Blitz of Super Bowl promos kicks off

Companies focus freebies on football game, biggest marketing event of year

The National Football League stages Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28. But if you don’t know about that long before then, you’re either living under a rock — or you’re one of the lawyers engaged in the seemingly endless presidential campaign.

Buckle your helmets. NFL sponsors are about to blitz the USA’s consumers with about 20 consumer promotions through game day. The goodies range from free tickets to private parties with gridiron greats such as Joe Montana to million-dollar field goals.

The NFL estimates the sponsors will spend $50 million on the promotions alone for what’s called the biggest marketing event of the year. And CBS, the network for the game’s telecast, expects to reap a record $200 million from ad sales.

“Corporate America gets excited because 130 million passionate people tune into the game,” says Jim Schwebel, senior vice president of corporate sponsorships for the NFL. “They wear Super Bowl merchandise; they pick up the commemorative cans.”

Marketing expert Laura Ries says the Super Bowl marketing circus is overkill: “I would hope Americans have better things to do with their time.”

But consultant Burt Flickinger III of Reach Marketing says a Super Bowl tie-in gives marketers “tremendous leverage” with retailers during the holiday season. “The people with the Super Bowl promotions control retail square footage. Instead of delivering a few cases, they deliver truckloads.”

And Tony Besasie, senior brand manager of Miller Lite, says the right promotion can still pay dividends with customers. “The more promotions, the harder it is for each sponsor to get share of mind,” he says. “But the Super Bowl is perfect for Miller Lite because of all the parties.”

A scouting report on upcoming promotions:

* Coca-Cola/Kraft. The two companies team to offer five free trips to the game and the chance to talk football with Montana at a private pregame bash. Consumers call an 800 number to enter the sweepstakes. “The Super Bowl keeps getting bigger and better,” says Kelly Cunningham, Kraft’s director of promotions. The Montana promotion offers fans the chance to “spend Super Sunday with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game,” says Coke Vice President Karen Gough.

* Miller Lite. The official beer sponsor has already given away eight pairs of tickets online at Starting Jan. 1, Miller launches its “Super Bowl Central” promo, which will give away 10,000 inflatable beer thrones to consumers who sign up at The grand prize winner gets a catered Super Bowl party, plus $10,000 cash.

Miller posts consumers’ party pictures after the gun on “Sometimes the games aren’t as exciting as they should be — but the parties definitely are,” Besasie says.

* Hershey’s. One fan will get to try a “$1 Million Kick” — a field goal — during the pregame show. The three finalists will get a chance to beef up their kicking skills beforehand with San Diego Chargers kicker John Carney. Two consumers won $1 million each a few years ago. “We want a winner — when the consumer makes it, we get more of a publicity punch,” spokesman Mike Kinney says.

* Visa. Two fans who support the competing teams get free trips to the game. Visa and partners such as DirecTV and Kroger will give away six more Super Bowl trips. “The Super Bowl continues to be one of the most powerful platforms for Visa,” says Becky Saeger, executive vice president of brand marketing.

* FedEx. The shipper completes its season-long “Air Ground Attack” promotion by giving away two trips to the Pro Bowl along with $1,000 in cash. “The program has fit nicely with our key message for FedEx Express, which is air service, and FedEx Ground,” spokeswoman Carla Boyd says.

* Gatorade. A supermarket promotion offers free airfare and hotel and two game tickets. Winners ride to the game in Gatorade-branded Hummers. “This is the kind of promotion that is working very well for our supermarket customers in terms of getting incremental display,” Gatorade’s P.J. Sinopoli says.

* CNS (Breathe Right Nasal Strips). A Jerry Rice promotion called “Kids Make the Call” touts new nasal strips for kids. “It’s our first Super Bowl promotion,” says Melissa Hanson, senior product manager.

* Southwest Airlines. Customers logging on to enter the “Take Your Team to the Super Bowl” sweepstakes. The winner receives a trip for 11, including tickets, hotel and lunch with ESPN’s Chris Berman. “We get exposure to a lot of potential travelers,” spokeswoman Melanie Jones says.

* Staples. Consumers can vote for a Staples-sponsored “NFL Coach of the Year” at 950 Staples stores. Over 300,000 fans participated last year, spokeswoman Vicki Hughart says.

* Castrol. Online visitors to will get a chance to win game tickets via the motor oil marketer’s “Drive Hard to the Super Bowl” promotion.

* Gallo. The winemaker’s Gossamer Bay label dishes out tickets, RCA TVs and merchandise.

* E-Trade. Title sponsor of the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show will run on-site promotions in Tampa. It’s also the title sponsor of Road to the Super Bowl, a CBS program scheduled to air Jan. 27.

* Sunny Delight. Fans win trips to the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl and other prizes by checking labels of specially marked bottles and cans.

* Merck. The sponsor of the NFL All-Heart Cholesterol Award is still plotting its game-related promotion, spokesman Marc Boston says.