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Come for the Super Bowl Game, Stay for the Commercials

 

The 55th annual Super Bowl game will be played this coming Sunday, February 7. And like the championship games before it, this one is likely to contribute its fair share of drop-dead plays, future football trivia and memorable TV ads—all of which have made Super Bowl games some of the highest rated televised events of the past half century.

Will Tom Brady, quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, become the first player to win seven National Football League championship rings? Such a feat would be doubly historic as Brady, 43, is the only quarterback to play in the Super Bowl after turning 40 (and this is his third such appearance).

Or will the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs score back-to-back victories, making it one of only eight NFL teams to do so? If the team does win, it will be presented with the sterling silver Lombardi Trophy. The 7-pound, 22-inch trophy, created by Tiffany & Co. and named for the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, has been awarded to every Super Bowl winner since 1970—when, coincidentally, it was won by the Chiefs.

Finally, what can we expect from advertisers after a year notable for a raging pandemic and social unrest? Television ads that run during the Super Bowl are among the best the industry has to offer. By some estimates, nearly one of every six people who tune into the big game is there for the commercials—which are not just some of the most creative TV ads of the year, but also the most expensive. During last year’s Super Bowl LIV, a 30-second ad cost a record $5.6 million. That compares to the $3,500 (or about $292,203 in today’s dollars) charged advertisers during the first Super Bowl in 1967. Of, course, the average cost of Super Bowl I tickets was $12, and the game didn’t even sell out.

Most fans have their own favorites among the memorable ads that have interrupted Super Bowl games over the years. Who could forget Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” commercial during Super Bowl XVIII in 1984? Or Apple’s revolutionary “1984” ad, which ushered in the digital age during the same game? Sports fans also have their favorites, including Coca Cola’s “Hey Kid, Catch” commercial featuring Mean Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was shown during Super Bowl XIV in 1980. McDonalds’ “The Showdown,” which imagined a fanciful free-throw competition between basketball legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, was a highlight of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993.

And for sheer laughs, there’s Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” commercial featuring Boston actors Chris Evans, Rachel Dratch and John Kransinski laying their Beantown accents on thick. It was a viewer favorite when it appeared last year during Super Bowl LIV.

While these ads were entertaining, even ground-breaking, many recent ads aim to engage emotions, tell a story or convey a message. Such as Google’s poignant “Loretta” ad, which debuted last year during Super Bowl LIV. It demonstrated how Google Assistant can be used to help people keep their most cherished memories alive.

For pure heart-tugging emotion, there is nothing like Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” ad from Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. It features the lasting bond between one of the brand’s famous Clydesdales and the man who raised him.

As far as modern messages are concerned, the Always “Like A Girl” ad from Super Bowl XLIX was groundbreaking for several reasons. Not only was it a commercial for a women’s feminine care product shown during a high-testosterone event, but it focused on the treatment of women and girls. The 2015 ad racked up numerous awards including an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial.

But while ad styles have changed over the long history of the Super Bowl, the most successful ones (and there also have been many, many duds) are able to connect with viewers, either through humor, pathos, wit or the sheer power of their storytelling.

There are few hard-and-fast rules for an ad that knocks it out of the park. Some of them barely even mention the brand. But there are some guidelines that experts agree upon, such as avoiding being depressing or emotionally manipulative. They also caution against crudeness, such as the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that featured a flatulent horse.

The first goal of any ad, especially one that is costing upwards of $5 million, is to achieve the company’s business goals, whether by driving brand awareness, encouraging loyalty or building a stronger relationship with consumers. A secondary goal focuses on viewers—the ad should be entertaining, especially to the Super Bowl audience. That means it must also be relevant to people who enjoy football, or at least the annual championship game.

So come Sunday, it won’t just be the contest of athleticism or the curiosity about who will win that viewers will tune in for, but also the creativity of the ads. At Monarch Landing, we have enjoyed hosting Super Bowl viewing parties with residents over the years. While this year may be a little less raucous, we’re still observing the occasion by ­­sharing Superbowl snacks at The Springs. So wear red and enjoy the game!