Big Game ads diversify content amid pandemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite what many believed was an impossible feat, the NFL season’s finale is ready to be played Sunday night. 

It wasn’t without its hiccups and bumps along the way. A season embattled with COVID-19 outbreaks that delayed games and sidelined players and coaches.

Against all odds, we’re here. 

Football fans worldwide will tune in to what is still the single largest televised yearly event — the Super Bowl. Advertising for the game, even this year, is very costly.

Greg Gerfen is the Executive-In-Residence at Western Michigan University’s Hayworth College of Business. For more than 30 years he worked in the advertising business. 

He has represented big names like UPS, IAMS, National Car Rental and others before coming to WMU to teach advertising and marketing. He says ads this year run $5.5 million for 30 seconds, which he says is a game, like football, of risk and reward.

“Do I take the risk and run an ad that may be judged, which will be judged, in a kind of popularity contest,” Gerfen said. “Monday morning, they will be polls out of consumers rating all the ads. If your ads are at the top of that list, that’s terrific. You’re going to get great publicity. If your ads are at the bottom of the list, I tell my students it’s a really hard meeting when you have to go in and meet with the CEO and tell that CEO why your $5.5 million investment ended you up at the bottom of the list of Super Bowl advertisers.”

The popularity contest will be on full display Sunday but as Gerfen said, the real winners and losers are crowned Monday and beyond. Strategies will be critical to determine a winner.

Large brands like Budweiser, Hyundai, Coke and Pepsi are rolling the dice, calling an audible this year and forgoing their ads in favor of something different. 

“Those are some of the big brands in this year’s Super Bowl that will not be participating in running advertising during the game,” Gerfen said. “But one of the interesting things is Budweiser. While they’re not running an ad in the game, they are taking their investment, their $5.5 million investment and they’re actually buying ad time that will be donated to allow the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to run vaccination messaging.”

While still helpful for the greater good, the idea represents a save business touchdown by Bud. 

“This is what I tell my students all the time, think of their goals, think of their business strategy here. So, by getting people vaccinated, we will get back to the bars and restaurants sooner and people will be ordering Bud more often,” Gerfen said. “Kind of playing long ball to get here but Budweiser will be a winner in the end through this move.”

Don’t worry super ad fans, Gerfen says there will still be plenty of humor and cuteness on display Sunday evening.

“There is going to really be two camps where brands will either take a more somber, serious approach and provide hopeful messages but then there will also be brands that are going to go with humor, which is always a good recipe for success in the Super Bowl,” Gerfen said. “So, look for very hopeful messages that way but we’re also going to see humor and cute. Those always work in the Super Bowl if they’re done right.”

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