What Valuable Lessons Can Small Businesses Learn from Super Bowl Ads?

It has been said football remains the perfect synthesis of mass marketing and mass media.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Super Bowl, when the commercials become as big an event as halftime, or in certain years, the game itself. What can a small business learn from the best Super Bowl ads?


Emotional Connection



Arguably the greatest soft drink ad of all time is the 1971 “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” spot that featured the multicultural hilltop chorus that wanted to buy the world a Coke. Eight years later, the emotional connection between Coke and the football audience was cemented forever in the even more famous Mean Joe Greene spot. Super Bowl ads have been building on this concept ever since. Making an emotional connection with the audience is the first and most important step in selling any product, especially in front of 120 million people.





The theory in the classroom is if you can entertain the students they won’t realize they are learning. The same should be true of commercials. If you are funny or entertaining enough, your audience won’t realize you’re selling them something. This is arguably one of the toughest tests, because writing comedy is something that can’t really be faked or simulated. Either it’s funny or it isn’t. The good news is, once you get it right, it’s solid gold and will likely stay in the minds of your audience for years and years. A good example is the Betty White/Abe Vigoda pickup football game Snickers spot from 2010.





In 2012, Clint Eastwood appeared in a commercial for Chrysler that generated a tremendous response both inside and outside the Super Bowl audience. It was titled “Halftime” and touched on cultural themes encouraging Americans to follow in the footsteps of the Detroit auto manufacturers. It was successful mainly because it reminded the viewers of their shared culture and many of the institutions that historically have helped America survive economic downturns.


This kind of imagery as a marketing strategy is generally effective if it is used authentically and makes a point above and beyond a simple sales proposition. Done right, commercials like these have the potential to define both products and companies.


There are no guarantees when it comes to advertising. What works with one audience may fail with another, and in neither instance will it be clear why. But with some basic principles in place, some commercials are much more likely to succeed and provide a better return on your marketing budget.


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