Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of the year when many people turn in as much for the highly-produced commercials as they do for the actual game. That’s why this year a 30-second ad spot will cost a whopping $7 million, up from $6.5 million last year.
Anheuser-Busch reportedly spent the most on ads this year, dropping $20 million for three minutes of airtime. It spent 3.5 times more than its competitors. However, changing demographics and more importantly, changing viewer patterns may put into question if these ad campaigns can continue to be a wise investment.
Reaching younger viewers is likely to only get more challenging.
“Gen Z prioritizes authenticity, experience, and social responsibility. As Budweiser opens its market to this cohort that is coming of age, they should keep these factors in mind,” explained Yuvay Ferguson, associate professor of marketing in the School of Business at Howard University.
This should include a social media component, especially as the audience may also not be sitting around a living room to watch the game on a big-screen TV. Even those who are in the room may still be looking at their phones.
“Advertisers should look at mobile activation strategies to target the digital natives that are Gen Z during this year’s Super Bowl commercials,” suggested Dr. Dustin York, associate professor of communication at Maryville University.
“As Gen Z is a multiple-device- generation, their cell phones will be out during the big game, so look for commercials to use QR codes, ‘watch the rest online’ strategies, hashtags, and other tactics to activate viewer’s cell phones.”
Influencers Not Actors
Another factor driving up the costs of ads is the increased use of A-list Hollywood talent. Big-name stars have long been in ads – Charlton Heston was in a 1995 Bud Light commercial while Jerry Seinfeld starred in a Super Man-themed ad in 1998 – but last year, a number of celebrities, including Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, and Anna Kendrick, were seen in high-profile spots.
Gen Z is as likely to be impressed by what a trusted influencer has to say, and those influencers should be seen as a key part of any Super Bowl promotional mix.
“Gen Z needs a reason to believe that a product is worth exploring and they trust their ‘closest social media friends’ more than they do actors,” added Ferguson.
Influencers might be a smarter play as they can also react in real-time.
“Consider identifying influencers to host promotions via social media platforms live during events like the Super Bowl. Examples would be contests or live streaming to make fans feel like they are together in this brand-influenced experience,” Ferguson continued. “Accordingly, ads that showcase interpersonal connectivity and socializing will score higher ratings with this group.
Post Pandemic Changes
Moreover, the Covid-19 lockdowns have had a huge impact on Gen Z, and ads embracing experiential moments could also resonate well. In other words, what worked in the past, won’t necessarily work in the future. Super Bowl commercials may still get eyeballs, but an ad campaign should consider deeper ways to reach younger viewers.
“This generation stands firm that companies have to do the right thing for the greater good if they want Gen Z patronage,” said Ferguson. “Adding in messaging about how Budweiser participates in corporate social responsibility will further endear this group to the brand should they decide to start consuming alcohol.”