Super Bowl…

Are You Ready For Some Football? Are You Ready For Some Ads?

Every fall as brisk breezes come blowing in and the leaves start changing colors, excitement fills the air. It’s time for football!! Football fans across the country rush to stadiums or to their TVs to watch football (whether high school, college, or professional).

Advertising Research

While teams and fans enjoy the fall outings, they often have their sights and hopes set on the final standings at the end of the season. At this same time of the year, Consumer Insights and Advertising pros also have their sights and hopes set on the end of the season…February and Super Bowl advertising! The Super Bowl is right around the corner, and fans can’t wait to watch the game being played for the first time in Las Vegas!

Over the years, we have had the privilege to be commentators on The Big Game. Not the Super Bowl itself, of course, but commentators on the Advertising Game that happens during the Super Bowl. Impressively, in years past, we’ve found that many times The Advertising Game is BETTER than the Football Game on the field (or at least talked about more afterwards)!

Regardless of whether your all-time favorite ads are for snacks, sodas, beer, cars, or something else, we know companies always bring their best ads to the game. According to Ad Age, a 30-second spot is going for approximately $7 million. Obviously, that doesn’t include what is often a much larger campaign with social media hype, the production itself, influencer involvement, supporting online and social media spots, and anything else the campaign might include.

Given all the money that is spent on these endeavors, it is critical when preparing a Super Bowl ad that there is a purpose and a driving strategy, and that it fits within the overall campaign for the organization and communication goals for that spot. There are many advertising strategies, tactics, and levers that can be used and adjusted to make Super Bowl advertising successful. When reviewing past Super Bowl advertising, we’ve found there is a continuum with a “Brand Centric” focus on one side and an “Entertainment Centric” focus on the other. To hit that sweet spot and score with the consumer, successful Super Bowl advertising often touches several elements across that range. We have found these are the seven key elements that can help turn an ad spot into a “Super Bowl winner.”


Attention Grabbing

It must stand out. Consumers are bombarded with many messages, not only during the Super Bowl, but every single day and on every platform possible—TV, billboards, social media, podcasts, cabs, buses, radio, etc. There are various ways to make the ads attention grabbing—they can be visually beautiful, have amazing music, speak to the audience in a very compelling way, or have significant usage of celebrities. Attention grabbing ads also often present something “unexpected” to the viewer, such as a past Super Bowl ad from EDS with their western-themed take on “cat herding”.



It needs to have the right tone. A commercial performs better if it is likeable and if it is something consumers might mention to their friends or family. In addition, if it is likeable, consumers are more likely to watch the whole commercial and not turn it off, skip it, or just leave the room.


Word Of Mouth

It needs to foster sharing. This is another key pillar of how advertising works. It can be boosted by digital and social media to encourage sharing and further conversations. As long as the sharing is “positive,” this can really make your advertising pay off. Thinking all the way back to 2016, PuppyMonkeyBaby for Mountain Dew generated a great deal of word-of-mouth activity. The product combined Dew, juice, and caffeine.


Emotional Connection

It needs to resonate with the audience. Depending on your brand and communication strategy, it may be ideal for your ad to connect with consumers on a more emotional level (vs. a rational level). This requires a deep understanding of your product category, customer journey, and buying decision process.


Brand Registration

It needs to highlight the brand. Do not forget the brand! If your spot is the most hilarious ad of Super Bowl night that is incredible, but if consumers do not know what company or product the ad is for, it is a failure. In fact, the brand must be clearly communicated and not confused with other brands and products. You don’t want your advertising to accidentally promote or remind consumers of competitors products or even products from a completely different category. Historically, insurance companies were notorious for being confused for one another in advertising, then came the GEICO Gecko and Flo for Progressive. Not only do the personalities star in the ads, but the campaigns also have their own feel and rhythm that helps identify the brands. Going back to the “cat herding” brand from EDS, at the end they were able to connect and relate “cat herding” to how they help their customers in the digital economy. In essence, hitting both sides of the brand centric/entertainment centric continuum.


Brand Imagery

It needs to be believable. The brand imagery portrayed in the commercial must fit the brand and be authentic to who the brand is. The commercial can try to be humorous but should not “step too far” from its brand identity. Humor is difficult as it is highly subjective to your target audience. What might seem “over the top” and not funny to some could be a perfect fit for your brand and target audience. An ad featuring Betty White playing neighborhood football and being “transformed” by a Snicker’s bar to be more competitive, had large appeal (even to a younger crowd that may not have known Betty White). The ad was able to hit the “funny bone” as well as stay true to the core brand message about the benefit of eating a Snicker’s bar.



It needs a call to action. If your ad does not move the needle in terms of improving consumers’ likelihood to buy your brand, learn more about it, or shop your store/eat at your restaurant, it is generally considered a failure. Even if it is improving your brand awareness, it must also achieve its persuasive objective.

Not every ad viewed on Super Bowl Sunday will hit all these areas (nor should they try to), but strategy is about focusing on the right aspects for the brand, which can be challenging. The payoff is when the ad “wins” with the viewer. Thinking back to the “Brand Centric” and “Entertainment Centric” continuum—planning and utilizing the right combination of the seven elements across the continuum—advertisers can make winning Super Bowl ads for an audience of millions. At the end of the big day, we can grab our favorite party food and drink, and sit down to watch the action. You won’t want to miss a minute of The Big Game—either The Big Football Game, or maybe more importantly, The Big Advertising Game!

The right advertising strategy and copy testing research can help to evaluate these seven key elements and make your ad a “winner,” whether it is Super Bowl night or any other time of the year. Best of luck to all the brands!

What’s your favorite Big Game ad from years past?


Bonnie Janzen

Bonnie Janzen


Bonnie helps drive growth for client companies based on strategic consumer insights, innovation, and analytics to shape marketing campaigns and new product development programs. She has consulted with clients on new business mergers and acquisitions including global expansion. Advertising and messaging research is a particular passion. She is very involved in the strategic direction of the company.

Clay Dethloff

Clay Dethloff

Senior VP, Insights and Innovation

Clay is an experienced marketing research professional with more than 25 years of experience in both leading and delivering qualitative research in the industry. As the head of qualitative research efforts at Decision Analyst, Clay is responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of qualitative research, identifying new/innovative qualitative research tools, and overall management of the qualitative team.

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