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Introduction to Business

Critical Thinking Case

Introduction to BusinessCritical Thinking Case

Advertisers Score with the Super Bowl

What sporting event is televised in 170 countries and has created a quasi–national holiday in the United States? The Super Bowl is considered by football fans as the ultimate game and known as the largest advertising opportunity for media companies that broadcast the game and companies that want to reach a large audience. The history of impactful advertising shown as part of Super Bowl viewing includes the famous 1984 Apple advertisement that “breaks” the PC wall. The ad was only shown once, but it is recognized as one of the most iconic moments in the history of advertising.

In recent years companies have used football’s popularity and the Super Bowl as a global program to get their message out to a worldwide audience. While the high cost of advertising during the Super Bowl may deter some advertisers, the impact of an ad like Clint Eastwood’s 2012 “Halftime in America” for Chrysler or the 2017 Heinz “Dachhund” ad has been hailed as dramatic and created buzz that ads running in traditional spots do not generate.

One additional thing that advertisers have to consider is the infusion of politics into more aspects of life and how players or outside groups might create a diversion that could impact advertisers, and the amount that the networks pay the NFL for the right to air the Super Bowl. NFL games, and the Super Bowl in particular, provide a large audience for players to voice their concerns with issues such as race, or a newsworthy protest of kneeling for the National Anthem prior to the game. Likewise, controversy can occur during a halftime show or by protesters unfurling a banner, as occurred at a Minnesota Vikings game in 2017. Just as advertisers would rather not show their ads during natural disasters or live coverage of a plane crash or terrorist attack, a large-scale live event always provides the possibility of something happening that could not be anticipated. Companies with creative and adept social media departments can, however, make a positive impact by reacting to events as they occur. For example, during the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, a faulty transformer caused a power outage just before halftime, which caused a 30-minute delay. A clever worker in the Oreo’s social media department sent out a Tweet saying, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark,” with a picture of an Oreo cookie on a dark background.

Critical Thinking Questions
  1. Name some of the challenges marketers encounter when developing advertising and promotional campaigns. How does the type of product affect the promotional strategies?
  2. You work for an ad agency that has a Super Bowl sponsor as a client. What approach would you recommend for your agency as it develops a campaign—universal, customized for each geographical region, or something else, and why?
  3. What types of companies could benefit from placing ads on the NFL website, and how can they use the internet effectively to promote their products?

Sources: Benjamin Hoffman, Victor Mather, and Jacey Fortin, “After Trump Blasts N.F.L., Players Kneel and Lock Arms in Solidarity,” The New York Times,, September 25, 2017; Jason Notte, “How NFL Sponsors Get Ambushed at the Super Bowl," The Street,, January 24, 2017; Rochelle Olsen and Andrew Krammer, Two Pipeline Protesters Arrested after Hanging Banner in U.S. Bank Stadium during Vikings Game," Star Tribune,, January 2, 2017; Rick Porter, “The 100 Most-Watched TV Programs of 2016: Super Bowl 50 Leads by a Mile,” TV by the Numbers,, December 27, 2016; Angele Watercutter, “How Oreo Won the Marketing Super Bowl with a Timely Blackout Ad on Twitter,” Wired,, February 4, 2013; “Super Bowl XLVI: Most Watched TV Show Ever!”, February 6, 2012.

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