Super Bowl Commercials are Waste of Money: But There are Exceptions, Such as Tim Tebow Spot

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For years, many companies have paid millions of dollars to advertise for 30 seconds during the televised broadcasts of the NFL Super Bowl. One quick commercial with huge creative and airtime costs, though, is similar to forgetting the game plan since it goes against the fundamental principle of advertising—frequency.

Dr. John Tantillo, a behavioral research psychologist and brand expert known as the Marketing Doctor, has been against Super Bowl advertising plans for many years. This year, he said, companies are beginning to heed his advice. They are using other kinds of marketing and branding strategies that are more economical and could be very successful, or even more successful, in reaching football fans along with many other consumers who do not watch the game.

Among the corporate no-shows this year are Pepsi, FedEx, General Motors and GE. Pepsi decided to focus on a social media driven cause communications program that will solidify grass roots appreciation for the brand and the company.

Exceptions to Super Bowl Commercials

However, according to Tantillo during an interview, on occasion a commercial during the big game does makes sense, because there are always exceptions to the rule.

This year’s exception is college football star and NFL prospect Tim Tebow. He will be featured in a commercial that indirectly addresses the issue of abortion. The spot is sponsored by Focus on the Family, a Christian organization, and it showcases pro-life values and tells the story about his mother’s decision to disregard medical advice to terminate her pregnancy. The commercial has generated considerable discussion and a growing wave of controversy even before it has been seen by the public.

“This kind of ad works with a large television audience,” said Tantillo, “because it is not trying to brand a product. Instead, it addresses an issue with a specific viewpoint that makes people think, discuss and debate before and after the commercial has been seen.”

The Marketing Doctor has just published People Buy Brands—Not Companies, and in his book he cites several examples that explain the misnomer about the power of Super Bowl advertising.

TV Advertising Frequency

Tantillo said that not every person watches the game. If money is spent wisely to reach audiences that are watching other programs during game time, Tantillo concludes that the important 18-49 demographic could be doubled. He also indicated that a $3 million campaign can generate higher sales if it is used more effectively to purchase 600 30-second television commercials in the New York market or 800 30-second spots in Los Angeles rather than one commercial during the Super Bowl. This, he said, takes advantage of the marketing and advertising rule of frequency of message.

As president of the Marketing Department of America, Dr. Tantillo also knows a lot about personal branding. He has more than 5,000 Facebook friends and many others who follow his blogs.