What Marketing Leaders Should Know About Super Bowl LVI Advertising

February 07, 2022

Contributor: Kelly Blum

From record spends to new kinds of experiences, expectations for what surrounds the big game are high.

The Super Bowl is more than just a big day for football fans around the world; it has become a globally followed pop culture event that hundreds of millions of people pay attention to — in no small part thanks to the advertisements. In 2021, many of these ads attempted to tap into the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our culture, lifestyles and general well-being. Will 2022 be the same? With Super Bowl LVI advertisement spots averaging around a record $6 million for 30 seconds, ensuring ads truly resonate with today’s consumer has never been more important — or difficult. 

Leading up to the big game, we sat down with Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst Andrew Frank, to discuss what marketers can expect from this year’s ads, the impact the pandemic continues to have on both spend and the overall tone of ads, and what types of creative will resonate best with today’s consumer. 

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How is ad spend looking compared to last year? Are we seeing any increases or decreases in overall spend for certain verticals?

Demand for Super Bowl ads remains strong. NBC reported they were sold out in November at more than $6 million per 30 second spot, which is $1 million more per ad than last year. Brands that have traditionally been involved in Super Bowl marketing who sat out last year’s game will be back and willing to pay to make a splash: Bud Light, Coke and Little Caesars are just a few of them. However, we’re also looking at a crop of newcomers in hot areas of consumer interest. These include Crypto.com and FTX, both of which are riding a wave of surging interest in cryptocurrency. We could also see emerging players in digital commerce and technology pay big for spots.

Do you expect the pandemic to have a significant impact on the tone of the ads?

I expect that when most creative agencies started laying out their storyboards last year, they anticipated we’d be in a more optimistic phase of recovery by now. With this in mind, I think we’ll see a recurring theme of getting out, escaping monotony and pushing beyond the boundaries of pandemic-related home isolation and travel restrictions consumers have become accustomed to these past few years. I believe this will resonate with people’s exhaustion with lockdowns, but it runs the risk of seeming tone-deaf to some. You’ll also see many ads playing it safe with celebrities and comic or cuteness themes. Given the current climate, this is not the year for edgy, provocative content. 

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What types of ads will resonate the best? Do you expect to see more ads that are part of 360 campaigns, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences, etc.?

As I mentioned, we’re seeing many digital commerce and tech companies enter the Super Bowl ad fray. We’ve got Rakuten and Booking.com joining Google and Facebook-now-Meta (both of which are returning after sitting out last year). As people continue to adapt to greater reliance on digital channels for human interaction, I think they’ll be eager to hear what these brands have to say. 

In the automotive space, we’ll continue to see brands like GM and Nissan promoting the shift to electric vehicles, joined by a newcomer from Spain, Wallbox, which sells EV chargers. The Wallbox spot is reportedly part of a sustained telescoping campaign that will extend online beyond the game. With global warming continuing to be a hot topic, these brands will have a front-and-center stage to speak directly to consumers’ concerns. 

In terms of AR/VR innovation, keep an eye on Avocados From Mexico’s “House of Goodness” 3D walk-through experience and its use of QR codes to drive traffic directly from TV ads to digital commerce. The question is, will this work well enough to pave the way for other brands to use this technology in the years ahead? 

Can we expect to see advertisers target specific audiences this year? How is this shifting as certain demographics move to streaming services to watch the big game? 

We’ll continue to see progressive themes like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and sustainability, as brands try to navigate social concerns that are foremost for young consumers (and many older ones, too). This is probably the first year that a small but notable portion of the audience may be able to stream the game in VR and join with friends for a virtual social experience. In coming years, we can expect agencies to come up with fresh ways to use these environments to create immersive interactive experiences that span well past the game itself and present the opportunity to learn more about how to connect with these emerging audience behaviors.

In the meantime, I think we’ll notice a lot of metaverse-inspired, mixed-reality aesthetic touches creeping into ads, like text and graphics overlaid on natural scenes, and avatar-like characters interacting with normal-looking people.

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