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RU marketing professors say price for Super Bowl ads can be a bargain

Spending $4 million for a 30 second commercial during this year’s Super Bowl may seem extravagant, but marketing professors at Radford University say that money may be well spent.

"It is a large amount of money, but it reaches a lot of people," said Duncan Herrington, a marketing professor in Radford University’s College of Business and Economics (COBE). "So on a per-reach basis, it's actually pretty reasonable."

When the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks kick off in Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday night in New Jersey, companies with funny, clever and heart-tugging ads will have dished out, according to media reports, a record $4 million to get on your TV screen and in front your eyes for just 30 seconds. The price swells to a whopping $8 million for a one minute spot.

Herrington’s fellow RU marketing professor, Wil Stanton, agrees and said many companies are opting this year for the $8 million, 60-second spots. “I think it is worth the cost, even when considering there’s probably another million or so in production cost,” Stanton noted. “While the viewers of season finales and the Oscars have been on the decline for years, according to Nielsen ratings, the Super Bowl continues to grow in viewership, also according to Nielsen.”

Last year, the Super Bowl attracted 108 million TV viewers, and the game is often the most-watched TV event of the year. This year's matchup pits a team with a high-scoring offense (Broncos) against a squad with a stingy defense (Seahawks). It's the immovable object against the irresistible force, if you will.

Plus, factor in the presence of fan-favorite Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning going against the Seahawks’ loquacious and often polarizing defensive specialist, Richard Sherman, and you have the opportunity for a record-breaking TV audience.

“You have two great teams who have proven their brand equity. Any advertisement during the Super Bowl is instantly associated with the two proven sports brands as well as the positive mystique of the Super Bowl itself,” Stanton explained. “Sure it’s expensive, but where else and when else can you get such positive product, brand association? It’s like having a celebrity endorsement of your product simply by being there; being in the same room with two great teams and at the biggest sporting event of the entire year. And being there means having more than 100 million viewers. You don’t get that on the nightly news.”

Within the millions and millions of viewers watching the Super Bowl is always an audience who do not care one cent about who wins the game; they only want to see the commercials. That's because over the years, Super Bowl ads have become so darn entertaining.

So, what goes into making a successful Super Bowl commercial? Humor and sex appeal, Herrington noted, are among the most successful and most often used techniques.

"If it's funny, people will remember that," Herrington noted.

The professor, who said Super Bowl commercials are always a hot topic in his marketing classes, said he often addresses in class the relationship between a brand and its advertisements.

"The idea is if you have a really good attitude toward the ad, you'll have a good attitude toward the brand," Herrington said. "So, when you go into the store, you'll see the brand and say 'yeah, that's an interesting brand.'"

Much is at stake during an approximate four-hour period on Super Sunday night. There's the game to determine which team's blood, sweat and tears have paid off most in its quest for a championship. And then there's the pursuit to see which commercials get the most chatter and Internet views on Monday.

Not only do people see the commercials live during the game, advertisers get increased exposure and value in the following days from media talking about and ranking the best spots. And those extra views have enormous value.

“Super Bowl ads are talked about before the game, during the game and for weeks afterward. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of college and university classes and the tens of thousands of university students who will engage in discussions and debate about the ads next week,” Stanton said. “Certainly we will in my advertising class.”

And speaking of extra attention, Super Bowl commercials are a hit on social media, generating even more hype and chatter for the brand and its product.

“With social media growing exponentially, there will be millions of tweets about the ads. Many of those tweets will be retweeted – again increasing the ads reach and exposure, Stanton said. “In real time, advertisers will be able to mine those tweets to determine consumer sentiments. That’s something that is new and will certainly open new opportunities for advertisers. It’s as if you have a focus group with several million participants. Advertisers can listen in on those tweets and learn from them.”

Gary Schirr, an associate professor in COBE's Department of Marketing, reminds us that when the lights temporarily went out at last year's Super Bowl, Oreo won the "Marketing Super Bowl" by tweeting a picture of a cookie with text that read, "You can still dunk in the dark."

Schirr said many companies are releasing ads in advance to create buzz, and others will follow up with serial commercials or longer versions of their Super Bowl ads. "The social complement is an essential part of the Super Bowl ads," Schirr stated.

So, is dishing out 4 million bucks for a 30-second commercial during the biggest sporting event of the year worth the cost?

Stanton answers that question with a query of his own: “Maybe the question should be, can companies afford not to be at the table, or on the field, with other great companies and competitors?”

Jan 31, 2014