Best Buy to make first Super Bowl appearance

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Best Buy is making its first-ever appearance in the Super Bowl, to tout news it says will “revolutionize” retailing.

The electronics giant told Advertising Age exclusively that it has bought one 30-second spot, projected to run during the third quarter of the 2011 event on Fox. It’s the first time the retailer has advertised during the game, despite having a significant presence in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, as it promotes its home-entertainment systems.

“We feel like we have really big news that will revolutionize retailing,” said Drew Panayiotou, senior vice president of U.S. marketing. “It’s innovative; it’s first ever. That’s why the stage is so important for us. … [Super Bowl] is still one of the best places for big news, and probably getting more important because of fragmentation.”

Mr. Panayiotou declined to comment further but said the spot will kick off a campaign that will run throughout the next year. As far as creative, the retailer is weighing two options presented by creative agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Publicis Groupe’s Starcom handles media planning and buying.

“As with most companies that go on this stage, and given that it’s our first one, we’ve done an inordinate amount of focus groups. Probably more than we’ve ever done,” Mr. Panayiotou said. “We’re now at that fantastic point. … The offices at Crispin are buzzing. Their head creative is telling us, ‘be a bold client.'”

So, will Best Buy be bold? “The spot will be great, driven in part by how great our relationship is with Crispin,” Mr. Panayiotou said. The spot could also include a newsworthy celebrity or two, he hinted.

Even before Best Buy determined it had big news to break during the big game, it was eyeing the Super Bowl. “We wanted to move the brand to iconic places. We discussed what those properties would be: Academy Awards, Super Bowl, tier-one TV events,” Mr. Panayiotou said. “Sometimes companies say, ‘We’ve got great news, let’s go find a stage.’ In this case, we said, ‘Here’s a great stage, our brand belongs here. At the same time a great thing popped up. It’s incredible serendipity.”

But, Mr. Panayiotou added, it’s still been interesting to see how a Super Bowl spot can galvanize a company. It forces a company to think about and focus on the “biggest and best news” of the next year or two. “That’s an intangible benefit to having a big stage,” he said. “It’s sped up a lot of things within the company.”

Best Buy began investing more heavily in TV earlier this year, telling Ad Age that it would increase its spend by a low-double digit percentage. Trying to make its marketing spend more effective, the retailer implemented a new marketing-mix model, which led it to shift dollars away from inserts and into TV. In 2009, Best Buy spent $289 million on measured media, including $150 million on TV advertising, according to Kantar. Through September, it’s spent $162 million on measured media, including $80 million on TV.

TV has also been a major focus on this year’s holiday effort. The retailer is running two TV campaigns concurrently, and it began airing ads Nov. 1, 10 days earlier than a year ago.

Commercials for this year’s big game, slated to be held in February in Arlington, Texas, sold out faster than at any time in recent memory. Fox confirmed the game was booked solid back in October, after having sold about 80% of inventory during the upfront market. Prices for a 30-second spot are hovering around $3 million, though Best Buy declined to comment on what it paid.

Typically, retail is a weak category for Super Bowl. In 2008, Victoria’s Secret bought one 30-second spot, but there have been few retailers on the level of Best Buy — a multinational retailer, with more than 1,000 Best Buy stores in the U.S. alone and global annual revenues of about $50 billion.

The Super Bowl could become a part of Best Buy’s repertoire, however, which might pique the interest of other retailers. “We’ll see how this first venture goes, and if it’s successful, I’m sure we’ll be back,” Mr. Panayiotou said.