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Super Bowl Advertisers are Dropping the Ball — and Missing the Big Play

Written by
Sebastian Jespersen
Super Bowl Advertisers are Dropping the Ball — and Missing the Big Play

Just as I was previewing some of the early releases of Super Bowl ads, I was struck by a headline announcing the latest Interbrand ranking: “Against a background of profound global economic, social and technological change, the 2021 Best Global Brands recorded the largest brand growth ever.” As someone who has dedicated a career to understanding how brands are crafted in a digital-first world, I had to pause for a minute to think not only about brand value per se, but how it relates to the Super Bowl, and the advertising tradition that will be repeated again this year.

Advertising legend Stan Rapp argues that most brands are wasting a tremendous amount of money on Super Bowl “non-vertising”. Brands should innovate the format and consider the event as an opportunity to build a Share of Life relationship with consumers.

Inspiring customers to play on your team.

Over the past 30 years we have seen massive technology advancements and significant changes to the brand–consumer relationship dynamic, yet most Super Bowl advertising still uses the exact same format – mass communication on TV. The Super Bowl and its highly-produced ads are striving to be entertaining for an audience of 100 million people, but are they also creating true brand value in a digital first world in the wake of COVID-19? The newly published Interbrand Ranking outlined that the fastest risers in brand value significantly outperformed other brands in three fundamental areas: Direction, Agility and Participation. As marketers, we’ve all heard a lot about setting a clear and purposeful direction and about agility, speed, and pivoting. But what about participation? Or the ability to “bring people on a journey with you and make them part of the movement to create an engaging brand world,” as stated by Interbrand.

At Vertic, we believe that brands today are created by the sum of meaningful digital interactions we have with them. In the evolution of marketing, we’ve seen a marketer’s monologue through TV spots and print ads transition to a marketer-customer dialogue through social media to now an emerging marketer-customer collaboration. We call this new one-with-one (rather than one-to-one) participation or Share of Life®, which defines meaningful digital practices that seamlessly integrate in customers lives, while “effortlessly” increasing brand value. This also explains why Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are consistently at the top of the Interbrand ranking. As human beings, we simply have more meaningful interactions with them than any other brands. As a result, we are willing to share our lives with them.

Turning spectators into players.

Technology has given brands a global platform and the ability to interact with people at scale. It has altered forever how people get information, communicate, and engage with each other. And it has fundamentally changed the relationship between brands and people. Today, people literally want to do more with those brands that allow them to do more.  

Yet, many brands continue to invest most of their marketing efforts on and for themselves. And while I’m not against Super Bowl advertising, I believe it’s time to think beyond simply creating awareness to constructing ways these costly efforts can really serve to “kick off” brand intentions and greater customer participation across touch points. Today's consumers wish to be participants in the evolution of the goods and services they consume, as well as the content created to tell their stories, as they choose to share their lives with some brands more so than others. Brands that are willing to embrace this new relationship will find themselves generating greater value—for the customer, for the company, for all stakeholders…and for the increased responsibilities that are redefining the role of marketing.

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