Does Tom Brady ever get to see Super Bowl commercials? Our deep thoughts about this year’s ads.

For 52 years, consumers have been inundated with Super Bowl ads before, during and after the game, and Super Bowl LIII will be no different. Per usual, you can expect to see the typical lineup again this year: an entertaining ad, a heartwarming ad and a semipolitical ad. But what’s not so typical? GoDaddy won’t show its risqué ads, or any ads for that matter. And neither will Nike. But as a game sponsor, their swoosh logo will be all over the field. The real surprise though is that the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola won’t air flashy ads every quarter but, instead, one controversial ad right before the National Anthem.

With all this in mind, Graphic Designer Craig Harshman and Assistant Account Executive Haley Keding dove deep into Super Bowl LIII to figure out what really brings brands the most ROI when it comes to Super Bowl ads.

Craig: It’s the age-old question we often hear from clients—so what’s the return on investment? When it comes to Super Bowl ads, that question is incredibly valuable. The price for a 30-second slot during the game has gone up slightly to a cool $5.2 million, but is it worth that much? That price tag is just for the 30 seconds and doesn’t include production, talent or anything else for that matter. Measuring the value of that time can be difficult, and it’s been debated for some time whether it’s worth the cost. I’ve found that running just a 30-second spot during the game is not going to give you the ROI you hoped for; it takes strategy, planning and execution over a larger timeframe and more platforms. So why invest a minimum of $5 million for a 30-second spot that may not be targeted the best for your company, could cause controversy in the spotlight and knowing there is a more effective way to spend that money.

Haley: Okay, fair point there, Craig! I agree, $5.2 million is a little much for 30 seconds, but the real money rolls in on the days after the Super Bowl. The point of a Super Bowl ad isn’t to get your customers to online shop for your products midgame; it’s all about making a splash and starting a conversation from a memorable, impactful ad.

Craig: I see what you’re saying, Haley, and I have to agree with you. BUT … that is exactly why I think a company like Coca-Cola is doing it right this year. They purchased a one-minute slot just before the National Anthem for a lower price, with the same audience and, I believe, just as much impact. Not only did Coke spend less on its placement, but the ad isn’t some entertainment-based, celebrity-filled song-and-dance like we are used to. They produced a beautiful, illustrative ad that keeps the viewers’ attention as the art moves seamlessly along creating moments of joy over a shared Coca-Cola. It’s not just the cheap price tag, beauty or wonder of what’s next that keeps me watching until the last second, it’s the message of “inclusion” and “togetherness” that makes this some of the smartest and most effective marketing. Coke is recognizing the current landscape of our country and isn’t afraid to attack it with love, spreading the idea that “a Coke is a Coke” and it’s for EVERYONE. The people have taken notice in a big way. Doing something meaningful like this is drawing a lot of buzz pregame, and with today’s social media-crazed society, it’s going to be talked about after as well. That’s the type of return you want from a Super Bowl ad, and Coke didn’t even have to purchase one during the big game.
Haley: The Coca-Cola ad is going to be beautiful, that’s for sure! But I’m afraid it’ll be a little too controversial for the Super Bowl. I mean, the way Coca-Cola communicates the all-inclusivity of its brand can be polarizing for some of its customers, and data shows that people don’t want to see politics paired with the Super Bowl. I agree with the 66 percent who say it’s best to leave politics out of the game. For me, I watch the news for politics and sports for entertainment, so I hope brands show me entertaining ads on Sunday. And if you entertain me, well, like Pepsi did in its “More than OK?” commercial, then there’s a higher chance I’ll talk about your brand after the game. How can you NOT talk about a commercial that includes Steve Carrell, Cardi B and Lil John, all in 30 seconds?!
Craig: I think you, and the 66 percent, are onto something in wanting to separate their entertainment and politics. I also think that’s why Coca-Cola chose the slot that they did, right before the National Anthem. A time when family and friends are gathered, a time of peace, a moment of pause and coming together. Coke’s ad even has a great story behind it; it’s created by the same person that made the Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, and it’s inspired by Andy Warhol’s quote, “A Coke is a Coke.” All that Coke’s ad has going for it is sure to get them media coverage, start a larger conversation and build brand loyalty. Isn’t that the main goal for company of this size, at this point in the game? It’s a bold move by Coke, but I still think it’s a good one.
Haley: Brand loyalty, postgame conversations—there’s clearly a lot that a Super Bowl ad can do for a company, even giants like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. But the bottom line is still sales. Who will bring in more soda sales next week, Coke or Pepsi? Personally, I’d love to see more than one upset this Super Bowl and watch Pepsi sales skyrocket after airing its hilarious Super Bowl spot in Coca-Cola country. But I guess only time will tell which marketing tactic reigns supreme.
What do you think? Will Coca-Cola’s one risky ad before the game make a big splash in the market next week, or will a little midgame entertainment from Pepsi turn the tables? Comment below with your thoughts, and keep an eye out for a follow-up post where we look at the postgame numbers for Coca-Cola and Pepsi—and name the real champion of Super Bowl LIII.