Why the Super Bowl Still Lacks Some of the Biggest U.S. Brands

Written by: on February 4, 2015

The Takeaway: Not every advertising channel is right for your business. Find out where your customers get together, what motivates them, and use memorable marketing tools that make it easy to contact you when the time is right.

As usual the NFL delivered drama on and off the field this past weekend, as the Seattle Seahawks took the New England Patriots right to the wire before gifting them a victory. And even when there wasn’t action on the field, there was still a contest being fought; some of the biggest brands in the country duked it out for audience attention (and to be awarded the unofficial title of Brand Bowl winner).

Despite the presence of big names like Budweiser, McDonald’s, and Coca Cola, some of the biggest brands at home and around the world failed to take up the opportunity to splash millions of dollars for a 30-second entry into advertising’s biggest evening of the year.

So where are the likes of Apple and Google spending their marketing budget instead?

And why isn’t the Super Bowl attracting their advertising dollars when it’s a key channel for a major tech competitor like Microsoft?

Apple vs Google brands

Apple, Google, and More Go To War (Elsewhere)

Last year, Google finally ousted Apple as the world’s most valuable brand. While Google’s value surged 40% to $159 billion, the home of the iPhone took a dive of 20%, leaving the Cupertino-based company $11 billion short of their rivals up in Mountain View.

Only months later Apple launched its most popular device yet, the iPhone 6, and reclaimed its crown at the most recent count.

In terms of top brand appeal, Apple has been big business for the better part of a decade. Google has grown alongside it to become a major competitor in the mobile sector, thanks to its Android brand. Whether you see the search giant as a vibrant rainforest of technological diversity or a weed that creeps into every crevice of your technology, the humble search engine that could is now a tech sector juggernaut.

Still, neither brand seems to show much interest in the Super Bowl as an event to expand their brand awareness.

In truth, this is because the return on NFL advertising is unclear for technology brands. Microsoft has invested heavily in the sport, from its #empowering ads to the swathe of Surface devices you see used on the sidelines during the game, but the extent to which this message reaches its core audience is questionable.

microsoft surface nfl usage

Microsoft plugs its NFL role on YouTube

Even with Apple’s temporary fall from the top spot and increasing competition from brands like Microsoft, it didn’t see the need to move into the mainstream appeal of the NFL. At the time, better news for Apple came in the form of Q1 2014 smartphone sales, where it still ruled the roost over main rival Samsung, another big-spending technology brand that declined to get involved in the Super Bowl’s heavyweight advertising tussle. Apple has since extended its lead over its rivals with the launch of iPhone 6.

Samsung has never been afraid to turn to advertising to attack Apple’s dominance, either, just not in the biggest arena of the NFL. Indeed, the two brands spend more time tussling in the courtroom, with Apple still waging intellectual property war with the suspiciously similar product range of Samsung. Despite coming close to a settlement as recently as mid-May, the long-running intellectual property tussle continued into its fourth year when we turned to 2015.

It comes down to none of these big technology brands believing that mainstream, prime time TV advertising is the most effective way to cement their core proposition in the minds of those who buy their products. Even though Microsoft is giving it a go, it’s easy to see the brand turning to other avenues as its reputation is restored. Arguably its most important coverage this year, for example, came from its Windows 10 launch event and the HoloLens technology it unveiled there. In that case Microsoft gained more targeted communication of its brand from press coverage than it could hope for from pressing its products into the hands of NFL coaches.

For smaller brands the lesson is this: never assume that the biggest exposure you can afford is best for your business, and never be afraid to experiment with alternative channels to communicate with your customer.

 

Branding Beyond Technology

It’s not just technology brands that should be asking this question either.

Despite winning the popular vote with its lost dog commercial this year, it’s hard to see how the “awww factor” plays into its brand core of masculine, beer-drinking males. But Bud has a lot of tradition tied up in the event and sporting events are a natural fit for its product, so it pays a premium to put its brand in front of more than 100 million Americans watching the event.

As if admitting its incongruent advertising approach, Budweiser also aired an extra ad targeted directly at beer drinkers. As marketing analysts have explained, the effort you’ll see below is much more effective at speaking to the brand’s core audience than its Clydesdales.

Align Your Brand Advertising With Your Core Audience

Even though all of the advertising – or lack thereof – that we’ve discussed here involved big brands, small businesses can take note of the lessons and spend their limited marketing budgets more effectively as a result.

When it comes down to choosing the most effective physical places and online spaces to share your SMB marketing message, think carefully about the many elements of the marketing mix.

The decision is about much more than who can offer you the most exposure, or even the most clicks through to your website. You need the right type of audience and the right type of visitor in order to convert them to a customer, which is obviously the ultimate goal of all the money you splash out on any marketing initiative.

We’ll write much more about how to choose the most effective , so follow us on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook to keep track of all the advice you’ll need to translate big brand lessons to a small business environment!