Sunday's Big Yawn.

Sep 16, 2019 - Mary Kinder

It seems like every year you hear from more people who tune into the NFL’s biggest event not for the game, but for the ads. It’s become a tradition that company’s save their best creative to make a big splash during the game that can’t be named. (For those who may not know, unless you pay, you can’t actually say the name of the NFL’s championship game. But that’s a whole different post.)

The going rate for a 30-second ad this year was $5.2 million, according to CNBC. For that amount of money, it’s easy to see why companies go all out for attention-grabbing ads. But this year, at least from my own very un-scientific research, the ads as a whole fell as flat as a Tom Brady approved football.

Last week before the game, our entire Nichols team watched most of the ads online. That’s right, many of the ads that cost millions of dollars to air could be found online ahead of the game. I suppose for that amount of money, the companies are trying to get as much exposure and ROI as possible. As a group, we were rather underwhelmed, although there were a few laughs. But, are we just a bunch of jaded marketers who are a tad jealous that we don’t have the kind of clients and budgets that justify a $5 million media buy?

Fast forward to the game itself. I watched with a group of friends that also included several teenagers. This group of non-marketing pros were equally unimpressed by the ads. Many of the celebrity appearances were met by questions of, “Who’s that?” from both the teens and their parents, depending on the spot. The teenagers were excited to see Cardi B in the Pepsi ad, but then rather disappointed that she was relegated to just one line. And the much-hyped meeting between Carrie Bradshaw and The Dude landed with a quiet thud from all ages. The Budweiser ad smartly worked in the brewer’s use of wind power, but it didn’t pack the emotional punch seen in years past.

The biggest misstep of the night may have been Bud Light’s swipe at its competitors’ use of corn syrup. The next day they found themselves in a feud with America’s corn producers. Picking a fight with farmers is never a smart PR move. Plus, the costly spot was upstaged by a much less expensive tweet from Miller Lite that reminded consumers that they still had fewer calories, along with great taste—a throwback to great Miller Lite ads of the past.

There was only one spot that seemed to really break through—the NFL 100 ad featuring football’s biggest stars past and present. While the spot was filled with great lines and plenty of action, the real fun came from trying to name everyone in the star-studded spot. As soon as it was over, most of the party hopped online to Google who we missed. That’s the kind of engagement most spots missed.

The day after the game in more un-scientific research, I found that people weren’t talking about the ads that stood out, but instead the lack of any that really connected. This may leave many advertisers wondering if all the money was worth the effort. So as the real winners of this year’s rather boring big game, the New England Patriots, celebrate, the other 31 NFL teams, along with most advertisers, are left on the sidelines saying, “Well, there’s always next year.”