• February 10, 2022
  • By Imran Hirani, vice president, strategic insights, Nielsen

How Marketers Can Turn Their Super Bowl Influencer Ads into Touchdowns

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Super Bowl advertisements are often a star-studded affair, with celebrities like Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Timothee Chalamet among those appearing in last year’s placements. But considering that a 30-second advertising slot already comes with a $6 million price tag, is it worth it for brands to spend that much more on influencer endorsements?

Influencers with loyal followings can serve to validate the brands they advertise, which ideally translates to increased brand engagement and sales. However, influencer inclusion alone won’t strengthen an ad’s effectiveness. Nielsen historical data shows that Super Bowl ads featuring a celebrity scored only marginally higher than ads without a celebrity on the brand memorability index.

To make the biggest impact on audiences, marketers need to consider more than which celebrity they want to put in their ad and focus on developing a campaign concept that honors their brand’s core messaging and extends beyond the television screen to sustain consumer interest after game day.

Indeed, successful campaigns start with strong concepts.

Prioritize the Campaign Concept Over the Influencer

At their foundation, Super Bowl ads should have the brand itself at the epicenter of a campaign so that audiences know who to engage with afterward. For the ad to resonate, marketers have to also balance their understanding of consumer needs with sensitivity toward the broader world that consumers are navigating. For instance, a Nielsen survey found that 90 percent of Americans favored companies that prioritized well-being in their messaging—a reaction to lingering pandemic concerns.

For an influencer to then add value to the campaign’s core concept, marketers need to select an individual whose personal brand aligns with the brand’s value proposition. This way, the advertisement feels authentic to audiences, versus a sheer marketing play. More than influencer status, marketers that consider using a celebrity must understand the potential impact on the brand’s image and public perception of that celebrity. Therefore, celebrities who share the same social issue perspectives as the brand and its target audience will better resonate.

There are, however, some brands who have chosen influencers who were not obvious fits, and as a result the juxtaposition made the ads more memorable. For example, Subway tapped Tom Brady for its 2021 Super Bowl ad—a partnership that, on the surface, sounded illogical since even casual fans know that Brady doesn’t eat bread. However, because the advertisement explicitly and hilariously calls out this fact, the ad becomes authentic. In this instance, Brady alone isn’t the ad’s wow factor; it’s his unexpected connection to the brand he’s advertising that solidifies consumers’ interest.

Keep the Conversation Going on Social Media

Nielsen historical data shows that nearly 70 percent of Super Bowl viewers also engage with the Super Bowl via social media, either by actively writing posts or passively reading related posts. Social media presents a major opportunity for marketers to catch prospective consumers where their interest in the brand is high and bring them farther down the marketing funnel. By establishing consumer touchpoints beyond the Super Bowl ad (e.g., having the influencer tag the brand, linking the video to the brand’s website), marketers can establish a relationship with consumers that nurtures sales over time.

Additionally, instead of waiting until the Super Bowl ad has aired during the game to repurpose the content for social media, marketers should consider doing so before the Super Bowl kicks off to improve ad impact. The increased ad frequency enhances ad memorability. Nielsen historical data also found that viewers who saw Super Bowl ads online before the game were significantly more likely to recall ads after the game.

Trust Data Over Celebrity Status

Marketers who take a data-driven approach are more likely to achieve their goals, and Super Bowl advertising is no exception. With the right technology, marketers can monitor audience engagements to understand how an influencer ad performs compared to regular marketing efforts and use these tools to determine if the ROI was worth the spend. Martech tools with attribution capabilities specifically can reveal to marketers what consumers did next after they viewed the ad—such as whether the consumer made a purchase through the brand’s website or perhaps took no action at all.

Marketers will also be able to assess how a campaign performs across platforms and channels to tighten their marketing mix for next year. Similarly, by adopting technology like this ahead of the Super Bowl, marketers can leverage the findings of which ad components have historically performed well and tee up the Super Bowl ad more strategically. Armed with this information, marketers mitigate the chance of wasted spend from executing tactics that have historically underperformed.

Leveraging influencers in advertisements can inspire great returns for brands, but marketers need to be strategic to make the most of such big-budget placements. In addition to influencer selection, campaign concepts and marketing mix are critical success factors for Super Bowl advertising—both of which can be optimized through continuous measurement and keeping a pulse on the consumer landscape.

Imran Hirani is vice president, strategic insights, at Nielsen. He has 20-plus years of experience in market research across a range of disciplines and geographies, having led research in over 15 countries. Hirani currently manages thought leadership for Nielsen's marketing effectiveness suite.  Previously, he led sales consultant teams with a focus on helping advertisers and agencies grow their marketing efficiency and impact. He has held leader and expert roles in a broad array of marketing topics including innovation, product assortment, pricing, and marketing ROI.

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