Does Super Bowl Success Depend On ‘Brand Values’?

Volvo, Novartis, GoDaddy.com and other newcomers face an uphill climb getting a return on the millions they’re spending for their share of the Super Bowl spotlight, according to a new study conducted by Brand Keys.

“The 2005 Super Bowl Media Survey” was conducted earlier this month when the New York research firm asked consumers 18-59 who are likely to watch the game to rate their favorite brands. Respondents were then asked to rate those same brands in the context of their appearance during the Super Bowl to derive a “Return on Equity” (ROE) score.

“There are some companies whose brand values are better reinforced by the Super Bowl’s values than others,” said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff. “If it doesn’t reinforce your brand values, then you’re throwing your $2.4 million away” (the asking price for each 30-second unit).

First-timers such as GoDaddy.com, which had the lowest ROE score (-6), Consentino USA (-4) and Novartis’ Ciba Vision (-4) fared poorly because “there is some confusion as to what these brand values are and why they are mixing with football,” said Passikoff, although Ciba, at least, thinks its contact lens spot will resonate well with female football viewers (see story, page 9).

Other low-scoring brands may have suffered because they don’t align well with the sport. “A lot of advertisers miss the importance of matching the message to the medium,” explained Al Ries, president of Atlanta-based brand consultancy Ries & Ries. “You wouldn’t put a Bud ad in Vogue, but with TV we’ve lost that [logic].”

Not surprisingly, many of the brands that performed poorly in last year’s survey are not likely to return, including the American Legacy Foundation, Cialis, H&R Block, Levitra, Monster.com and Staples. And for some former advertisers who are staying on the sidelines for Super Bowl XXXIX next month, “it’s not like P&G [a first-time advertiser last year that is sitting out this year’s game] and IBM and others don’t have the budget to buy these ads. They just think there are better ways to spend their media dollars,” said Passikoff.

Brands that fit in well with the context of Super Bowl parties received the best scores, including Frito-Lay (+15), Pepsi (+13), Anheuser-Busch (+10) and Emerald of California (+7). Unilever’s Degree scored a +11 because sweat is certainly a part of the game. And, most of the movie ads ranked positively as well because they are a form of entertainment, just like the NFL. Paramount Pictures’ upcoming Adam Sandler film, The Longest Yard, received one of the highest scores at +10. Visa, which is often used to pay for entertainment, also ranked high (+10).

Cadillac’ sponsorship of the post-game show scored well (+6) as it intertwines the brand with a winner, while AmeriQuest Mortgage’s headlining of the halftime show did not (-2).

“Who wants to think about mortgages in the middle of the game?’ said Passikoff. “If the values don’t match, the lizard part of the brain watching the ads shuts down and the next day at the water cooler everyone says, ‘What were they thinking?'”