The Super Bowl Blitz Expands in Online Arena
Firms Try New Ways To Tap the Big Game; Extending the :30 Spot
By EMILY STEEL
The Super Bowl is still the ultimate traditional television event, but companies are exploring new ways to bring their ads online.
Marketers are going deeper into everything from Web video to profiles on social-networking sites. For companies forking over as much as $2.7 million for 30 seconds of television ad time during the game, the goal of the online push is to try to make that steep investment go further. The marketers that don’t have a TV presence during the game hope to tap the Super Bowl’s massive following on the cheap.
PepsiCo‘s Pepsi-Cola North America plans to bolster its TV spots with an ad blitz on Yahoo this weekend. Viacom‘s Paramount Pictures has secured a three-year Super Bowl package with ESPN.com to be the dominant advertiser on the site. Verizon Communications, which has never bought a TV spot for the big game, is sponsoring AOL’s Super Sunday Ad Poll, which lets visitors watch and rank the commercials that air during the game. Meanwhile, dozens of advertisers are bidding on search terms related to the Super Bowl through Google.
Not that long ago, all Super Bowl advertising centered on game day, with the TV network that bought the broadcast rights to the game reaping all the ad revenue. But now it has turned into a weeks-long frenzy, with an increasing number of participants trying to profit from the action.
News Corp.‘s Fox is airing the game this year, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on the online Super Bowl audience. For months, ad-sales teams at companies from Google to Yahoo to Walt Disney‘s ESPN — all of which are featuring extensive pre- and post-Super Bowl coverage — have been designing ad packages of their own.
Some of the sites are hosting, free, the Super Bowl commercials that run during the game. MySpace, which News Corp. owns, is posting all of the commercials broadcast during the game on a special section of the social-networking site at no extra charge to those advertisers. Google’s YouTube, Time Warner‘s AOL and Yahoo are doing the same for their commercial polls. Hosting those commercials helps the sites build viewer traffic, which then allows them to sell more paid advertising.
That paid advertising ranges from small banner ads on a network of sports-related sites to taking over all the ad space on a Web site. Prices can be as small as a $1 bid on a search keyword (if a person searches on that keyword, the advertiser’s link shows up in the results) to hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor the sites.
Paramount Pictures is using its ad spending to promote the May release of superhero film “Iron Man.” People who watch the game on TV will see a commercial for the movie. People who visit any of the major online Super Bowl ad polls will also see the spot. Visitors to MySpace can see an Iron Man profile on the site. And if people search for terms related to Iron Man on Google, it will turn up there as well. On ESPN.com, ads will show the TV spot and prompt visitors to go to the “Iron Man” Web site to register for downloads and giveaways.
“Online can extend the 30-second spot into a five- to 10-minute experience and make it have much more impact,” said Amy Powell, senior vice president of interactive marketing at Paramount Pictures.
E*Trade Financial also is getting more aggressive online, with display advertising, online video ads, dedicated Web sites and search marketing. The company is taking its 15-second TV commercials and turning them into video banner ads, and it is creating a section on video-sharing site YouTube to post its TV spots. Ads for the company will appear on Yahoo, Microsoft‘s MSN, AOL, certain Dow Jones sites, CNNMoney, Google and IAC/InterActiveCorp‘s Ask.com. Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is a News Corp. unit. Dow Jones and IAC operate a joint-venture personal-finance Web site.
The different online venues often attract a sizable audience. Last year, the Super Bowl ad poll on YouTube drew more than 28 million online viewers and 167,000 votes for the best Super Bowl commercial, Google said. AOL says its videos of the TV ads were watched more than 40 million times last year. This compares with the roughly 90 million viewers who tuned into the big game on TV in 2007.
Sometimes, online advertisers can play the role of spoiler. New Balance Athletic Shoe has bought a sponsorship on FoxSports.com to try to build excitement for the introduction of its 1350 shoe. The company is stealing some of the thunder from competitor Under Armour, which has a TV spot airing during the game promoting its entry into the cross-training shoe market.