It’s Still A Big Win

It’s big.

It’s bloated.

It’s overhyped.

And it rarely lives up to the overinflated expectations we put on it.

No, I’m not talking about a typical Wall Street investment banker bonus these days.

I’m talking about the Super Bowl. It may be all that and more, but it is also still the heavyweight champion of shared American experiences. Still the best example ever of “appointment TV.” Still a totally unique communications and sales tool for the right marketers. And still the one event that causes men, women and children who love football to get together in front of a television set with friends and family who wouldn’t know a blitz package from a bag of chips.

But they will all gather at a party somewhere, or at home, bring along that bag of chips and some of those fine Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi products to cheer, boo, laugh, cry and criticize the game. Not the actual football game, of course, but the “game within the game”: who has the best Super Bowl commercial?

This year, an estimated 91 million households will be tuned into that game.

In this era of literal “one-to-one marketing,” where else can you reach as many people who are not only there for your message but who are actually looking forward to your message? Who are anticipating it? Who want to be amused by it, entertained by it, dazzled by it? Like it, love it or tear it apart, they are going to watch it. They are going to see it. And if you call your play correctly, they are going to talk about it.

In the last few years, a bunch of consumer polls have sprung up so customers can voice their opinion. And what columnist or critic will pass up the chance to “rate” your work and your brand? None that I know of.

If you do it right (and we at DDB know how to do it right), your brand will be part of that international conversation on the Internet, on TV news shows, on blogs, in newspapers, on radio talk shows and in offices, factories, diners, truck stops, fire stations, schools and corporate suites across America.

Short of a national disaster, what other event can provoke that kind of customer conversation? Name one other event that can make that conversation happen … year after year after year.

And today, the “game within the game” is no longer a one-and-done event.

This year, CBS will again post the commercials online after the game, so we can go back and enjoy them again and again without all that football stuff in between.

Well, we have to get something for our $2.6 million, don’t we?

Vince Lombardi, the immortal coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said: “Football is not a contact sport. Dance is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.”

I think that today, the Super Bowl still gives us by far the best opportunity to collide with the most customers at one time.

Talk about impact!

At a time when we know it is getting increasingly difficult to reach our fractionated, time-deprived, attention-deficit-suffering customers, the Super Bowl is still the one place where their interest and our interest as marketers line up perfectly and collide. It is still the one time and place that we’re not an intrusion but a real part of the action.

It is still the one place where they want us to do well. They come to the game looking for us to complete that beautiful spiral for a touchdown. It adds to their overall Super Bowl experience. The commercials and the brands that are on the game are part of a customer’s overall experience on Super Bowl Sunday like on no other day of the year.

What other event can we say that about?

For smart marketers, the Super Bowl is still a rare opportunity to make an impact unlike any other time of the year, with a potential global audience of 1 billion people.

Think about Lee Clow and Steve Hayden’s magnificent commercial for the Macintosh computer, “1984.” It debuted on the Super Bowl in, of course, 1984, and is arguably the most famous commercial ever made; one that helped launch a funky, fledgling computer company on the road to being a culture-altering force of nature.

I’ll be downloading the game highlights on my iPod the next day, won’t you?

Think about all the memorable Pepsi spots like “Boy in the Bottle.” Think about Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ E*Trade “Monkey.” Remember the impact they had when they collided with all those Super Bowl fans.

From my own experience, I think of all the great Budweiser and Bud Light spots our team has created that have swept the consumer polls the last several years; Spuds McKenzie and the Whassup guys being two of my favorite “blasts from the past” that scored on the game and became part of American pop culture. Last year, we scored with Bud Light’s “Magic Fridge,” among others.

I’ll admit that being on the Super Bowl is not for everyone. But it is a statement game for big brands that have raised expectations in their customers’ minds. And if you are going to be in it, like Sen. Hillary Clinton, you have to be “in it to win it.” Put your best team on the field. We’ve been at the top of consumer polls, and we’ve been at the bottom.

Today, for the right brands, the Super Bowl works in more ways than ever.

The Super Bowl works for me. And it works for a billion people around the world.

There is simply no other event like it.

And I don’t know about you, but this year I’m looking forward to that $12.79 Doritos spot. And a huge win by my Chicago Bears!