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How Evaluating The Super Bowl Commercials Can Help Make Your Marketing FANtastic!

February 11, 2020

You’ve been privy to the million and one articles anointing the winners and roasting the losers of this year’s Super Bowl advertising bonanza. So we’re not going to rehash that here. Instead, let’s settle in for a FANtastic marketing exercise which is bound to help YOU think about how you market to your audience—and what you can do to make it better. Sounds beneficial, right?

First, let’s get a few facts out of the way:

  • There are many ways to evaluate ads. From social media mentions to focus group reactions to changes in sales volume. The ads earmarked for discussion today scored at the highest levels on a variety of objective and subjective measures. But WHY is that?
  • Why an ad resonates with one person and not another is both complex and simple. Subjective personal preferences are as varied as the unique fingerprints that come with each person. What we do know is that ad copy and messaging connect and resonate when it strikes an emotional chord with the viewer.
  • If you want to create FANtastic Marketing that grows your business, the first step is to understand the very nature of fans and what makes them engage. Consider an avid sports fan. Psychologists have long studied the behavior of extreme sports fans and found five common reasons that explain why they dress in outrageous costumes, attend games in freezing temperatures, and spend exorbitant amounts of time and money on their favorite team or player. Turns out, there are 5 fan motivators—and you can use them in your own marketing!

The FANtastic Five

My experience as a 17-year digital marketer is that ads connect the best when the message is about the FAN and not about the brand. I call that FANtastic Marketing – marketing that is for the fan, about the fan, and ultimately user-generated by the fans. And they share these 5 common traits with sports fans:

  1. Identity

Sports fans share a sense of identity with their favorite player or team. There is a personal connection to the object of their affection and it is felt at a deep, intimate level.

The Super Bowl commercial that best demonstrated the identity principle was Google’s “Remember Lorretta” ad. This ad clearly and simply presented a dilemma that everyone can identify with—the fear that we will lose not only the love of our life but also lose the memories of that person. Poignant, deep, and beautiful, the ad presented a universal truth that we all understand before demonstrating how the brand (Google) could help solve that dilemma and, in a small way, ease the pain of a transition we will all inevitably face.

  1. Self-Esteem

Sports fans feel a rise of self-esteem when their favorite player or team is successful. Fans want to feel good about themselves and their prospects. Brands that tap into that will connect with customers.

Let’s look at Secret’s “The Secret Kicker — #KickInequality” as a winning example of self-esteem. If you haven’t seen it, the ad features a winning field goal kicked by—wait for it—a woman! Starring U.S. soccer players Carli Lloyd and Crystal Dunn, Secret’s commercial describes the ad strategy as, “More than two-thirds of girls believe that society doesn’t encourage women to play sports so we are setting out to change this notion by spotlighting fierce female athletes – specifically two major women’s soccer players – in ‘The Secret Kicker,’ which is aimed at defying conventional expectations and championing equal opportunities for women.”

The aspirational component of this ad makes it an easy choice for best Self-Esteem winner.

  1. Escapism

Fanatical sports fans use sports as an escape from the daily grind. Your marketing can do that too—and it should if you want to be noticed. Provide an escape for fans from endless loads of laundry, yards that always need mowing, and jobs with infinite to-do lists!

How? Look no further than the Jeep® “Groundhog Day” ad. Quite literally this ad shows you how a Jeep can help you escape from living the same day over and over again! Aren’t we all doing that? Every. Single. Day? Yes! Which is why this ad totally resonates—even if you don’t drive a Jeep®! And this ad has more than escapism. It also has a sense of identity. You don’t have to be Bill Murray in the movie to relate to the character’s plight in the commercial. So show potential fans how your product or service grants relief from the everyday grind in a funny, witty, entertaining way and you have a TRIPLE winner in an ad!

  1. State Change

Something psychological happens to fans during a sporting event. From surges in testosterone to increased heart rates and breaths per minute, our bodies react to both positively and negatively emotional stimuli.

Guess what? Ads can create a state change, too. Like breaking a bad mood or giving hope to someone feeling defeated. Humorous ads are immensely popular with Super Bowl fans largely because they produce a State Change. Who doesn’t need a good laugh when it’s a nail biter like that 4th quarter?

Our State Change winner was a tie between Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” and Snicker’s “#SnickersFixtheWorld” ad. Both ads were clever and fun, making you smile and even— snicker (see what I did there)!

If I was forced to choose, I would give the edge to the Hyundai ad. Between the A-list celebrities that star and the strong identity factor, there’s a little something for everyone. Let’s be honest: All of us have struggled to park a car in a tight spot. Some of us may even know someone from Boston who pronounces smart park like, “Smaht Pahk.”

Hey, now that I’m thinking about it again, this ad resonates on so many fan levels that it might be my favorite of all!

  1. Sense of Belonging

The most obvious motivating factor for avid sports fans is a sense of belonging to a larger group as it fills a primal need for connection. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate a sense of belonging. Whether you are into comic books, wine collecting, or Harley Davidson motorcycles, part of the appeal is the connection to others who appreciate and share your passion.

The Super Bowl ad that best demonstrated a Sense of Belonging was the NFL, “Next 100” ad. Casting a wide net to appeal to all NFL fans, this ad featured 44 former and current NFL players as well as coaches in a variety of cities across the United States. The ad also featured 32 youth players meant to represent the leagues 32 youth teams. Wow. Talk about feeling like a part of something! This ad brought all fans together into one large tent as “football fans” first, regardless of team or player.

Your Turn

Do you agree with my assessment? Disagree? I want to hear from you. As I stated earlier, we all may have differing opinions of what resonated. So tell me in the comments, what were your winners and losers?

Let me say that there is no right or wrong answer! Many of the examples I cited demonstrated multiple fan motivating factors which I tried to point out. And in the end, it doesn’t matter why you like an ad. Because if it motivates you to try, buy, or refer a product or service then it has done its job!

But when it comes to FANtastic marketing, it’s understanding how your fans think and feel that will help you make those connections more effectively for the betterment of your brand and the fans. It’s a win-win! Score!

Okay I’ll stop before I have to drop back and punt…

Want more advice on how to make your brand FANtastic? Don’t miss my book, FANtastic Marketing available now! Recently updated and packed full of tips, tricks, and advice, you’re sure to find information that will help grow your brand!

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