Michigan Ross Faculty Show How Super Bowl Ads Can Still Score


Super Bowl Sunday has become synonymous with excess, a fact evident in the advertising bacchanalia that sometimes rivals the game in publicity and buzz.

This year, NBC is charging advertisers a reported $4.5 million for 30 seconds, even as there are more digital marketing options and stronger competition for eyeballs than ever before. So we asked some of our faculty whether the Super Bowl is still a good bet, given the cost.

Tim O’Day, adjunct lecturer of marketing and executive director of the Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication

"It depends. Keep in mind the Super Bowl is still the place where you:

  • can reach 112 million customers at one time
  • have an excellent chance to have your ad watched, talked about, and shared on social media
  • have a chance to impact not only tracking and awareness studies but also search, website visits, blogs, Tweets, Pinterest, and Facebook posts

"If you are a brand that really needs awareness — an increasingly slippery and difficult goal in a complicated, multi-tasking, TV-avoiding, mobile environment — then it might be right for you. If, on the other hand, you have a narrow target customer; other goals more critical than awareness; are looking for short-term, provable ROI; and can't afford to spend $4.5 million for one exposure, then pass."

Puneet Manchanda, Isadore and Leon Winkelman Professor of Marketing, chair of marketing

"Advertising during the Super Bowl seems very old-fashioned in the age of social and mobile media, especially given the high cost. But if done well, it can be very effective for two reasons: One, there’s a massive and engaged audience. Two, we now have a "Super Bowl of Advertising" along with the game.

"This second Super Bowl is covered extensively by the media pre- and post-event, leading to massive amplification of the ad campaign. However, the way Super Bowl advertising needs to be approached today has to be based on strong content (as always) but also reflect the current media consumption landscape.

"So here are some conditions under which Super Bowl advertising can work:

  • The marketer should have something noteworthy to say, e.g., a new product launch, new messaging, or a new direction for the brand.
  • The campaign needs to consider both the pre- and post-event world. So teasers, early releases of the creative on multiple media, and activity on social media during and after the ad airs are critical complements. Think of the TV ad as the battering ram that has the maximum effect on the castle door, followed by the smaller campaigns as the targeted skirmishes that allow the force to advance.
  • The better the creative, the better the impact.
  • The amplification of the ad campaign can backfire if consumers and media experts find fault with it. So always have a contingency plan ready."


John Branch, lecturer of marketing and strategy and faculty associate, center for Russian and East European Studies

"We should think about looking at it another way. It is not possible to identify whether or not Super Bowl advertisements in general are still effective, or if other promotional methods are better. It really comes down to measuring the effectiveness of each individual advertisement. And this means knowing the promotional objectives of an advertisement prior to its airing, and performing the appropriate marketing metrics following the airing.

"For example, if a new tech startup wanted to get X number of eyeballs to see its brand, then on a per-eyeball basis maybe $4.5 million does not sound too bad. Of course, you need to follow up with how many of the 100 million actually saw the ad, remember the brand, etc."

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