Marketing Insights

Advertising Insight: Branding the Big Game

Kristen Nicholson, Vice President of Public Relations, gives her take on branding at the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl is the largest advertising event of the year. It’s the one time each year that advertisers get a massive, captive audience to watch their commercials. Large companies take advantage of this advertising opportunity to build their brand, announce new products, and shape the way consumers view their company.

With Super Bowl LVI coming up this weekend, we sat down with Kristen Nicholson, MHP/SI’s Vice President of Public Relations, to preview this year’s event and pontificate on what branding trends we may see at the big game.

A lot of companies halted their spending last year because of the pandemic. It wasn’t a good public relations opportunity to spend at the big event. This year, do you see that trend continuing, or do you think companies are gonna ramp up their spending again?

Kristen: I think they’re gonna ramp up their spending, but I feel like you’ll see a trend when it comes to the type of content you’re going to see. We’re still in this COVID era. We’ll probably be in that for the next year or so. So, you’re seeing a trend when it comes to social and corporate responsibility.

This trend has been going on since before the pandemic. It’s super important to millennials and to Gen Z. They want to spend their money with corporations that they feel good about, that are doing really great stuff for not only the environment, but for other areas of social responsibility.

Then, we’re also in this era of the great resignation. Not only do consumers want to spend money with companies that they feel good about, but they wanna work for companies that they feel good about. So I really feel like you’re gonna see that trend in the content. And then also an overall trend of health and wellness. Because again, we’re still in that COVID era, and health and wellness have become an instrumental aspect of our overall life.

How do you think the emotional, gets you in your feels, type of advertising work to improve the reputation of a large business?

Kristen: I have seen where it has worked, but sometimes it has backfired.  I’m thinking back to last year’s Jeep commercial. Jeep enlisted “The Boss” with Springsteen. It was very emotional, but it backfired. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There were some political undertones there, and then it came up that he had a DUI. So, they yanked that ad, but it was very emotional.

People either wanna laugh or they wanna cry. So, you kind of walk that fine line. I feel like the Super Bowl is an opportunity to showcase those types of emotions, whether you’re laughing or you’re crying. As advertisers and marketers, you’ve gotta think through all of those elements to make sure that you’re hitting the right chord.

Do you ever see the trends from the super bowl trickle down to smaller companies that are not able to advertise at the Super Bowl, but they can have an advertising campaign digitally online or on local television?

Kristen: Oh, absolutely. I think that’s really everyone’s goal to have a campaign, an advertising campaign, that leaves someone feeling something or has someone talking about what they saw at the water cooler – even though the water cooler these days is not the same at an office. Being able to get that trending content online is definitely gonna be the end goal, no matter what size your company is.

I think now, with digital, it’s even more valuable than having a million-dollar ad during the big game. It’s creating that engaging content, that water cooler type of talk online, that you’re gonna get the most bang for your buck. And no matter what size of company you have, whether you’re a small business or an enterprise-level corporation, that type of trend-worthy, engaging content is attainable online with the right idea.

That’s some really good insight! Let’s take a fun moment and look back at past Super Bowls. Out of any Super Bowl ad you can remember, what would you say is the best one?

Kristen: Oh, that’s a great question. Well, I feel like Budweiser always brings it every year, for both the emotional and the humor aspect. So their clydesdales have always been, you know, kind of emotional. But then you also have the humor of Bud Light. So I feel like they always bring it. I feel like Bud Light probably always is gonna be one of my top five.

If you could produce a super bowl commercial for yourself, what would happen? What would be the premise?

Kristen: Oh, wow. I’m gonna have to really get creative here. I feel like in order to have a really trend worthy commercial, there’s gotta be elements of pop culture in there. You’re gonna have to have some cameo visits by, I don’t know, Cardi B. Or you know, maybe I would like to see a mashup of, let’s see, maybe like Cardi B and, oh, the guy from Curb Your Enthusiasm. I feel like those are two polar ends of the spectrum, but yeah, I’d definitely tap into some pop culture.


Kristen Nicholson