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Super Bowl automotive advertising continues to decline

04 February 2019 Stephanie Brinley, MBA


In the US, the National Football League calls its annual championship game the Super Bowl. On 3 February 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played. With a TV audience of more than 100 million, the advertising has become a show unto itself, and here we review some of the automotive appearances in 2019. Super Bowl viewership peaked at about 114 million in 2015; although it declined to about 104.3 million in 2018, the audience size still provides a unique opportunity. CNBC, citing an executive at the network broadcasting the game, CBS, said that the network is charging USD5.25 million to air a 30-second national ad. This figure is reported to have doubled since 2004, when it was USD2.6 million. In addition, hype and expectation for highly polished and entertaining advertising drives some viewers to tune in specifically for the advertising, further enhancing the potential value of the audience.

In 2019, key automotive advertisers included Audi, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and Mercedes-Benz. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Volvo approached the event from a digital perspective, illustrating a creative approach for blending traditional and new platforms. Among the automakers sitting out of the 2019 game itself that were present in 2018 are FCA and Lexus. Although Honda is not participating in the Super Bowl advertising frenzy, the first Passport advertising ran on the same day as the game.

Outlook and implications

With Super Bowl LIII (53), there only five automotive brands with traditional advertising, with FCA and Volvo taking non-traditional approaches. Ongoing interest in the Super Bowl reinforces the need to supplement more targeted advertising with broad-based, national reach marketing, although consistently declining participation challenges the notion.

The 2019 automotive advertising was largely traditional. The 2017 game saw more creative approaches, while 2019 and 2018 both saw outreach take a more traditional approach. It is also apparent that automotive participation in the Super Bowl continues to decline. For all of the potential, in 2019 only five automotive brands bought advertising time in the game, down from seven in 2018. Automotive News reports that nine automotive brands appeared on the programme in 2016 and 2017, and 10 in 2015. The change has several factors. This is an expensive proposition, and even routine appearances are reconsidered and reviewed annually, including product cadence and audience expectations. Ford and Chevrolet are examples of key US brands which leverage the Super Bowl advertising stage only when it aligns with specific marketing goals. The shift also likely reflects automaker efforts to focus on more targeted advertising and marketing opportunities. As the US market continues to see new products being launched, sales are plateauing. National advertising like Super Bowl can make a big splash and generate buzz, but reaching consumers lower in the purchase funnel may be more effective for converting interest to a sale.

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