The Bengals were not the only ones who came away from Super Bowl LVI with nothing to show for their season-long efforts in getting there.
With the notable exceptions of Pepsi’s association with the halftime show and brands with sideline presence such as Nike, Bose, Microsoft and PepsiCo’s Gatorade, the NFL’s 40-plus league-level sponsors were not part of the experience for the hundreds of millions of Super Bowl viewers.
In this way, the Super Bowl is unlike any other major sporting event. The Olympics (in a typical year, not this one), FIFA World Cup, CFP bowl games, golf and tennis majors, etc. all feature leading sponsors proudly advertising their association with those sports, events and the competing athletes.
This weekend’s NBA All-Star activities include the following broadcast events with sponsors front and center: Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, Clorox Rising Stars, NBA All-Star Practice Presented by AT&T, and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, which features the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, MTN DEW 3-Point Contest and AT&T Slam Dunk.
In stark contrast, Super Bowl LVI served as a showcase for Avocados from Mexico, eToro, Hologic, Vroom, Wallbox and many other non-sponsors of the NFL. And although league partners including Anheuser-Busch, Intuit, Rocket Mortgage, Uber Eats and Verizon all bought ads during the broadcast, none of those spots mentioned football, featured players or touted the brands’ official status.
The reason the Super Bowl is a sports marketing anomaly is simply its size. Attracting more viewers than any other broadcast program makes it an advertising showcase, not a sponsorship one. Its available inventory will be seized as a vehicle for new and/or unique ad creative by sponsors and non-sponsors alike for years to come.
The Super Bowl’s success as the ultimate must-see TV is certainly no one’s fault. Yet it is still a shame that the NFL’s partners are unable to take advantage of the league’s championship game to activate and promote their role in the same powerful way as sponsors of all other sports.