Super Bowl & Celebrity Marketing Brands Told Gen Z’s Story, Not Their Own

Many brands that welcomed the $5 million sticker price of a 30-second spot in Super Bowl LI implemented the tactic of timely nostalgia.

That reminiscent undertone didn’t merely attempt to tell the brand’s story–it attempted to tell the story of “you” the viewer.

The “you” for certain Super Bowl brands has been Gen X and Millennials. Capitalizing off of their 2015 double-digit growth, Audi tactfully destined itself for success with the 60-second spot that featured the late David Bowie’s “Starman”. The Audi spot “Commander” directly appealed to those that yearned for the sense of promise they were born with and had the purchase power to act on that feeling.

However, for Super Bowl LI the “you” for Super Bowl brands, had changed.

The “you” is now Gen Z.

This year Audi continued with their platform of nostalgic storytelling by chronicling a little girl in a homemade go-kart. Considering Audi has no women on their executive team, this year’s spot intended to accentuate social and economic gender equality, a theme that Gen Z is very passionate about.

Having been born between 1996 and 2010, early Gen Zers’ youth was marked by exposure to the economic struggle of the Great Recession. These individuals possess a mental and financial shrewdness that is forcing traditional brands to work with experiential creative tactics to become loyal users.

In 2016, Wildness, an L.A based firm that informs brands on the habits of Gen Zers, reported that 27% of teen Gen Zers created and shared original videos via social media on a weekly basis. Of the 3,000 polled, 84% had reported that they’d had some direct contact with a celebrity on social media.

This attention craving group craved that same attention from their Super Bowl brands in 2017 and Snickers effectively recognized that.

With a $44 billion spending power in the USA alone, Gen Z is the richest and most independent purchase influencer on the market. While Gen Z may not be ready to buy a luxury sports car, they will definitely buy a candy bar.

Well known for its playful “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, the Mars brand has featured authority figures, such as Betty White, Joe Pesci, and Willem Dafoe. In its first full year, the campaign reported a 15.9% global sales increase and growth in 56 of the 58 markets in which it ran. While their current influencers may be older, the Mars winning creative formula should translate to Gen Z.

  1. Create a more compelling creative platform, on a large scale.
  2. Make the brand “iconic” with strengthened internal engagement and commitment.
  3. Relentlessly enforce a global approach.

Snickers attempted to appeal to Gen Z with the Super Bowl’s first ever live ad spot. Featuring a youthful influencer in Adam Driver, Snickers embarked on unprecedented experiential creativity. This revolutionary ad ran in the first break of the game’s third quarter, immediately keeping the attention of Gen Zers who tuned in for the halftime performance.

Driver was upset by the mayhem of the ad’s scene, which sparked excessive viewer anger and confusion. However, the Snickers spot was revealed to be an intentional faux with a follow up Adam Driver apology, which provided an effective call-to-action for fans to avoid their own hunger mishaps.

Regardless, live video will be a brand’s best friend in 2017 to connect to Gen Z, ensuring that they truly understand the immediate connection that makes Gen Z thrive.

Live streaming is exposing a brand’s vulnerability in a playful way. That is what Gen Z is gravitating to; immediate action with a level of spontaneity that makes the brand story feel as if it is their own.

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Dancing with the Stars Launches Super Bowl Celebrity Marketing Commercials


Revealing a celebrity’s charisma is the “x-factor” for endorsement deals

Over the last 10 years, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) has been a launching pad for celebrities and athletes who may not receive a lot of face time and thrusting them into the spotlight. Former athletes are able to showcase their personality and charisma outside of sporting events to millions of viewers on a weekly basis. Recently, three DWTS alums made appearances in 2015 Super Bowl commercials, building off of the persona they have created on the dance floor.

Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice, one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, appeared on Season 2 of Dancing with the Stars, where he quickly became a crowd favorite and eventually placed second. While his on-field personality was cool and collected, on Dancing with the Stars, Rice showed off his comedic side in “DanceCenter” skits with Kenny Mayne and Len Goodman, and ultimately became known for his goofy, fun-loving, and relatable personality.  During the Super Bowl, Rice showed viewers his persona in Avocados from Mexico’s “First Draft Ever” commercial where he appeared as a judge, as well as host of the “Tortoise vs. The Hare” race in the Mercedes-Benz commercial.

Amy Purdy

Dancing with the Stars also helped Paralympic medalist, Amy Purdy, increase her celebrity status. Purdy was a finalist during Season 18 of DWTS, and the first double-amputee to appear on the show. While audience members knew her as a snowboarder during the Sochi games, her role on DWTS helped viewers see her likable personality. Since the show aired, Purdy has gone on to appear on shows such as The Price is Right, and in commercials for Pfizer, Element, and Freedom Innovators. She recently appeared in the Toyota Camry “How Great I Am” Super Bowl ad, showcasing her many skills from mountain biking to ballroom dancing.

Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith, a Hall of Fame former NFL running back, was the season 3 winner of Dancing with the Stars. While Smith is known in the sports world as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, he quickly gained a reputation for his impressive moves on the dance floor. Although Smith is well-known as an all-time great on the field, his visibility greatly increased as millions of viewers now know him from DWTS, and his celebrity status is now more prominent than ever. During the 2015 Super Bowl, Smith made a satirical appearance as the owner of a BBQ themed restaurant in the commercial.

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Super Bowl Celebrity Marketing–One Up Your Competitors

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Signing a celebrity early is a huge edge over competitors who wait and risk settling for second or third choice.

Push Your Agency to Work Ahead

The day after the Super Bowl is the best time to start planning–when consumer reaction is fresh. Ask yourself: How can we do it better? How can we differentiate?

The big idea needs to come as early as possible and be unique. Celebrities will build awareness and help bring it to life.

Create the Ultimate Celebrity Wish List

Ask yourself: who would be your ideal celebrity and why?

Have fun and don’t worry about budget yet. Creating a list should be straightforward given a small number of recognizable stars fit a Super Bowl campaign.

Use Metrics to Help Make Your Decision

I highly recommend E-Poll Market Research and their E-Score Celebrity tool. It’s a database of 6,000 plus celebrities, athletes and newsmakers, that offers an in-depth look at the key drivers of celebrity appeal. The celebrity scores are updated regularly.

Narrow your list to a final group of 3-5 celebrities with E-Score Celebrity. You’ll be surprised how your target audience selections vary from yours.

Research Category Conflicts and Past Super Bowl Ads

Eliminate celebrities with a conflict or have previously worked for a direct competitor within the last two years. Celebrity Endorsement Ads is a great resource to search for such conflicts.

Before making your offer, ask the agent about any potential conflicts. There may be a deal in the works and if so you’ve saved valuable time.

Make the First Offer

Be proactive. Be aggressive. Take your chosen celebrity “off the market” away from your competitors months before the big game.

Allow More Time for Multiple Celebrities

Multiple celebrities will multiply your time so make sure to begin early. Several agents will be involved, along with managers and publicists.

You may want to create a “favored nations” deal where each celebrity is paid the same amount. This will speed the process up and keep egos in check.

Pay Less Now or More Later

You’re going to pay seven figures plus for a celebrity. Sign them early to limit their fee.  It will cost less than waiting until November or December. The agent knows your back is up against the wall then.

Also, don’t wait for others to overpay and set the market for you. Advertisers are not usually familiar with Super Bowl market value and unknowingly overpay.

Use Leverage You Have

Fear and doubt create leverage.

It is risky for a celebrity to pass on your seven figure deal in hopes that another advertiser will make an offer later. Even if a second offer comes, it is risky to assume it will be more.

A celebrity risks being left out, while others they compete with directly are selected and build their popularity.

Don’t underestimate celebrity egos. It’s amazing for anyone to say: “I’ll be in a Super Bowl ad seen by 110 million U.S. citizens plus a worldwide broadcast in 198 countries in 25 languages.”

photo credit: Josh Lackey via photopin cc