Here’s Why Companies Release Their Super Bowl Ads Early

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Drink responsibly. / William Thomas Cain/GettyImages

When households sit down to watch Super Bowl LVII live on February 12, they might get a sense of déjà vu. While the game might be unpredictable, some of the much-hyped commercial spots will be reruns, circulated online days or even weeks in advance. You can find footage of Ben Stiller and Steve Martin for Pepsi Zero Sugar, Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless character Cher for Rakuten, and Sylvester Stallone scaling a mountain for Paramount+. No tackling required.

With rates approaching $7 million for a 30-second spot, why do advertisers want to dampen the excitement, especially since some viewers famously watch the game “just for the ads”?

Super Bowl ads aren’t really one-offs. They’re the spine of a multimedia marketing message incorporating social media, and those campaigns are best served by companies having a presence well in advance of the broadcast. According to University of Southern California Marshall School of Business Professor Gerard Tellis, companies that tease their ads with social media marketing tend to achieve greater awareness with the eventual game ad.

“Some start these ads in December, maybe even as early as November,” Tellis told USC News in 2022. “The more you tease, the greater the audience on the day itself and the greater chance of virality.”

One of the earliest examples of pre-game exposure was a 2011 Volkswagen spot with a Star Wars theme. Released days before the Super Bowl, it earned 11 million views before anyone saw it on air that Sunday.

Ad industry observers felt it was a paradigm shift from companies being highly secretive about ad campaigns: The cachet of being a Super Bowl ad can drive interest long before kickoff. In 2014, The Los Angeles Times estimated that Super Bowl ads that got an early YouTube preview were viewed 2.5 times more than ads that were restricted to game day.

Fast forward to today: In December 2022, fabric softener Downey launched its Super Bowl campaign for its Unstoppables scented laundry beads. That was before the AFC and NFC conference champions were even crowned.

For companies who directly profit from the game, it makes sense to get their ad campaign out early. That’s particularly true of beermakers like Anheuser-Busch, which circulated ad spots on social media prior to the Super Bowl in 2022 so they would be on the minds of shoppers buying beverages for their viewing parties.

Some advertisers release teaser spots, with the Super Bowl ad being the feature presentation; others drop the entire spot. In either case, the objective is simple: to make that massive marketing investment pay off before, during, and after the game.

[h/t The Los Angeles Times]