Super Bowl 2015: The biggest game in marketing

superbowl-2015-lThe streets of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest city were eerily deserted on Super Bowl Sunday. It appeared that the populace was more asleep than ‘sleepless in Seattle’.

First impressions were deceiving though, as off the streets things were positively buzzing. Every eyeball was glued to the telecast of the most watched television program in US history, as the Seattle Seahawks took on the New England Patriots in Arizona.

In a bar in the Pike Place Markets – the heart of Seattle’s downtown – I closely followed the football along with the faithful. (They call Seattle followers the ’12’s’ – more on that later.) Besides being a fan though, I was really there for the ads, placed at a cost of US$4.5 million for 30 seconds, or US$150,000 a second. In particular, I wanted to see how retail approached the Super Bowl.

In the end, it was the big names that dominated the telecast – manufacturer brands like Budweiser and Doritos. The real retail action was in the supermarkets leading up to the event, where huge displays and promotional activations encouraged shoppers to stock up on beer and munchies.

Still, on the screen, besides the inevitable Budweiser Clydesdale and puppy spot (far and away the people’s choice for best ad), there were two spots for retailers that stood out to me.

The first was for McDonald’s, a company that has been battered recently by a change in food trends and a slew of nimbler brands offering higher quality, healthier choices – such as Chipotle and Five Guys.

The spot – ‘Pay with Lovin’’ is all about McDonald’s setting out to recapture the hearts of the average American. It’s a novel promotional push. In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Mickey D’s randomly select customers to forego paying with cash or credit, and instead pay with love. People are asked to hug their kids, or call their Mothers to say they love them. It’s heart warming, and it’s different – I liked it.

The second spot was for Weight Watchers, and brilliantly takes a stance against the American fast food culture. With a voice over from Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad (sounding somewhat like George Clooney), the spot highlights food excess, and states that: “It’s time to take back control”. Brilliant placement, superb positioning and I bet it works its big, fat ass off.

The other great piece of marketing is the ’12’s’ concept I wrote about earlier. There are 11 team members on the field at any one time in American football. The Seattle Seahawks have gifted the number 12 to their fans. They say that crowd support – particularly at their home ground in the Emerald City – equates to a ’12th Man’ on the field of play. The locals have enthusiastically embraced the concept. It makes them feel part of the team, and is a very smart loyalty idea.

So that was the Superbowl. For me the wrong team won, in the final seconds of the game. Americans love to be sold to – and marketing won the day.

Jon Bird is MD global of Labstore, Y&R’s worldwide retail and shopper marketing network. Email: Twitter: @thetweetailer. Blog:


1 comment

  1. Mark posted on February 10, 2015

    Wondering if you saw the Michael Hill ads? A little ozzie battler investing heavily over there (OK he's a kiwi but since when do we hesitate to claim them for our own?)

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