Over the years, Super Bowl in the US has become as much an advertising event as a sporting event. Broadcasters charge an arm & a leg (30 seconds of airtime cost $2.5 million to $2.8 million) for advertising on the event. And advertisers seem to have no issues paying up. It guarantees eyeballs in millions: this final drew 106.5 million viewers, beating previous Super Bowl records. The pre- and post event buzz ensures that the event (and by association, the advertised brand) stays in the public eye beyond that just one day of the finals. Sure, some advertisers have begun to question the logic of the high investments – notable among them being Pepsi & FedEx, who stayed away from this year’s Super Bowl.
Advertising on the Super Bowl has traditionally been either whacky, funny, bizarre, or mega. Some of the spots made for Super Bowl ran only once – the oft-quoted Apple ‘1984’ being one of them. Brands like Budweiser, FedEx, Miller and several others have created ads for the event which then went on to become viral and hugely popular. Agencies had the freedom to think wild – the whackier the better. It was all about outsmarting the competition in terms of humour, scale of production, capturing the public imagination etc. So ‘created for Super Bowl’ deserved special focus as far as ads went. In short, it is an event looked forward to for it’s advertising too.
In India, I thought the Indian Premier League had the potential to go the Super Bowl way: purely from an advertising point of view. Here is a media event which has clearly caught the public’s imagination. Presence on the live telecast guaranteed huge visibility for the brand. Yet, most of the ads I see on IPL 3 are either short edits or regular ads, which will see life beyond IPL. Sure, we had Vodafone’s Zoozoos, but I don’t think it was conceived as ‘specially for IPL’. Some new ads (e.g. from Havells) have also been launched during this season’s IPL. But, none have gone the way of ‘Super Bowl Ads’. A few thoughts:
1. Global advantage: The most visible brands on Super Bowl are global brands. So an ad created for Super Bowl by FedEx, Miller Lite or Budweiser has the potential to become an internet sensation outside the US and add to the brand’s ‘cool quotient’. That is not an advantage enjoyed by Indian brands. One can hardly recall an ad that has gone crazily viral even in India – save for Zoozoos. Also, even if those ads are rooted in American culture it has an audience outside the US, thanks to Hollywood which has made ‘Americana’ familiar to us. That can’t be said of ads rooted in Indian culture or idioms.
2. Small brand, funny creative: Relatively unknown brands (who perhaps never advertise outside of the Super Bowl) use the event to propel the brand into the public eye – e.g EDS, e*Trade, Interflora etc. They do this by creating ‘talked about’ ads usually relying on humour. In India too, brands like Karbonn, Maxx mobiles and K7 anti-virus could be examples of using a big event like IPL to gain visibility, but not always on the back of pathbreaking or memorable advertising. Their visibility could be attributed to smart sponsorship deals (Karbonn is the official mobile partner for IPL and organizes spectator catch contests in between innings breaks), use of celebrities or innovative media buys (remember seeing a telecom brand ad in between deliveries. Sigh.). As an aside, there was a time when a Top 10 programme on TV used to be referred to as Philips Top 10. Has DLF got a similar mileage being the title sponsor? J K Cement ad which debuted during the India-South Africa cricket telecast is more like the GoDaddy kind of approach – some skin show and buzz. At least the first lot of GoDaddy ads were funny – though the gag has become stale now. Despite the high cost, small brands thought it was wise investing behind the Super Bowl – on the back of funny scripts that they hoped will create buzz. We haven’t seen such an approach from small-to-medium advertisers vis-a-vis IPL.
3. Costly entertainment: advertising on the IPL is not cheap. A 10-sec spot reportedly costs Rs.5 lac and the sponsorship costs are fairly steep, I would imagine. It’s natural that the focus is on frequency thereby placing ads of short duration (15-25 seconds). Add to it the competition for space – both time & mind space. The time slot between overs sees so many ads (some cut short, mercifully) that it’s difficult to create an impact in such a short duration. So, leisurely 45-sec or 60-sec ads are virtually non-existent. Also, the whole event is more like a tamasha – there is so much going on in terms of entertainment even on the live telecast, the viewer is bombarded with visual messages. There is the Citi Moment of Success, a DLF Maximum, ads between deliveries – nothing is spared of monetization. So is the approach one of making one’s brand name memorable and being satisfied with the high TVRs?
So, two events similar in so many ways, yet so different in terms of approach to advertising. What are your thoughts on IPL as an advertising event? Do comment in.