Here's how your company could be a Super Bowl advertiser without spending $5 million on a TV ad


Pizza Hut golden pizza

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has no TV ad but it is giving away 50 golden pizzas on game day.

Brands that buy TV ad slots at the Super Bowl are taking a huge gamble.

Splashing out $5 million on one 30-second slot cuts a significant chunk out of most marketing budgets. And that's before a marketer pays for creating the ad, the potential swathe of celebrity actors, and the rest of the promotion surrounding the campaign. According to CNBC, the total cost of a Super Bowl TV ad campaign, including production, can be more than $30 million.

Each brand is shouting, trying to be heard over the cacophony of the herd: whether that's by dressing a pack of daschunds up as hot dogs, offering to pay fouling players' fines, releasing mystery food items, or simply employing five A-listers to star in one 30-second slot.


But there are plenty of other ways brands can advertise around the Super Bowl, without splashing out the $4.6 million to $5 million on a 30-second spot during the game. Brands can still align with the Super Bowl by advertising before the game, opting for regional TV ad buys, and running promotional campaigns that eschew TV altogether.

Adobe's advert below (not being shown at the Super Bowl) pokes fun at the risk advertisers take during the big game:


And these campaigns do go disastrously wrong in real life. Remember the backlash on Nationwide suffered after last year's "Make Safe Happen" campaign? The ad featured a cute child telling us all of the experiences he will never have. Because he died.

Watch it below, but first grab a box of tissues:


The spot was slated on Twitter and it became the most-talked about ad of the 2015 Super Bowl, for the wrong reasons as people denounced the brand for the buzz-kill. The company issued a statement this year explaining that it will not be running a spot this year.

But TV slots are not the only way for brands to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the big game. Many brands, including Pizza Hut, Progressive Insurance, Visa and GoDaddy, are all taking part by launching separate Super Bowl-related campaigns, airing outside of the big game.


Progressive Insurance is one big company which describes Super Bowl TV ads as not worth it. "It would definitely not be worth it for us. We have an icon that is already well known in the world. We like to zag, while other people zig. It's who I am, it's who Progressive is. And just because we could buy a $6 million ad doesn't mean we should," chief of marketing at Progressive, Jeff Charney, told Business Insider.

He added: "Last year's Super Bowl was called the Somber Bowl, it wasn't as much fun ... There are so many cliches and predictive things you can see in the Super Bowl. We started watching 10 years of ads and we looked at those ads and we saw there's always gonna to be a supermodel; there's always gonna be a former athlete; there's always gonna be a puppy; there's always gonna be a mini horse or horse; there's always gonna be a celebrity. The predictability of this was really intriguing to us."

progressive bingo

Progressive Insurance

Progressive Insurance's Super Bowl bingo

So, instead of a TV ad, Progressive created a bingo app of Super Bowl ad clichés. Winners will get their rent and car payments paid for a year. Charney believes that this idea will be more effective than a TV advert for the Progressive brand, at a much lower cost. "We can do this for a fraction, fraction, fraction, small, small, small, I cannot even tell you how infinitesimally small it is," he said.

But whether this strategy will be effective is unclear. If no one downloads the game, Progressive gets barely any exposure. There's no guarantee, unlike with a TV ad.

Pizza Hut is also skipping the game day ad circus because it reckons the days leading up to the Bowl are more important. "All the pizza we'll sell on game day, those decisions will be made ahead of game day," Jared Drinkwater, vice president of marketing at Pizza Hut told CNBC.


But to remain a part of the conversation the pizza delivery service have created the 24-carat "Golden Garlic Knots Pizza," which will be sent to 50 homes on game day.

Another big name skipping the TV Super Bowl ads this year is GoDaddy, despite being a part of the show every year since 2005. A GoDaddy rep told AdAge it was abandoning "high-level domestic brand awareness to a more personalized, data-driven marketing approach."


GoDaddy pulled a spot last year, after animal lovers complained. Here it is:

Guerrilla marketing is one way brands can exploit the excitement of the Super Bowl.


Sam Ewen, founder and CEO of promotional agency Interference Inc, which is working on unconventional campaigns with Nike and Doritos for this year's match (both brands also have TV slots) said: "For the $5 million it costs to take out a TV ad, you could budget $50,000 for distribution of your sample product in 100 US city markets, host your own Puppy Bowl at the top 500 dog parks across the US, or purchase, brand, and distribute 125,000 NFL Pro replica Gameday footballs."

Other brands take out local advertisements during the big game - like this 2015 ad from the Church of Scientology.


Good alternatives for companies who want to jump on the Super Bowl bandwagon without paying $5 million for 30-seconds certainly exist. However, for huge companies, TV slots remain irresistible. The big game is the only guaranteed way to reach an audience of around 120 million people at once. That the 120 million actually want to watch adverts makes it even harder to ignore.

Second-time Super Bowl advertiser Avocados from Mexico's president Alvaro Luque told Business Insider: "It's the biggest stage out there, and one thing we know for sure is it's the only time of year where consumers are looking for the ads. Usually consumers are zapping through, but this is the only time the consumer gets excited about the ads."

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