Hacking Super Bowl Advertising Strategies for Your Next Startup Marketing Play
The Super Bowl is one of the most watched television events every year, with over 100 million viewers tuning in to the big game. This massive audience makes Super Bowl ad slots some of the most coveted and expensive in the world, often costing millions of dollars for just 30 seconds of airtime.
While most startups don’t have the huge marketing budgets that allow large brands to advertise during the Super Bowl, there are still important lessons startup founders can learn by analyzing these ads and the strategies behind them. By understanding what works and why for these marketing powerhouses, founders can take ideas and inspiration to fuel their own creative marketing efforts, even on a startup budget.
Here are some key takeaways startup leaders can learn from Super Bowl ads and apply to their own marketing campaigns:
Focus on Simple, Emotional Messages
Many of the most popular and memorable Super Bowl ads focus on stirring emotions rather than highlighting features of a product. They tell creative stories that captivate attention and connect with viewers’ feelings. Startups should focus less on touting features and more on crafting campaigns with emotional resonance that create bonds with customers. This helps brands stand out from competitors and leave lasting impressions.
Anheuser-Busch’s famous Budweiser Clydesdale horse commercials are a perfect example, associating feelings like nostalgia, friendship and community with their product. Startups can aim to build similar emotional connections through great storytelling in their campaigns.
Take Smart Risks
Super Bowl advertisers often take bold creative risks, betting that doing something completely new and different will break through the advertising clutter. Sometimes the risks pay off tremendously. One standout example is Chrysler’s 2011 “Imported from Detroit” ad featuring rapper Eminem dramatically driving through Detroit streets. It captured widespread attention with its risky, unconventional cinematography and messaging.
Smart startups should learn from this fearlessness. Pushing marketing boundaries with edgy, unexpected campaigns can generate huge buzz and recognition for companies, even if executed on small budgets. The key is taking calculated, strategic risks tied closely to brands’ key messages and audiences.
Showcase Culture and Values
Some major brands like Airbnb and Google have run Super Bowl ads that shine a spotlight on their corporate values and cultures versus just their products alone. These ads aim to connect brands with audiences through shared beliefs, causes and personality rather than a sales pitch.
Startups need to establish strong brand identities and followings early on. Showcasing authentic culture and values can help companies stand apart from competitors in meaningful ways. And campaigns based on beliefs tend to perform well because audiences connect with the emotion and stories at the core. Founders who ask “why does our startup exist” can use those cultural pillars, purposes and passions as inspiration for ads that truly resonate.
Partner Up for Added Reach
Companies advertising during the Super Bowl often maximize reach and impact by partnering with other brands and properties aligned with target audiences. Disney, for example, frequently cross-promotes upcoming movies through creative Super Bowl ad collaborations with brands like Coca-Cola. These partnerships merge two brands’ audiences and personalities around timely, attention-grabbing cultural events.
Rising startups should explore similar co-marketing opportunities with established brands that share target demographics. The partnerships not only stretch marketing dollars further but also expand startups’ audiences exponentially by tapping into partners’ existing reach. Savvy startup founders can use this tactic to gain significant exposure.
Go Behind the Scenes
In recent years, Super Bowl advertisers have given audiences insider peeks behind the scenes showcasing the processes of developing ads and pulling off ambitious productions. Brands like Verizon and Reddit have run short documentaries taking viewers through ad concepting, creative development, casting and filming key commercial scenes. These behind-the-scenes spots grab interest by telling the stories of how ads get made in the first place.
For startups, pulling back the curtain to give audiences an authentic inside look at company culture and operations can be an engaging marketing approach. Giving people an insiders’ perspective makes brands more relatable and memorable. Founders who document startup journeys and milestones in interesting ways can form meaningful connections with audiences, just like Super Bowl advertisers do hyping their big-game ad stories.
Go Big on Social Media
Brands advertising during the Super Bowl turn social media into overdrive around game day, sharing teasers leading up to ads’ debuts and encouraging real-time reactions across platforms when commercials air. They spark conversation online that amplifies their huge TV spending into earned media impressions across the internet. Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign is one hugely shareable example, crowdsourcing fan-made ads as viral online content.
Startups can learn from this social media playbook to drive brand excitement online in conjunction with offline channels like out-of-home advertising. Pushing video ads and short content across startup founders’ own social platforms and stakeholders’ channels amplifies impressions with limited ad spend. Activating company insiders as brand ambassadors to share content also sparks organic reach. Startups that pair smart social strategies with core offline campaigns make big impacts even without six-figure Super Bowl ad budgets.
Very few startups can drop millions on Super Bowl ads straight out of the gate like major corporations can. But innovative founders can still learn vital lessons from the world’s biggest advertising day. By studying which creative ideas break through and why, nimble startups can fuel smarter marketing strategy decisions for their own unconventional, memorable campaigns—all without outrageous TV ad budgets.
With clever creative risks, emotionally resonant messaging, culture-focused stories, collaborative partnerships and amplified digital footprints, startup brands can mimic some of the same marketing success Big Game advertisers achieve on a smaller scale. Super Bowl ads set the gold standard for what innovative, culture-breaking advertising looks like at the core. And startup leaders can use the same principles behind these ads’ creative development and promotion to drive marketing wins for their own young brands too.
When startups apply inspiration from the most visible one-day of advertising every year, their own creative marketing campaigns can gain attention, spark engagement and boost brand affinity over time too. Studying Super Bowl ads gives founders perspective on the art and science of great marketing that scales.
11th February 2024