of the ad, which can add complexity.

Julie also mentioned that while the advertisement space is purchased and planned months in advance, oftentimes the filming of the ads come together quickly. The Doritos spot from 2019 was filmed in January, while the Super Bowl event was in February. We were extremely impressed with the fast turnaround times, demonstrating the agility of marketing teams.

After the Q&A with Julie Rubin, we were very excited to have marketing professor Chris Krohn, ’97 share his thoughts on the key criteria that would make a super bowl ad successful. We learned that there are four main objectives for a Super Bowl spot:

  1. Achieve key brand objective through eye-catching visuals, engaging humor, or celebrities
  2. Generate memorability by telling a compelling story that triggers strong emotions
  3. Trigger social media sharing even if this isn’t the primary objective
  4. Build strong positioning of the product or service.

Professor Krohn showed us a few of his favorite historical super bowl ads that he felt did a great job in delivering on these four criteria. They included Google’s “Loretta ” commercial from 2020 and Apple’s “1984 ” spot from 1984.

Afterwards, Professor Krohn shared a few commercials from this year’s Super Bowl that had a wide range in style and strategy. They included Amazon’s “Alexa’s Body,” General Motors’ “No Way, Norway,” Mercari’s “Get Your Unused Things Back in the Game,” Oatly’s “Wow No Cow,” and State Farm’s “Drake from State Farm“. We then split into breakout rooms of 4-5 people to discuss how we each felt these ads hit on each the four objectives. At the end, we came back as a group and shared our thoughts with Professor Krohn and asked him additional questions. It was incredibly fun and engaging to hear the differing viewpoints and learn about how these ads can land differently for different folks.

One of our favorite aspects of being involved in Booth’s marketing community is to analyze relevant cultural events like the Super Bowl with a marketing lens and have the resources through the Kilts Marketing Center to invite speakers like Julie Rubin and Chris Krohn to share their thoughts. We had an incredibly fun time helping to organize this event with Kilts and learned a lot of engaging tidbits about what it takes to put a Super Bowl Ad together and how to target this particular audience.