Have the Ingredients of a Successful Super Bowl Spot Changed in 2023?

By Huw Barnett, Account Director at Fuse

Every year the Super Bowl provides advertisers with a huge opportunity as it garners the highest viewership linear TV has to offer in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. As the showpiece event kicks off in Glendale, Arizona on February 12th, TV audiences are predicted to once again rise; increasing on last year’s half-decade peak of 112m viewers (according to a recent WARC survey).

In 2023 to capitalise on this reach, while still catering to a digitally-diverse audience, we should expect to see brands’ creative looking to resonate with an influential, younger demographic. Gen Z is growing, and they are set to have an estimated combined spending power of $3.0 trillion by 2030. Brands are understandably looking to unlock this vitally important audience. They will do this in part through leveraging engaging platforms (such as TikTok and Twitch), but equally through extending the lifespan of their Super Bowl ad campaign – releasing the spot through YouTube or social ahead of the TVC airing during the main event.

Last year for example, PepsiCo released the ‘Road to Super Bowl LVI’ a month prior to the game in Los Angeles, while many brands look to heighten anticipation for their ads through teasers and accompanying bespoke-for-social campaigns well in advance of the game itself. This approach ensures the TVC is a component of a more robust, better integrated advertising strategy. Using an ad digitally has always been a prevalent part of the Super Bowl marketing mix, but traditionally as an alternative to TV, rather than in addition to. One of the earliest examples of this being GoDaddy.com in 2008, which released its ad exclusively online as a response to many broadcasters rejecting its risqué spot featuring racing driver, Danica Patrick.

In this nuanced landscape, original creativity is the currency for brands looking to capitalise on the flagship cultural moment. About a quarter of the Super Bowl audience thinks that the ads are the most important aspect of the event – meaning talkability and awareness are at a premium. Conversely, cut-through is hard to achieve in a saturated market, illustrating the importance of innovative, effective storytelling, and humour in a 30s or 60s spot to ensure recall. Super Bowl ads have refined creatively throughout the years, with increasing production value and celebrity power driving huge marquee spots from many brands. While formerly a universally accepted formula, recent research has shown that audiences struggle with ad recall despite the presence of celebrities.

Equally, with the cost of a 30s Super Bowl spot reportedly costing around $6-$7 million, brands are looking to refocus their strategies (and in turn, their creative approach) to demonstrate more measurable tangible business impact. This represents a shift from the traditional legacy awareness play, with CMOs looking to justify ROI against the considerable spend.

Increased scrutiny in spend has already seen a strategic shift from many of the ‘traditional players’ such as Anheuser-Busch (AB), which advertised during the Super Bowl for 37 consecutive years until 2021, before returning in 2022. AB is continuing a refined creative approach that it initially adopted last year, releasing its SB LVII ad in select, high sales-volume US states, rather than a blanket national buy. Targeting a younger demographic, 2023 will see it prioritise its Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, and Busch Light brands through three minutes of national (US) ad time, alongside a smaller, targeted regional buy for Budweiser. This latter ad features actor Kevin Bacon and prominent producer, Metro Boomin, bringing back the beer brand’s classic tagline, ‘This Bud’s for You’.

The ad will initially air through social and online video platforms. With this more efficient targeting, its Super Bowl investment is better tailored to today’s media landscape, and success is measured more effectively for the business.

So, many of the traditional ingredients to a successful Super Bowl commercial will remain the same: humour, cultural relevance, reference to pop-culture, innovation and celebrity presence. However, the way brands are now unifying their Super Bowl creative strategy across linear and digital is indicative of the need to resonate more clearly with a varied, digitally-savvy consumer base.

Got a Question? We’ve Got Answers.