By Barry Janoff
January 29, 2013: Inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans this Sunday, after the San Francisco 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, there will be one winner and one loser.
But among the plethora of companies that have purchased airtime during the broadcast on CBS — which is expected to top 110 million in average viewership based on recent games — there will be many winners, many losers and others whose efforts will end up in the equivalent of a marketing tie.
Brand Keys, a New York-based marketing and customer loyalty research consultancy, examined 31 brands that either stated they would be or have been reported to be part of the advertising roster on Super Bowl Sunday. The firm then determined "to what degree brand values were affected by the Super Bowl venue," according to Brand Keys.
According to the 11th annual Super Bowl Engagement Survey, nearly 60% of Super Bowl XLVII advertisers will see "real returns on their sizable investments." That list is lead by PepsiCo's Doritos, Taco Bell, Unilever's Axe, Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, Cars.com and M7M's, each of whom scored double-digit positive numbers in the Engagement Survey.
Concurrently, companies that did not score well include Century 21, Best Buy, Kia and Nabisco's Wheat Thins, each of whom received a negative response in the Brand Keys' study.
"Awareness is what you get for your money in a game known as much for the payers as for the players, where it can cost more than $126,000 per second to run an ad," Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys’ president, said in a statement.
Companies spent an average of $3.8 million for a 30-second spot — and some as much as $4 million — to be part of the Super Bowl XLVII broadcast, according to CBS.
According to Passikoff, “The Super Bowl has long been a showcase of ‘creative’ advertising and ‘buy big’ audiences. But ultimately all advertising should be judged not on how it entertains but how it performs off the field.
"You need folks to see your message," said Passikoff. "But when the brand gets into people’s living rooms, if its story is not engaging to consumers, if it can’t create real value for the consumer, the brand has just spent a ton of money for some morning-after buzz and no buy.”
In the study, advertisers are classified as “winners” (+5 or more brand equity points), “losers” (-5 or more brand equity points), or “tied” (brand values were left unaffected by the Super Bowl venue).
According to Passikoff, Brand Keys looks for specific factors to determine whether a company would hit, miss or plateau with consumers by appearing during the Super Bowl.
"Does the ad engage customers? [Does it] drive positive behavior? [Does it drive] sales? [Does it] build brand equity?" said Passikoff. “Think of it as identifying how the media reinforces – or in some cases, even detracts from – brand values.”
Among the brands that will see positive ROI based on the Brand Keys study, Axe (+11), Wonderful Pistachios (+9), SodaStream (+6), Oreo (+6) and Kraft Brand's Mio liquid water enhancer (+5) are first-time Super Bowl advertisers.
But not all rookie players scored as well. Wheat Thins had one of the poorest results while Gildan activewear and the Milk Processor Education Program (Got Milk?) scored 0, “a kind of advertising ‘no harm, no foul,’“ said Passikoff,
Century 21 was a rookie advertiser last year during Super Bowl XLVI and saw a positive response in both active leads and Web site visits following a commercial that starred the company's real estate agents alongside Donald Trump, Apolo Ohno and Deion Sanders. This year's spots are celebrity free and come with the manta, "Is there a Century 21 agent in the house?"
Doritios (+11) led all marketers in the Brand Keys Super Bowl Engagement Survey, with the snacker using its consumer-generated advertising "Crash the Super Bowl" this year for the seventh consecutive big game.
Veteran advertiser Coca-Cola (+11) scored well, in large part because the beverage giant released details of its Super Bowl strategy earlier this month, which included having people watch a teaser ad that saw three fictional groups in a Survivor/Amazing Race type of adventure to secure a precious bottle of Coke. Visitors to a dedicated site have been able to vote for their favorite and also try to undermine the efforts of opposing groups. Coke said the outcome would be determined in real time during the Super Bowl.
Coca-Cola has spent $80.8 million on Super Bowl ads over the past six years, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media, NY.
Rival PepsiCo has spent $182.7 million on Super Bowl ads over the past ten years. In addition, Pepsi is an official marketing partner of the NFL and, as such, is allowed to use league symbols and such terms as "Super Bowl" in its marketing.
Kia plans to unveil its 60-second spot, "Space Babies," in movie theaters nationwide prior to its broadcast on Sunday. Brand Keys already has rated the automaker's efforts among the lowest (-6).
“The flattening of the playing field has not been lost on advertisers, who increasingly have moved to create up-front buzz for their ads, knowing their ads will get noticed – sometimes more than actual plays in the game – along with everyone else’s,” said Passikoff. “Brands like GoDaddy.com and Coke have been posting sneak peeks of the ads that will ‘preview’ on game night.”
Anheuser-Busch, which is planning to run six commercials covering four and a half minutes of airtime to support Bud, Bud Light, Black Crown and Beck's Sapphire, pulled a 0 in the Super Bowl Engagement Survey, meaning that even though it is the exclusive beer advertiser during the CBS broadcast, Brand Keys feels it won't move the needle regarding consumer awareness.
Among others earning a 0 were E*Trade, Fiat, Lincoln, Samsung, Tide and Volkswagen.
“With 30-second spots selling for $3.7-$4 million this year on top of production costs, it should be a whole new game when it comes to ad effectiveness and ROI. You’re talking about ‘engagement,” said Passikoff. “And because engagement assessments are separate and apart from how many eyeballs were watching, and certainly entertainment, they’re a reliable ‘reality check’ that lets advertisers know how super their media buys will actually be.”
According to Brand Keys, brand engagement is vastly different from being watched, being entertained, or being talked about.
“A laugh, a sigh, or a tweet aren’t really acceptable returns on an investment this size,” said Passikoff. “There may not be an ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there is one in return-on-investment.”
The 2013 Brand Keys Super Bowl Engagement Survey was conducted Jan. 26-27, polling a national sample of 1,500 men and women, 18-65 years of age, who indicated that they are going to watch Super Bowl XLVII.
Brand Keys Super Bowl Engagement Survey
Taco Bell +13
Pizza Hut +11
Wonderful Pistachios +9
Soda Stream +6
Century 21 -9
Best Buy -8
Wheat Thins -5
Milk Processor Education Program
Source: Brand Keys