Skechers Made Another Dull Super Bowl Spot. Sales Have Never Been Better.

Are some creatives trying to be too clever?

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Skechers is returning to the Super Bowl. Similar to the footwear company’s other recent Super Bowl ads, this year’s commercial isn’t likely to win any accolades.

In the 30-second spot, set to air in the third quarter, longtime brand spokesperson Tony Romo reminds viewers there’s no letter “t” in Skechers. Then Mr. T bursts through a wall to refute Romo. He explains to the former NFL quarterback and CBS color commentator that he’s always wearing a pair of Skechers. Get it?

Given how marketers use the Super Bowl to take big creative swings—whether that means experimenting with the form or building a larger narrative around the ad—Skechers’ commercial is safe and dull by comparison.

It’s not even a new idea. Last spring, the brand introduced a commercial featuring Mr. T bursting through a wall to argue there is, in fact, a “t” in Skechers (i.e. it’s him). The ad ran on national linear TV more than 1,200 times in April and May, according to ad measurement and analytics firm iSpot.tv.

Another lackluster Super Bowl ad shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Skechers’ past work, which tends to perform poorly.

Viewers ranked last year’s spot, which involved Romo, Snopp Dogg and Martha Stewart, as the 25th best commercial out of 51 on USA Today’s Ad Meter. Skechers’ 2021 Super Bowl ad starring Romo and his spouse Candice ended up just a few slots higher than last place. “Sorry but this ad kind of sucks,” one person opined on YouTube.

Another example: Skechers’ 2018 effort placed 62 out of 65 ads.

Rick Suter, editor of USA Today’s Ad Meter, noted Skechers had a third place hit in 2012 with a spot showcasing a French bulldog named Mr. Quiggly beating several greyhounds in a race.

“Since then, it’s been a less successful ratings run,” Suter told ADWEEK via email. Suter added he thought this year’s creative has a “fun hook that might resonate with fans.”

Skechers declined to comment for this story.

A booming business

Yet somehow, despite Skechers’ history of mediocre Big Game ads, the company is doing well.

Last year, Skechers debuted on the Fortune 500 list and broke sales records with $8 billion in revenue. It expects to surpass $10 billion by 2026.

“Even though we rate these ads as not being up to par, their business is booming,” said Marcus Collins, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan and author of the book For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be.

Collins stated Skechers has likely benefitted from a subset of the population refashioning clunky, chunky sneakers that don’t look cool on the surface as a deviant, somewhat ironic symbol of cool. Kind of like what happened to Crocs.

So what does all this mean? Is simply appearing in the Super Bowl enough to deliver results? Are some brands trying too hard to be clever and win awards instead of crafting a message that’s clear and direct, even if a bit humdrum?

“A lot of the stuff that gets attention in our industry for being new and disruptive literally didn’t even register with real consumers in the real world,” Eric Kallman, founder and chief creative officer at the ad agency Erich & Kallman, told ADWEEK in an email.

To be clear, it’s uncommon for a Super Bowl ad alone to make or break a company. That’s giving those 30 seconds way too much weight. At the same time, however, marketers are under pressure to connect ad spend with sales lift. Paying up to $7 million to boost brand awareness doesn’t cut it anymore.

It could be Skechers knows what works and has decided to stick with it.

Consider the company’s growing direct-to-consumer business, which has higher margins than wholesale. Statistics from market research firm Circana show last year Skechers increased the number of U.S. customers in its D2C channel, as well as spending per customer. For its quarter ending Dec. 31, Skechers’ D2C segment represented more than 50% of total sales for the first time.

“Skechers’ strength is communicating the features and benefits of its footwear, and this works very well in a direct-to-consumer environment,” said Beth Goldstein, footwear industry analyst at Circana.

And the company does invest in advertising. Figures from iSpot.tv estimate the footwear company spent $75.9 million on national television last year, up 38% compared to the year prior.

It could be Skechers’ style of advertising is too established to alter it now. Pushing for innovation at this point might be detrimental. Change could lead to the ultimate brand sin: inauthenticity.

As Collins put it: “If Skechers tried to be cool, that will look pathetic.”

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