Feb 2, 2020 - Economy

Super Bowl ads have become more about brand values than the brands themselves

Data: Axios research, Ad Age; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: Axios research, Ad Age; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

More advertisers are buying pricey Super Bowl ads this year to sell you on their values, rather than their products.

Why it matters: It's a reflection of a broader trend of companies investing more in marketing efforts that expand their corporate reputations long-term, rather than their bottom lines in the short-term.

Driving the news: Advertisers ranging from beverage to skin care companies will air ads this year that feature values ranging from social justice to support for small businesses.

  1. Budweiser, a brand within the Anheuser-Busch family, will run a 60-second ad supporting "typical Americans." The ad has caused some controversy for showcasing footage from the 2016 Charlotte Uprising protests, which began after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
  2. Microsoft will run a 60-second ad profiling San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers, the first woman to coach an NFL team.
  3. Olay will run a 30-second ad mocking the notion there isn't enough space in space exploration for women. The ad comes almost a year after NASA had to postpone the first all-female spacewalk because there weren't enough properly sized spacesuits for the two women. It calls for viewers to tweet using the hashtag #MakeSpaceForWomen. Every tweet will be matched by a $1 donation to Girls Who Code.
  4. Squarespace will run a 30-second ad as part of a campaign featuring Winona Ryder heading back to the small Midwestern town of Winona that she's named after. The ad aims to shed light on American towns and the small businesses that fuel them.
  5. The National Football League will run a 60-second ad addressing police shootings of African Americans. The ad, which stars retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin, is being used to promote the NFL's "Inspire Change" social justice program.

For the first time in history this year, not one but two political candidates will also run ads during the Super Bowl.

  • The Bloomberg campaign will run one 60-second ad on gun safety during the Super Bowl halftime show for $11 million.
  • The Trump campaign has purchased two 30-second ads touting the president's economic accomplishments. Each 30-second ad is roughly $5 million dollars. The campaign also says it will fly aerial banners near the stadium before the Super Bowl in Miami to solicit text messages from supporters.

Be smart: Campaigns have generally shied away from big-game advertising because its national reach isn't cost-efficient for candidates that need to sway state voters, especially during the primary season.

  • But for Bloomberg and Trump, who are both running national campaigns with huge war chests, the big investments make more sense.
  • The Trump campaign notably ran a seven-figure 30-second campaign ad during Game 7 of the World Series attacking Democrats over the impeachment inquiry.

The big picture: Most sports fans want to keep politics out of the Super Bowl, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

  • Nearly two-thirds of consumers think that the Super Bowl is an inappropriate place for advertisers to make political statements.
  • Overall, most Americans expect the game to be more political this year than last, but few say it will stop them from tuning in.

Yes, but: While a majority of consumers do support brands advocating for some non-political issues during the Super Bowl — such as disaster relief and help for veterans — more contentious issues like abortion and immigration policies have far less support.

  • The NFL and TV networks have in the past rejected political ads that they think have gone too far. Animal rights group PETA claimed this year that its ad has been rejected. Fox and the NFL have yet to respond for a request to comment.

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