The New World of Event Advertising (or, How Not to Spend $5 Million on a 2018 Super Bowl Ad)

Nearly everyone in the nation knows the Super Bowl is this weekend. Even if you’re not a football fan, news of the game is hard to avoid. From TV ads to grocery store promos and everything in between, the big game is the talk of the country right now.

Super Bowl commercials have been a big deal for brand advertisers for decades. However, the digital era has brought new channels to the table and advertisers are using these to their advantage in new and creative ways.

Companies have been previewing and promoting their ads online for years now to get the most out of their very large investment. Between creative, celebrity endorsements and the cost of buying the commercial spot, companies can expect to spend upwards of $400,000 per second for a Super Bowl ad. The 30-second TV spot alone runs $5.2 million this year. That’s up 3.5 percent from last year even though viewership is expected to fall by about 5 percent.

According to Digiday, a 30-second Super Bowl ad in 2018 is the same price as:

  • 2.6 billion Instagram impressions
  • Reaching 113 million people on Facebook (which is 2 million more people than the audience for the 2017 Super Bowl)
  • 2.6 million paid search clicks on Amazon
  • 1.85 billion display ad impressions
  • 32 years’ worth of mobile video ads

These numbers are a primary reason big brands are looking at other means of getting their messages or products in front of people on the day of the big game. And, many of these ideas can be applied to other big events like March Madness, the Masters and the Olympics.

Take a look at what some companies are doing and how you can adapt the effort to work for you.

Advertising with games and apps

Mercedes-Benz is at the top of the list when it comes to doing something innovative this year. They’re skipping a traditional advertisement completely and are asking people to play a game instead. Anyone who takes part will have a chance to win an AMG C43 Coupe worth at least $55,000. You just have to keep your finger on the moving car in their mobile game. The last fan standing wins. (It’s not as easy as you think). You can check it out and sign up to play at

Image credit: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes is taking advantage of the fact that people always have their phones on them, even during big events. According to TechCrunch, 90 percent of interactions on Facebook during last year’s Super Bowl game came from mobile. Mercedes can pull attention away from the game and away from competitor’s ads while spending substantially less money than if they’d bought a commercial spot by tapping into a device people already have on them.

As an advertiser, what you want to take away from this effort is that Mercedes-Benz is seeing a lot of hype around this contest because people love the chance of winning something with very little effort. Games, apps and online competitions are a fantastic way to tie into an event and its supporters while promoting your own product or service.

Social media marketing

Guess where you can promote that game, app or contest – social media.

Mercedes is doing this by giving players a “time-out” if they share the link on social media. That’s free advertising for them. Other advertisers are using social media to share their Super Bowl ads to get the most reach possible out of something they put a lot of time and money in.

Social media is a great way for smaller businesses to tap into a huge audience. During last year’s Super Bowl, there was a lot of social media activity specifically related to the game including:

  • Roughly 200 million Facebook posts, comments and likes
  • About 27 million tweets
  • More than 100 million Instagram interactions

Other events may not be as big, but the audience is there and talking. You just need to join the conversation. Here are a few ways you can do this for your business:

  • Sponsored hashtags on Twitter
  • Sponsored posts on relevant sites
  • Sponsored filters or lenses on Snapchat
  • Unpaid promotional posts with event keywords and tags

Geo-targeting major events

Geo-targeting is something you want to keep in mind with nearly all event-based marketing.

Geo-targeting allows you to target specific areas around an event and serve ads directly to consumers’ mobile devices while it’s going on and for a set length of time afterward. This works great if your brand sells a product or service that’s relevant to event-goers, or if you know an event is likely to attract your target audiences.

You can go a bit broader with your ads, and use geo-targeting combined with contextual targeting to let consumers know about your business in the days or weeks leading up to the event. This option can be used on paid search, display, social and video advertising.

Related – [Video]: Using Geo-fencing to attract local consumers

Super Bowl advertising isn’t just for the big brands anymore
Doritos and Mountain Dew Super Bowl Ad

Image credit: PepsiCo

Don’t get me wrong, there will still be plenty of amazing traditional commercials run during this year’s Super Bowl – like this rap battle, this celebrity-laden one and this one featuring the company’s CEO. The main point is, there are a lot of ways for brands large and small to take advantage of the large audiences provided by major events like the Super Bowl without spending $5 million for 30-seconds of airtime.