Television commercials are a nuisance 364 days of the year. That one remaining day is Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl advertising can’t be topped. Even if you hate sports, you will watch the Super Bowl strictly for the commercials. Heck, even if you love sports, the commercials can be high points especially if the game is a dud (see Super Bowls 48 and 50).
There are some brands that make a memorable impact year after year. Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and even Snickers has a few gems. However, there is one brand that stands tall above the rest. This brand ranked in the top five Super Bowl advertisers from 2010-2015. It revolutionized Super Bowl advertising with its “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign. It makes delicious cheesy and crunchy chips.
Yes, this brand is Doritos. But the perennial advertising powerhouse won’t be appearing on any TV screens come February 5th. Frito-Lay, the PepsiCo subsidiary, held the final “Crash the Super Bowl” contest last year leading up to Super Bowl 50, after a 10-year run.
The contest, which gave everyday people the chance to film their own Super Bowl ad and win big in the process, was a massive success among entrants, viewers, and consumers. Since the campaign’s inception, over 32,000 people submitted entries. Doritos handed out over $7 million in prize money and grew from a $1.52 billion brand in 2006 to a $2.2 billion in 2016.
Why stop now?
Move Over, Millennials
First of all, Frito-Lay’s marketing strategy is shifting with their target demographic. In an interview with Business Insider, Frito-Lay’s CMO explained that, in 2006, when millennials were the consumer target, the iPhone had yet to be released and Facebook hadn’t gone public yet, the thought of an average consumer creating content was absurd. Could consumers do it? That was their goal- to see if consumers could create professional-grade content for a big brand.
Today, however, the landscape is evolving. Millennials are having kids of their own. These kids are part of Gen Z and they are now the primary target for Doritos. The only problem is that they were born and grow up in a digital age. With Vine (RIP), YouTube, and the abundance of social media platforms, Gen Z is made up of native content creators. So a consumer creating content is nothing to write home about today. It’s simply not worthy of a six month campaign anymore.
Gen Z doesn’t need to be discovered. Back in 2006, aspiring filmmakers and advertisers did. Gen Z’ers are making their own success. So Frito-Lay had to adapt.
Enter their new campaign, “Legion of the Bold.” The campaign allows consumers to create content year-round, not just for the Super Bowl, in the form of 30-second ads, banner ads, and wide videos.
NFL ratings this season have dropped for a number of reasons. And since the number is too great to list everything, the most likely reasons are below.
- Lack of star power: Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, was suspended for the first four games of the season. Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, retired.
- NFL RedZone: the exclusive channel gives subscribers access to every big play and every scoring play for every game. You don’t need to spend your whole Sunday on the couch cheering for your favorite team(s). Oh, and there are no commercials. Why bother watching the whole game anymore?
- On that note, commercials: There are commercials after nearly everything- kickoffs, punts, scoring plays, reviews, challenges, timeouts, injuries, the two minute warning and more.
- Fantasy football: fans have become so engrossed that they no longer care about supporting their real team. All that matters is stats, which you can track in real-time online.
- Social media: When you can follow teams, writers, broadcasters, and sports media companies, you have all the game information and updates literally at your fingertips.
It’s understandable, then, that brands could be wary of shelling out for advertising… even for the biggest sporting event in the country.
That’s really all it comes down to. Fox is asking for a record $5 million for a 30-second spot and as a result, spots aren’t moving as quickly as they did in 2015.
Additionally, advertisers thrive on certainty. They like to know who, if anyone, will buy their product. And since it was an election year, there is economic uncertainty among both buyers and sellers. So, their unwillingness to spend on ads without knowing what kind of return they’ll get is certainly justified.
Frito-Lay is looking towards the future of advertising, and traditional advertising is not part of that future.
It’s currently unclear whether or not other advertisers will follow suit and abandon television advertising entirely, even during a game that is frequently the most watched show in history.
What is clear is that without flying pigs, the middle seat, time machines, babies in slings, and the other wacky brainchildren of the everyday creative, Super Bowl commercial breaks will never be the same.