TicketManager | Unsolicited Advice for Super Bowl Advertisers

From its inaugural visit to Las Vegas to the never-ending interest in the Travis Kelce-Taylor Swift romance, and from an overtime nail-biter of a game to near-certain record ratings, Sunday’s NFL championship game definitely delivered for avid fans, casual viewers and corporate supporters.

With as much attention on the game’s advertising spots as on the Chiefs-49ers matchup and Usher’s halftime show, the question for brands that ponied up $7 million-plus for each 30-second appearance is, as always: Was it worth it?

The answer will depend on each advertiser’s objectives—assuming they established measurable goals. Beyond the polls revealing which spots were most popular with viewers, marketers should do the research necessary to see how their messaging moved the needle related to brand and business metrics.

For those of us in the brand partnership space, watching the Super Bowl ads of brands that are otherwise not involved in sports marketing raises a slightly different question: What could the brand achieve by spending the same amount on sponsorship as it did on the big game?

We ask that not as a way of saying their money was ill spent. With its unparalleled reach and buzz, a Super Bowl ad can accomplish things no sponsorship could. But at the same time, partnerships can deliver benefits and achieve goals that no commercial can.

Consider two advertisers that immediately struck me as I watched the game as brands currently not active in sponsorship that could benefit from having official partnership status with a sports property or properties.

Temu. The discount online retailer purchased multiple Super Bowl spots for the second year in a row that successfully communicated the site’s ability to offer products at extremely low prices, as the 15-month-old company makes a bid to take market share from Amazon. Temu ran two spots in 2023’s game and three during Sunday’s broadcast.

But the unit of Chinese conglomerate PDD Holdings continues to face controversy over allegations surrounding the use of forced labor in its supply chain and the fact that its app can bypass users’ cell phone security to monitor activities on other apps, check notifications, read private messages and change settings.

With a marketing budget estimated by JPMorgan analysts at $3 billion this year, Temu should consider improving its image with official ties to properties that offer fan loyalty and authenticity that traditional advertising cannot generate. The caveat for potential rights holder partners, of course, would be to conduct due diligence on the company to determine if an alignment would be prudent or should be avoided.

DuoLingo. The language-learning app was not a national Super Bowl advertiser, but generated buzz with a five-second spot aired regionally in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Pittsburgh and Detroit featuring its always irreverent owl mascot and a play on the word “but” as a way to nudge users to avoid excuses for not keeping up with their lessons.

While known as a non-traditional marketer, as CMO Manu Orssaud explained to Digiday on Sunday, DuoLingo is in a competitive category and has a specific call to action for customers to keep up with their lessons.

Those circumstances lend themselves well to sponsoring, as exclusive partnerships would 1) allow the brand to differentiate itself from competitors such as Rosetta Stone and Babbel and 2) capitalize on the influx of non-English speaking athletes in leagues such as MLB, MLS and others by tying into the motivation to learn second languages, as well as be inspired by the training and dedication of professional and top amateur athletes.