First, let’s be clear: This is not a review of Rihanna’s Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show. (Although I do have some thoughts on that.) Instead, this is a look at what Apple Music, the new title sponsor of said show, did—and did not do—with its shiny and expensive new toy.
Apple, a newcomer not only to this partnership but to sponsorship and activation in general, certainly did what was expected in terms of adding related content to its music subscription service. Two weeks prior to the game, the company announced the details, which included:
- “Rihanna’s Road to Halftime,” including a collection of 32 playlists “featuring the top songs that each NFL team listens to in the locker room, the weight room, and on game day,” as well as warmup playlists from NFL players including Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Trevon Diggs, Davante Adams and Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)
- “Halftime Hype Radio,” a ten-part series reflecting on some of the most notable Super Bowl Halftime performances in history
- “Live from Super Bowl LVII,” featuring daily live broadcasts from Arizona leading into Super Bowl weekend
- Providing Rihanna’s full catalog with Spatial Audio in Dolby Atmos
- Making the catalog available with Apple Music Sing, the beat-by-beat live lyrics feature
Beyond appealing to its current subscribers with those features, the number-two service behind Spotify in the highly competitive category did little to draw attention to its unique offerings, differentiate itself or create enthusiasm among the gigantic audience the NFL and the Super Bowl deliver. Compared to its halftime title predecessor Pepsi, which hyped the show and created relevancy for its presence with promotions throughout the football season, Apple did little more than attach its brand to the event and hope that viewers cared.
That’s not unusual for sponsors in the first year of a deal, especially one that was announced less than five months before the show. However, at an estimated $50 million a year, with deep pockets to reach into for activation and a roadmap from Pepsi to follow, Apple isn’t your typical first-time sponsor.
For sure, Apple Music will have other chances at Super Bowl LVIII and beyond, but this feels like a missed opportunity for the brand at a critical time for the streaming music sector.
In the meantime, perhaps the Apple Watch marketing team will show their colleagues how it’s done with their inaugural sponsorship of the World Surf League. On the same weekend in January that Apple Music revealed its Super Bowl plans, the WSL announced that Apple Watch had become its official wearable equipment, marking “the first time Apple Watch will be used as official competitor equipment in a professional sports environment,” according to the press release.
During competitions on the circuit’s Championship Tour, the elite pro surfers will be able to access critical information in the water during competition through a WSL Surfer app, which syncs with the WSL Scoring System in real time.
Although lacking the reach of the Super Bowl, the use of their product by pro athletes in rugged, remote environments delivers an unprecedented opportunity for Apple Watch marketers to activate the WSL platform and showcase product features such as a high-resolution display, durability, water resistance and cellular connectivity.