Super Bowl Ads Can Mean Big Wins for Challenger Brands

February 4, 2016 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


Super Bowl 50 is already beginning to take over the airwaves, with coverage and excitement building for the big event Sunday, February 7 on CBS. But it’s the action off the field that gets us most excited. This is the time of year when the spotlight shines brightest on those who make events like the Super Bowl possible – the advertisers.

As I write this, the best ads money can buy are being prepped to battle off-the-turf during commercial breaks. And rest assured, the competition during the commercial breaks will be every bit as fierce as the battle on the field. Your undivided attention is the reward for advertisers who get it right, and you know the advertisers who’ve done it well. They tug at our heartstrings, make us laugh, and sometimes, if they’re truly clever, they even make us think.

Who can forget the 2011 Super Bowl ad from Volkswagen called, “The Force”? Not only was it one of the most talked about ads of the year, it continues to live on to this very day as one of the most shared Super Bowl ads of all time. Despite the company’s trouble, Volkswagen is still scoring big digitally with more than 67 million views on its brand’s YouTube page.

Super Bowl 49 drew a whopping 114.5 million viewers in 2015. Year-after-year, there is strong growth in viewership, and there’s no sign that interest will wane anytime soon. In fact, many fans are just as eager to see which ads set the bar for the most emotional, witty, funny, memorable 30 seconds to grace their screens as they are to watch their favorite teams in the big finale.

The Super Bowl provides challenger brands the opportunity to shine on the national stage. And while an ad during the game comes with a price tag somewhere between $4 to 5 million, the benefits of this investment can be priceless. Think of it like this, once you decide to play the ad game at this level, your challenger brand automatically joins an elite class—a brand that not only generates buzz on TV, but also builds up notoriety on all forms of social media and traditional media worldwide.

Wondering if you should take the plunge and make a marketing investment in the Super Bowl? Here are some things to consider:

  • If your brand has broad consumer appeal, there’s simply no bigger stage for presenting it to the world. Over the course of 30 seconds, your brand has access to millions and millions of consumers with Nielsen ratings approaching 50 – that’s essentially 50 percent of all U.S. households tuned into one program. Think back to that 114.5 million viewers mentioned earlier.
  • The investment begins paying dividends weeks before the game is played and long after the final whistle blows. Super Bowl ads aren’t just a one-off; they can be a springboard for your brand as they’re socialized through social media and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. For example, imagine seeing your brand on the YouTube Super Bowl channel or being featured in the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter.
  • An ad with this level of exposure typically results in great replay value for your PR and marketing efforts
  • The corporate excitement shouldn’t be underestimated, either. Running a spot on the Super Bowl gets folks fired up, and you can leverage that enthusiasm internally to create great organizational momentum.

So think about the Super Bowl for next year’s plan. It’s certainly not practical for most advertisers, but advertising history has been made by more than one challenger brand that dared to go big.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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