How Can Brands Advertising at the 2024 Super Bowl Make the Most of Their Money?

By R. Larsson, Advertising Week

In 2024, events have become powerful platforms for brands to showcase their products and services, connect with their target audience and ultimately boost their market presence. However, with the amazon opportunity (and challenge) that is provided by the Super Bowl, it is crucial brands strategize effectively to make the most of their investments.

In this piece, we speak to industry experts who delve into key tactics and innovative approaches that brands can adopt to optimize their advertising efforts at this event, ensuring a compelling return on investment and leaving a lasting impact on customers.

Andrew Mullen, Account Director, Fuse

The Super Bowl may be a sporting fixture based in America, but it is an advertising moment heard across the world. For brands, taking centre stage on this night requires a heavy investment and creative prowess to drive results. And with CBS having sold out its Super Bowl commercials earlier than expected, competition for audience attention will be fierce. Priority for brands is know your audience so you invest in creative and placement that is sure to score a touchdown – a 2024 survey shows that a majority (69%) of respondents favour funny ads while 40% of Gen Z say a firm ‘yes’ to casting influencers; however, brands must leverage the data and insights they have about their audience to maximise the opportunity and ultimately drive business back. They must create a 360 plan and supplement the main ad with social touch points as the Super Bowl appeals to a broad church and additional digital activation adds momentum and keeps the conversation going. Take PepsiCo, for instance. With its newest brand Starry, they have solidified brand awareness through digital creative on their TikTok channel.  Or DoorDash, which has developed a genius way to hack the event and remain relevant across every commercial.

Nataly Kelly, CMO of Zappi

“Think of the Super Bowl and you think of glitz, glamor and A-list rosters on and off the field. Over 70% of Super Bowl ads tested by Zappi in 2023 featured celebrities, as consumers expect brands to entertain and connect to the cultural zeitgeist with humour just as much as they advertise. With some celebs, like Serena Williams for Michelob Ultra and Remy Martin, we even saw  double-dipping in brand partnerships. But in a night dominated by superstar glamor, the real star was a Bear the Chocolate Labrador who took top billing in The Farmer’s Dog – a pet food ad, telling the story of a lifelong friendship between owner and hound. The creative brief was ‘make them cry’ which paid off with the top ranking score of 8.5 out of a possible 10 in overall appeal. Consumers who saw the ad loved its heartfelt story and quickly related the experience on-screen to their own care and passion for their pets. We know that distinctiveness is key in advertising, central to inciting strong brand recall and driving consideration. But in a world where humor and celebrities make up the majority of the viewing experience, perhaps the key to standing out is by telling cute stories that connect people and feelings.”

Nick Burgoyne, Senior Strategist, RAPP

The Super Bowl is an odd event. It’s watched all round the world – by football fans for the action and by non-fans for the half-time show (and even the ads). This poses an attractive opportunity for brands to appear, but there’s a high risk of being lost in the spectacle.

One way brands can make the most of their astronomical costs is by ensuring their product is relevant to customer moments. The behaviours and rituals of the Super Bowl are a rich tapestry of targeting opportunities – beer, soft drinks, but also BBQs or air fryers (those potato wedges won’t cut the diner mustard). What am I missing for this event? What can brands offer to make my next Super Bowl better? These ads are the perfect chance to capture brand consideration.

Then, go for it. Take a risk (within reason). Pepsi, Taco Bell, Dodge and alike have produced terrible Super Bowl ads that rightly faced public ridicule. Yet the share price of these companies has increased since. The potential buzz generated from a big, standout idea will far outweigh any short-term hate. Your customers are both your biggest fans and toughest critics, involve them in the creation by finding the magic in your customer data, and in the conversation.

Sascha Uzzell, Managing Director, New York and Houston at Imagination

Advertising at the Super Bowl is no easy feat, and with the $7 million price tag for just a 30 second spot, brands must ensure their ads cut through and deliver ROI. Toyota recently announced that they will not be advertising at the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year in order to prioritise experiential spend, sending a strong message to the industry. Traditional advertising is no longer enough.

By creating memorable and immersive experiences, brands can transcend the limitations of traditional advertising and forge lasting connections with their audiences. These experiences not only capture attention but also provide a tangible value exchange that goes beyond the fleeting impact of a televised ad.

However, brands must ensure that these experiences align with what their audience wants. In a world where people crave authenticity, simply creating generic events is not enough; brands must pay attention to their audience’s preferences and create meaningful experiences.

Helenor Gilmour, Director and Insight, Beano Brain

For brands trying to reach Generation Alpha – those born since 2010 – just investing in expensive ad slots won’t cut it. This generation is more discerning than any that has come before it and brands need to be thinking long term – catch them for life, not just at the Super Bowl. As a demographic that has grown accustomed to consuming bite-sized content across an array of digital platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitch rather than watching linear tv – brands will need to leverage other platforms too if they want to engage this audience. Strong PR, social media, and POS strategies around Super Bowl ads are key to keeping the message top of mind with Gen Alpha viewers long after the game is over. We know this age group like to take part in family rituals, so any brands that can tap into this feeling of sharing or key life moments will see their ads working harder and for longer. Gen Alpha are still finding their way and shaping their own opinions, and they really get behind brands that are brave such as Disney tackling puberty in the movie Red or championing diversity in the live action Little Mermaid.

Justine O’Neill, Director at Analytic Partners

Sponsoring large sporting events can be an expensive endeavour and may not provide a cost-effective route for all businesses. Like with any other media, success depends on the fit of the target audience, as well as the level of visibility among the noise of multiple touchpoints and other sponsors. Analytic Partners ROI Genome charts found that on average, Super Bowl ads deliver a short-term ROI that is at least 20-50% lower than a comparable alternative investment. And for a more established, high-awareness consumer brand, the opportunity cost is even larger, and the Super Bowl ROI is an average of 75% lower than other marketing activities.

However, excitement about the Super Bowl is already up on last year as 76% say they’re going to watch, versus 63% in 2023. Brands finding where they sit within the Super Bowl and willing to take on the challenge will be rewarded with the chance to reach a highly engaged audience.

Ultimately, Super Bowl ads drive an uptick in brand demand. Activating and amplifying the short-term impact of the Super Bowl ad is critical to get the biggest potential impact from the campaign and justify the investment in the long term. An effectively executed Super Bowl ad, supported by a range of pre- and post-game activities, such as strong PR, social media, and POS strategies, can drive a 4-5x larger impact, above and beyond the short-term.