The halftime show
The Super Bowl is arguably the biggest event in the American sporting calendar, bringing in millions of viewers each year. The record is currently set at last year’s 114.4 million viewers, and naturally those sorts of figures bring some pretty sought-after air time for big companies wanting to plug products with unique adverts that will still be discussed years later.
And just like most huge American events, there’s a following overseas that grows every year. I’m one of those people.
With the high numbers of viewers comes the high demand for the advertising space. Naturally, this drives up the price. The 30 second slots in 1967’s Super Bowl 1 saw an ad costing around $37,500. This year’s Super Bowl 51 has a 30 second slot costing upwards of $5 million.
This means American ad agencies get the job, every year, of making their ad ‘stand out from the crowd’. This causes some interesting results, with interesting companies placing adverts in the Super Bowl over the years.
Like General Motors at Super Bowl 41. Their 60-second slot was supposed to promote a warranty it offered for its vehicles by showing a robot having nightmares about dropping a screw on the production line which lead to it being fired from its job, struggling to be re-employed, leading to depression and eventually committing suicide.
General Motors, 'Robot'
The ad was attempting to show the viewer how everyone at GM is obsessed by quality, but it was tone-deaf considering GM had laid off 35,000 factory workers in the previous year. Two American foundations also accused GM of glamorising suicide.
There have been attempts from different charities and organisations wanting to air pro-life ads which have been soundly rejected by the network and were never shown.
Another ad I remember is the Coca Cola ‘It’s Beautiful’ ad that had the folk song ‘America the Beautiful’ sung in different languages showing clips of Americans from all backgrounds, cultures, and races. Ironically, this ad would probably have been more relevant this year than when it was aired in 2014.
Coca-Cola, 'America is Beautiful'
This year as Super Bowl 51 gets closer, I find myself looking forward to the adverts just as much as the game itself and seeing which companies have thought outside the box or who has pushed the boundaries a bit too much.
It’s estimated that more than 16 million Americans call in sick the day after the Super Bowl, costing about $1 billion in lost productivity across the US. With that in mind Heinz this year have done away with the advert completely. Instead, they’ve decided that with the money they’re saving from not having a Super Bowl ad, they’re going to give all their American employees the day after the Super Bowl off work. They’ve also started a petition to make the day after the Super Bowl a new national holiday called ‘Smunday’
Although I’ve dropped quite a few hints to our studio manager I don’t think I’ll be getting Monday off work this year so looks like I’ll be watching Super Bowl 51 on ketch-up.