Personalization on Super Bowl Sunday: Tailoring Ads During the Year’s Most‑Watched Event

It was a simpler time, 1967. Tom Brady wasn’t born yet. The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs played in the first-ever Super Bowl, where a 30-second ad “only” cost $42,000.

In 2018, that’s equivalent to about $314,000. It’s a steal by today’s standards; last year, 30 seconds of Super Bowl advertising cost an average of $5 million. And that’s just the TV spot. Is it worth it? Many brands think so. Nineteen Super Bowl games are on Nielsen’s list of the 20 most-watched broadcasts in U.S. history; last year was number 4, with 111.3 million viewers. The one exception is 1983’s M*A*S*H finale.

It’s been 51 years since that first Super Bowl and the advertising industry has evolved significantly. Marketing is everywhere, which has given consumers a bit of fatigue. Modern marketers can break through the clutter with more personalized experiences and today’s technology gives them the tools to do that.

Going Beyond The Big Game

Like all marketing in 2018, Super Bowl ads go far beyond game time. A splashy TV spot is no longer enough and ads generally factor into larger campaigns. That provides marketers with both a challenge and an opportunity.

Every year, USA Today tracks audience sentiment and ranks the commercials. The winner of 2017’s Ad Meter was Kia’s “Hero’s Journey,” in which Melissa McCarthy saved the world with the help of a Kia Niro. Being the first brand to debut a Super Bowl commercial on Facebook Messenger set Kia apart; the brand’s NiroBot answered users’ questions and rewarded some lucky ones with props from the commercial.

There was a novelty involved, but it also gave consumers the chance to engage with Kia directly. Auto website Edmunds analysts tracked traffic to brand and model pages (both desktop and mobile) during the entire game day to see which automotive ads resonated with viewers. Kia-related traffic on Edmunds spiked 869%.

kia nirobot

And this year, we’ll see more brands personalizing their messages while simultaneously broadcasting them to millions of people.

Purveyors of Personalization in Super Bowl LII

Skittles has gotten a lot of press for its goal to air the most exclusive commercial in history. The candy brand created an ad for an audience of one: a 17-year-old named Marcos Menendez in Los Angeles. Nobody else will ever see it; instead, Skittles is streaming his reaction via Facebook Live.

No other brand is going quite that far — though it’s pretty cool that it’s even possible — but others are incorporating personalized experiences into their Super Bowl strategies, especially with social media.

Companies frequently mention keeping the customer at the heart of everything. As part of the “Family Greatly” campaign, Kraft invited fans to share their family photos with the brand on social media. The lucky however-many-Kraft-can-fit-in-a-30-second-spot will get to see themselves in a Super Bowl commercial.

KIND promised a free snack bar to the first 3 million people to click the link at the end of its ad. It’s a perfect blend of mass marketing and personalized marketing. Everyone sees the same ad, but the experiences all differ. And at least 3 million people got to feel like KIND spoke directly to them.

It’s Like Any Other Day – More People Are Just Paying Attention

The Super Bowl is often seen as being in a class by itself, given the number of eyeballs glued to the screen. But does that translate to more sales? Usually not, according to Genesis Media, which surveyed 10,000 people in 2015 and found that 90% weren’t likely to purchase anything related to the ads.

If you think about it, the Super Bowl isn’t really different from the other 364 days of the year. Brands should always try to create personalized marketing because ultimately, that’s what consumers want.

Sure, advertisers can create localized versions of commercials that speak to local audiences. But people want more than that. You don’t have to be a Skittles, with a unique commercial for every individual person. You can be a KIND and just make people feel that way.

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