- Above photo credit: @sammiamigo // Unsplash
This year’s Super Bowl will go down in history and not just because of Tom Brady’s excellence or The Weeknd inspired memes
. The Covid-19 pandemic impacted every aspect of game engagement, from how fans watched to the brands that advertised. It was simultaneously the least attended and most streamed Super Bowl ever as well as the lowest rated big game since 2007. Stalwart advertisers like Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Hyundai did not participate in game time advertising and brand activations in Tampa were virtually non-existent.
Many have tried to decipher if these shifts will continue into 2022, or if we will return to a more traditional game and marketing landscape. But if we look beyond the headlines, we can see some major trends emerging that marketers should pay attention to ahead of next year’s game.
With such an unpredictable NFL season in the books, let’s take a look at what next year’s big game could look like.
Gaming Ready for Prime Time
Over the past few Super Bowl ad seasons, we’ve seen top gamers like Ninja and TimTheTatman as well as Fortnite World Cup winner Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf featured in Super Bowl commercials and this year was no different.
tapped the wildly popular founder of eSports team 100 Thieves, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, as part of its ad about the hustler mentality. The NFL has also taken a proactive role in pushing gaming forward. In addition to featuring gamers in its past Super Bowl spots, the league featured cardboard cutouts of gamers like Dr. Disrespect, Ninja and others as part of the 30,000 that filled the many empty seats at the Super Bowl.
The NFL also just announced a partnership
to enter mobile gaming with gaming platform, Skillz. The two companies will host a global game developer challenge, giving developers the chance to create an NFL-themed mobile game aimed at becoming a future mobile eSport. On the brand side, Verizon
made one of the biggest pushes into gaming during the big game. To supplement its gaming focused Super Bowl ad featuring Samuel L. Jackson, the brand promoted its 5G capabilities by creating a virtual 5G stadium built within Fortnite
. The virtual stadium allowed fans to try out different football-themed games and scavenger hunts while engaging with NFL players and pro gamers.
We’ve seen gaming slowly gain attention from non-endemic marketers, and with it continuing to explode in popularity
during the pandemic, expect to see even more gamers and gaming proudly featured in 2022.
Olympians Will Shine
For the first time ever, the Super Bowl will be played at the same time as an Olympic Games. Through some creative negotiations, NBC, who owns the rights to Olympic broadcast through 2032, traded the rights to Super Bowl LV to CBS in exchange for next year's Super Bowl LVI.
The idea is to consolidate and cross promote the two biggest sporting events of the year while enticing advertisers to buy time for both contests.
The option to run content across events gives brands an incredible opportunity to explore long-form storytelling and extend their pricey Olympic sponsorships. Expect to see major Olympic sponsors Coca-Cola, Dow, P&G and Airbnb take advantage of the timing and leverage the Super Bowl as an activation pillar in their campaigns.
We may have seen a preview of this trend this year when Olympic sponsor Toyota ran the inspirational story of Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long
as its Super Bowl spot. This cross over will continue next year as brands try to maximise its spend and look for opportunities to connect the two events.
While Super Bowl viewership was down this year, sports betting was not. The American Gaming Association
predicted over 23 million Americans would bet a total of $4.3 billion on Super Bowl LV. This would be an increase of over 63% compared to last year’s total. The entire sports betting industry brought in an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020, with JPMorgan predicting
it will grow to $9.2 billion in revenue by 2025.
States like New Jersey, where sports betting has been legal since 2018, saw an increase of over 116% from last year with more than $100 million generated in tax revenue for the state since betting became legal. Illinois, which legalised sports betting in 2020, generated $1.15M in state tax revenue on Super Bowl Sunday alone.
Other states are seeing these numbers and quickly pushing for legalisation. Since last year's Super Bowl, six states (Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia) and Washington D.C. passed legislation
to legalise sports wagering. Sports betting is now legal in 20 states and five more have passed legislation to move in that direction in the near future. Major sports betting brands like DraftKings, FanDuel, Penn National and PointsBet made a push this year to attract sign ups with promotions, but the pandemic put a lid on potential large-scale activations. This will change next year as fans return to Super Bowl parties and flock to Los Angeles, home of Super Bowl LVI.
While sports betting will not be legal in California, the presence of these operators promoting their products across the country will be massive as they battle in the fiercely competitive and growing market.
Collecting Goes Digital
It seems each year we see a brand feature a giveaway as part of their Super Bowl marketing strategy. Typically, the giveaway is money or free product and apparel (see Mountain Dew
). But as we see the rise of cryptocurrency and card collecting
, 2022 may be the time for brands to think about a different type of giveaway: digital collectables.
For example, 2021 has seen the rise of NBA Top Shot, an officially licensed blockchain application from the National Basketball Association. Like traditional trading cards, NBA Top Shot allows consumers to buy and sell virtual cards or 'moments' of video highlights from NBA players. The moments are non-fungible tokens which make each one unique and prevents counterfeiting.
NBA Top Shot has already reached $50 million in sales, with roughly 20,000 buyers and 33,000 collectors, with a limited-edition LeBron James moment
selling for $71,000 on the NBA Top Shots marketplace
. While this may seem like GameStop-style speculation, there could be ways for brands to engage with these digital collectable marketplaces in the future and what better time than the Super Bowl.
The NFL is already rumoured to be to entering the digital collectable space soon which could create more opportunities for brands. Imagine NFL sponsors like Gatorade creating limited-edition 'moments' of the best Gatorade celebratory showers in Super Bowl history, or Budweiser giving away digital collectables featuring its top Super Bowl ads. We’re just seeing the start of this movement and the possibilities are endless.
Check back on this list in February 2022 and see how these predictions have performed.
- Brad Silber, vice president, Ogilvy Public Relations in Chicago and head of Ogilvy's sports network