How Can Brands ‘Win’ the Super Bowl? By Creating Spots Whose Impact Last Past the Big Game

The ads should engage audiences and inspire them to become loyal to the product or service

Large magnet; the magnet's magnetic field is drawing people in
A Super Bowl ad isn't successful if people only talk about it in the context of that specific game. Getty Images
Headshot of Taras Wayner

Every year at this time, our industry obsesses on the same question: Which brand is going to “win” the Super Bowl? And the press asks, “What’s the most memorable Super Bowl ad?” and “Does funny or emotional advertising win in the Super Bowl?”

While the technologies we use to connect brands to customers have expanded far beyond traditional advertising platforms, we still treat the Super Bowl as a traditional platform. We too often approach the big game as merely a spectacle of ads, something that captures our attention between plays on the first Sunday in February. Sure, we try and extend it a bit by pre-releasing, teasing and executing live events and stunts, but it stays very insulated. We continue to judge a brand’s success in the Super Bowl through the two-dimensional lens of how it showed up during commercial breaks in the live event. We then rank and judge who won based on the immediate reactions of a group of fans and say things like, “I told you humor wins the Super Bowl.” After the game most of us immediately move on only to start fresh (in a year’s time) with new briefs with the exact same goal of winning the Super Bowl.

Let’s not just judge how successful the ad was during the game but also how it connects to the next experience a brand creates.

What if we reimagine the entire Super Bowl marketing experience and reevaluate how Super Bowl success is judged and measured? We could start by better connecting our Super Bowl efforts with the rest of the brand experiences we create throughout the year. We could design a better system to decide who won the big game. Let’s not just judge how successful the ad was during the game but also how it connects to the next experience a brand creates. To be worth the big price that brands are paying for a Super Bowl, the TV commercial must do more work. It needs to become a launching pad for narratives planned throughout the year. This would extend a brand’s Super Bowl story and make much deeper connections with their customers. Then articles would be written not just about who had the best TV commercials, but also about the best experiences that built off the Super Bowl.

As a result, the annual Super Bowl questions the industry asks would become, “Which brand’s Super Bowl spot led to the longest and richest relationship with their customers?” and “What brand’s community and services grew the most after appearing in the Super Bowl?”

While gold statues and accolades should never be a driving force for what we do, if there was an award for the best brand experience that spanned the entire NFL season and connected to a Super Bowl commercial, I guarantee there would be dozens of case studies bringing to life the success of a brand’s Super Bowl experience. I also would love to see a Super Bowl tracker evolve beyond merely a list of spots based on the reactions of fans. Let’s evaluate the success of a brand’s Super Bowl experience by tracking the health of a brand’s community between Super Bowls, or we could create an always on Super Bowl tracker that utilizes analytics to track the efficacy of a brand’s message through the entire season leading up to the big game.

The same way football counts every yard, compares players, coaches and teams throughout a season, we should be doing the same when judging the success of an idea leading up to the Super Bowl. I’m often asked if the amount a brand has to pay for 30 seconds in the Super Bowl is worth it. Well, if the story told during the Big Game built a deeper connection because it brought millions to a useful experience where customers signed up for a brand’s product or service, then $5 million for 30 seconds is easily defended.

There’s still immense value in the Super Bowl experience. The brands that really win the Super Bowl are the brands who think of the Big Game as a moment within their entire experience. Those brands continue to put their customer at the center of their efforts and build experiences and stories around them. They use the Super Bowl as a place to launch a platform that can be expanded and nurtured with each new interaction. And they win when they make their stories and experiences entertaining and useful not just at the Super Bowl but throughout the entire year. To me, that’s truly winning the Super Bowl.

Taras Wayner is chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi New York.