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Marketing and Advertising Techniques of Super Bowl Advertisers

By Bobette Kyle
Posted Friday, January 21, 2005

Each year, advertisers with super sized budgets sink millions of dollars into Super Bowl advertising. While most of us do not have a large enough budget to advertise on the Super Bowl, the commercials -- both past and present -- demonstrate several marketing techniques we can apply elsewhere.

Here are some lessons for us all, as demonstrated by Super Bowl advertisers:

Make Advertisements Entertaining

The primary focus of Super Bowl advertisements is usually entertainment. After the fact, discussion and analysis revolve around how amusing or interesting the commercials were. Little or no mention, however, is made of how effective they were in advertising the product.

I love an entertaining commercial as well as the next person, but entertainment value can be a two-edged sword. Sometimes, the creators get so caught up in the entertainment aspect they forget the ultimate goal -- to sell more product.

To me, the advertisers guiltiest of forgetting to sell are those that give no branding clue until the very end. People come away thinking how cute, funny, or otherwise entertaining the advertisement, but with little or no idea of the actual product.

There are, however, ways to entertain while communicating your brand throughout the commercial. Remember the frogs -- Bud, Weis, and Er? Total entertainment, yet who didn't know it was a Budweiser commercial?

You can do the same with your own marketing. Whatever form of entertainment you choose -- games, performances, contests, etc. -- remember to simultaneously reinforce your brand or business. A couple of ideas: (1) display your logo prominently and (2) give premiums, coupons, or other discounts to participants.

Gain Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements are frequent in Super Bowl advertisements. Past and present endorsements include Coke's Mean Joe Green (1980), McDonald's Larry Bird and Michael Jordan (1993), and MasterCard’s Homer Simpson (2004).

Celebrity endorsements are a way to draw initial attention to a product or company, which creates an opportunity to deliver the marketing message. If the celebrity is highly regarded by your target audience, endorsements can also give credibility to a brand.

If you do not have a large enough budget to hire a national celebrity, try redefining "celebrity" by thinking in niche terms. Your "celebrity" could be someone well known in the industry -- one of your customers or suppliers, for example.

Another way to redefine "celebrity" is to think locally. Brainstorm a list of people who are well known locally in certain circles. Your list could include well-regarded business people, minor league sports personalities, and other high-profile citizens. Then, approach your favorites with a proposal. The key is hiring someone known and respected by your target customers.

Demonstrate an Important Product Benefit or Feature

My favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time is the 1998 Tabasco commercial. The commercial shows a man sitting, eating pizza on his front porch. Before each bite he splashes on a liberal dose of Tabasco. A mosquito flies in, bites the guy on the hand, and flies off. A second later, we see the mosquito explode in a mass of flames. Cut to the guy chewing and smiling, Tabasco bottle clearly displayed on screen.

Besides being incredibly entertaining, the commercial demonstrates the product's primary benefit in a way that is simple and straightforward. All the while, very clearly communicating the brand.

There are many ways to demonstrate an important product feature to your audience. Think of other commercials you've seen and adapt the technique to your own budget and situation.

Detergent commercials, for example, often show how the product removes stains better than the competition. You can set up your own comparison and communicate it through print ads, on a Website, or in a retail store.

Target The Audience

Have you noticed an abundance of fast car, junk food, and beverage commercials during the Super Bowl? A major reason for this is targeting. Smart marketers try to get their products seen in places where their target audience hangs out.

It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that folks attracted to testosterone-laden football may also like speedy cars. And if you watch football, you most certainly like to snack during the game. Hence, we see an abundance of junk food, beer, and soda commercials.

When putting together your own marketing programs, try to imagine where your target audience can be found and think of ways you can be seen in those venues. If you are a Virtual Assistant, for example, participating online in small business groups makes much more sense than being seen in sports groups.

Associate Your Brand with a Mascot or Symbol

My favorite commercial from this year's Super Bowl was the donkey that wanted to be a Budweiser Clydesdale. I must confess the Clydesdales are near and dear to my heart (I live less than a mile from Grant's Farm where they breed and raise the Budweiser Clydesdales). I'm pretty sure, though, I'd love this commercial anyway.

Besides telling a cute, heartwarming story, the entire commercial reinforces the connection between the Clydesdales and Budweiser beer. It's a connection that Anheuser Busch has worked hard to establish and maintain over the years. Today, I'm sure most people immediately think "Budweiser" when catching a glimpse of the famous Clydesdales.

So you don't have billions of dollars and decades of time to invest in a mascot? Think smaller.

How about hiring a freelance illustrator or art student to develop a character, then begin using that character at key points of contact with your audience. To name a few, you could use your "mascot" in a logo, on postcards, on your Website, and/or on store signage.

Take these techniques to heart, apply them diligently, and watch your business grow.

About the Author
Bobette Kyle draws upon 12+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing research in her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network, (, and author of the marketing plan and Web promotion book "How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Website Marketing For Small Budget Business." (


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