NBC Prepping Super Bowl Promo Punch


Net Shows Off Cheeky Side

By Josef Adalian

While paid ads will get most of the attention during NBC’s telecast of the Super Bowl on Sunday, network parent NBC Universal is hoping to steal its share of the big day’s big buzz with a well-orchestrated promotional blitz that will focus on virtually all units of the company.

NBC’s network schedule will get the bulk of the promotional love, at least in terms of on-air spots during the game. Look for ads focusing on the network’s Monday and Thursday lineups, comedy hosts Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno and new dramas “Kings” and “Southland.”

But the rest of Jeff Zucker’s empire, from Universal Pictures to the Weather Channel, also will be well-represented in NBC’s first Super Bowl since 1998—and the first since the network merged with Universal.

“The entire company is embracing it,” said John Miller, chief marketing officer for NBC Universal.

Thanks to strict NFL rules, NBC—like past host networks—will get just five minutes of promotional time within the game to tout its wares, even if the network’s ad sales division doesn’t fully sell out its inventory.

But with paid Super Bowl ads fetching about $3 million per 30 seconds, those five minutes boil down to roughly $30 million in marketing for NBC shows.

No surprise, then, that Mr. Miller and NBC Entertainment Marketing President Adam Stotsky have invested plenty of time and resources in an attempt to maximize their promotional punch.

“We start working on this months in advance,” Mr. Miller said. “We’ve spent the money to make them look special.”

Of course, getting wide exposure for good promos doesn’t guarantee ratings success. NBC heavily promoted its fall lineup during last summer’s Beijing Olympics, but its fourth-quarter fare largely flopped.

The Super Bowl promo-palooza will kick off during the three-hour pre-game show. “Today” weatherman Al Roker will host the event (a subtle plug for the morning show), and numerous NBC U personalities will appear.

That includes new “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon, whose show bows a month after the game. “He’ll have a big role on the pre-game and will make several appearances,” Mr. Miller said.

Talent from Bravo’s “Top Chef,” Universal feature films and other NBC series are expected to appear during the pre-show party, while NBC will feature updates on game-day meteorological conditions from one of its newest assets, the Weather Channel.

Sci Fi Channel will get a promotional spot during the pre-game, while a 60-second spot for USA Network is planned immediately after the game ends (see separate story).

Universal Pictures has purchased ad time to promote a couple of its upcoming releases, and the Universal theme parks division also is advertising on Sunday.

The main event, though, will be the roughly 16 20- and 30-second spots NBC has designed to air during the game itself.

While some spots will resemble the usual clip-heavy ads networks use to promote their shows, a number of spots will be carefully crafted messages featuring content written and filmed expressly for the Super Bowl. And, borrowing a page from Madison Avenue, Mr. Stotsky said NBC is trying to infuse as many of those ads as possible with humor.

“Funny works,” he said.

Among the likely highlights—with some key details withheld to maintain a level of surprise: w A spot hyping NBC’s Thursday lineup that plays off the e-mail phrase “LMAO,” or “laughing my ass off.”

“The idea is to show what would happen if people actually did laugh their asses off,” Mr. Miller said. “Watching NBC Thursday could cause a national epidemic.”

—To help relaunch “Heroes”—and to sell the show to people who haven’t watched—NBC will comically explore the idea of what would happen “if the Heroes were to use their extraordinary powers unfairly in a touch-football game,” Mr. Stotsky said. “Greg Grunberg makes an excellent lineman.”

—“Chuck,” which airs a 3-D episode the night after the Super Bowl, will get several promos, including one in 3-D. With DreamWorks and Pepsi distributing glasses for their own 3-D ads, NBC’s message to viewers will be, “Don’t ‘Chuck’ your glasses.”

—Mr. Leno and Mr. O’Brien will get their own spots touting their new primetime and late-night series, respectively.

The ad for Mr. O’Brien will be “an endorsement spot of an unusual and hilarious variety,” Mr. Stotsky said. “Conan gets endorsed through a vehicle you wouldn’t normally expect.”

For Mr. Leno, “Because there’s so much distance between the Super Bowl and when Jay is coming to primetime, it’s more of an announcement spot done in a comedic way,” Mr. Stotsky said. “There are assets that are inextricably linked to Jay: his chin and his car collection. We use the assets to their fullest.”

—“The Office” creator Greg Daniels has helped create an ad touting his next series, the untitled Amy Poehler sitcom premiering in March. “Amy will be in character,” Mr. Stotsky said, declining to give more details.

—NBC will seek to use a spot promoting spring dramas “Kings” and “Southland” to also try to shore up its larger brand. “We’re hitting [the individual] shows, but we’re also trying to get across the message that we’re committed to dramatic scripted programming,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller said “about 60%” of NBC’s in-game promotional spots will tout the return of its Monday lineup of “Chuck,” “Heroes” and “Medium.” He said the network’s “second priority” will be the one-hour post-game episode of “The Office.”

Mr. Miller credited Mr. Stotsky with bringing “a sense of strategy and positioning” to NBC’s overall on-air promotions.

“He thinks in a far more methodical way,” Mr. Miller said. “The way we’re doing these commercials, we’re not just pointing to a show. We’re creating an aura, a body of work that says, ‘We’re here to play.’”