$4 Million Versus Free: Are Super Bowl Commercials Worth It?

The Super Bowl is quite possibly the biggest television advertising event of the year – this year, Nielsen averaged 111.5 million viewers of the Seahawks vs. Broncos shutout, which was a record for a U.S. television program. These games come along with advertisements – which can be sold $4 million per 30-second spot. Do advertisers really need to spend that kind of cash to impact an audience though? This year, social media campaigns proved that they don’t.

Oreo took advantage of social media last year when the lights went out for 34 minutes at the game, tweeting and posting a picture of an Oreo in the dark, saying, “You can still dunk in the dark.” This photo went viral and was retweeted and shared on Facebook thousands of times – all for free.


This year, many more companies took advantage of free advertising. Newcastle Brown Ale did by creating a fake “Behind the Scenes” video with Anna Kendrick, who in the video was complaining about being asked to star in a Newcastle Super Bowl ad. Newcastle bleeped out the words “Super Bowl” that Kendrick said, making it a fairly humorous watch. Newcastle allegedly backed out of the deal to air the commercials. The Anna Kendrick video has over 4.3 million views on YouTube. They also published several other videos as part of their #IfWeMadeIt campaign, which, according to Newcastle, have been viewed 9 million times in total.

After the Super Bowl, Newcastle then remade ads by other brands, saying “We didn’t make a Mega Huge Football Game Ad, but we made a Mega Huge version of other brands’ Ads.” Needless to say, after saving $4 million and creating this hilarious campaign for their brand, Newcastle did this campaign right.

Esurance also had a creative advertising campaign with a social media element. Esurance apparently saved $1.5 million by buying the commercial directly after the Super Bowl. In their post-Super Bowl ad, John Krasinski announced that Esurance planned to give the savings away to anyone who tweeted #EsuranceSave30 by 4 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday. Over 3 million people tweeted this hashtag, and Esurance gained over 200,000 Twitter followers from this.

Esurance then had John Krasinski on Jimmy Kimmel to give the money away, as Kimmel’s Aunt Chippy personally delivered the money at the winner’s house.

It seems that the larger and more important parts of Super Bowl advertising campaigns are not the actual ads, but what goes on before and after the bowl online. I predict that there will be a trend with less companies spending money on Super Bowl ads and more companies campaigning online.


Anderson, Mae. “The Best Super Bowl Ads Weren’t on During the Game”. Associated Press.
ABC News. 4 Feb. 2014. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.

Abbruzzese, Jason. “How Many People Watched the Super Bowl?”. Mashable. Mashable. 3 Feb.
2014. Web. 6 Feb. 2014. <http://mashable.com/2014/02/03/super-bowl-viewers-ratings/>.

Big Game Super Bowl Commercials 2014. [SuperBowlCommercials2014]. (2014, February 2).
Super Bowl AD Esurance is giving away 1 5 million dollars #EsuranceSave30. [Video
File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCPzdDVCN8Y

Jimmy Kimmel Live. [JimmyKimmelLive]. (2014, February 6). Jimmy Kimmel & John
Krasinkski Give Away 1.5 Million Dollars.
[Video file]. Retrieved from

Newcastle. [Newcastle]. (2014, January 28). Anna Kendrick: Behind the Scenes of the Mega
Huge Game Day Ad Newcastle Almost Made.
[Video File]. Retrieved from

One thought on “$4 Million Versus Free: Are Super Bowl Commercials Worth It?

  1. I loved Newcastle’s approach to the Superbowl. They were very clever in not buying ad time but still, essentially creating an ad. It was funny, cost effective and started a conversation.


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