• Strategy
  • CFO.com | US

Super Bowl ROI

Advertising during the Super Bowl costs a fortune. But CFOs of the companies that do say the results are worth it, and surprisingly easy to measure.

Place your bets on the Super Bowl outcome now: Will post-game chatter center around Peyton Manning’s arm and the Chicago Bears’ defense? Or will office water-coolers be abuzz about who’s a better advertising pitchman—beer-stealing crabs or Britney Spears’ ex-husband?

It may be too early to tell who will win their respective grid-iron battles, but companies behind this year’s Super Bowl campaigns are banking millions of dollars that viewers be talking more about their TV ads than the performance of the Indianapolis Colts quarterback. Companies have paid an estimated $2.6 million per 30-second spot to have their commercial run on February 4, during Super Bowl XLI. The theory behind the big-money ad buy is that Super Bowl viewers pay as much attention to the splashy commercials as they do to end zone antics.

And despite the fact that the return on advertising expense is notoriously difficult to measure, finance execs who signed off on ads for this year’s game say that the unique nature of Super Bowl advertising and its supporting hype make it far easier to hold their marketers accountable for results.

The perennial advertisers are back, including Pepsi, Doritos, Taco Bell, and Anheuser-Busch—whose ad features thirsty crustaceans this year. Those stalwarts use the advertisements mainly to pump up the profile of their well-established products and generate brand buzz. Other companies that have run sporadic Super Sunday ads, such as Nationwide Insurance, will likely be testing the strength of their ads by monitoring website traffic. Nationwide, for example, will be able to tell whether Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline, who stars in the insurer’s commercial, drives viewers to the company website in the days following the Super Bowl.

Similarly, smaller companies, like domain registration company GoDaddy.com, are betting that its ad will help at least a portion of the 90 million Super Bowl viewers remember the company on Monday morning. “If the ad is good and creative and it drives Web traffic, then it will give the ad a longer return on investment than short-term sales of snacks or beer,” says Thomas Harpointner, CEO of Web services firm AIS Media.

GoDaddy.com, which has built awareness for its brand by running racy ads featuring the “GoDaddy Girl,” also plans to measure market share to gauge the success of its Super Bowl campaign, says CFO Michael Zimmerman. The company’s market share among domain registration companies increased from 16 percent after its first Super Bowl ad ran in 2005, to 32 percent when its ad ran during the 2006 football classic. The company also tracks “share-of-voice” numbers for the Super Bowl, which is a measure of media coverage following Sunday’s game. In 2005, GoDaddy received more than half of the total share-of-voice compared to other commercials, according to Bacon’s Multivision, which tracks this type of information.

While GoDaddy executives considered the company to be a success two years ago, “people just didn’t know who we were,” Zimmerman told CFO.com. “We needed to have more brand awareness, and one good channel to do that is television. Our CEO Bob Parsons said, ‘What better way to kick off an awareness campaign than the Super Bowl?’”

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