Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Creative Strategies of Super Bowl Commercials 2001-2009: An Analysis of Message Strategies

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Creative Strategies of Super Bowl Commercials 2001-2009: An Analysis of Message Strategies

Article excerpt

Executive summary

One of the distinguishing features of Super Bowl commercials, or ads, is that they are produced with an exceptionally high level of professionalism from a creative perspective. Knowing that Super Bowl ads generate a significant amount of online and offline attention (and are highly publicised in news media before and after the game), advertisers make special efforts in the creation of ads for this event.

Despite the great attention that Super Bowl advertising receives each year, little research exists that examines Super Bowl ads as a central theme of academic inquiry. This study examines the creative strategies employed in Super Bowl advertising broadcasts over nine years (2001-2009) and focuses specifically on message strategies. This study examines these ads' message strategies (based on theoretically-driven typologies established in previous research in advertising) and compares their corresponding commercial likeability measures across high- versus low-involvement product categories.

A total of 407 Super Bowl ads were content-analysed in two stages. The overall message strategies were examined first, then specific message strategies were examined. The results suggested that, on average, the ads with transformational strategies (e.g. brand image and use occasion) were more liked than the ads with informational strategies (e.g. comparative, unique selling proposition, and preemptive). It also appeared that the proportion of transformational ads had decreased over the nine years, while the proportion of informational ads had increased.

With respect to the product category, the findings revealed that, on average, the ads for low-involvement products were liked significantly more than the ads for high-involvement products. Although it is possible that the higher likeability for low-involvement products was a function of the nature of the products themselves, our data indicated that message strategies might have played an important role. It appeared that transformational strategies, which were more liked, appeared more frequently in commercials for low-involvement products than for high-involvement products. Whilst the less-liked informational strategies appeared more frequently for high-involvement products than for low-involvement products. Thus, the selection of message strategies might have contributed to the difference in the likeability across the two product categories. This does not, however, suggest that Super Bowl advertisers should not use informational strategies. Instead, it suggests that using a transformational strategy is advisable when the primary objective of interest is to make an ad likeable.

The primary contribution of this study is to provide results that can serve as useful benchmarks in planning future advertising campaigns for mega-sporting events like the Super Bowl. This study's results can point advertisers to the tested and proven message strategies that have enhanced commercial likeability in recent Super Bowl telecasts. Academically, this study adds to the body of research on creative strategy in the sports advertising context. Although previous research had begun to investigate various aspects of the creative strategies in advertising, not much is known specifically about the message strategies of Super Bowl commercials--perhaps the most expensive commercials for the largest sporting event in the US. This is one of the few studies to examine the message strategies used by advertising companies during the most recent Super Bowl games.


The significance of the Super Bowl as an advertising vehicle is well recognised in US advertising practice. The US advertising industry has traditionally focused on Super Bowl telecasts because of the tremendous size of audiences and the outstanding rating points they receive. In recent years, Super Bowl telecasts have reached over 90 million viewers and more than 40% of US households (Kaplan, 2007; Steinberg, 2008a; Yelkur et al, 2004). …

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