It’s time to rethink the Super Bowl advertising model

summary

Every year, the world’s largest brands vie for a coveted Super Bowl Sunday advertising slot and this year was no different. A 30-second slot will set you back $7 million and that’s not including the additional fee to secure celebrity features – Verizon has reportedly paid $30 million for Beyoncé’s appearance in its latest ad.  It’s time to rethink the Super Bowl advertising model

Studio
4 min read

Every year, the world’s largest brands vie for a coveted Super Bowl Sunday advertising slot and this year was no different. A 30-second slot will set you back $7 million and that’s not including the additional fee to secure celebrity features – Verizon has reportedly paid $30 million for Beyoncé’s appearance in its latest ad. 

It’s easy to argue that this spend is worthwhile. A recent survey found that, when asked what parts of the Super Bowl they were most looking forward to watching, 21% said the commercials; for non-NFL fans that figure rose to 35%. But, as younger, digital-native sports fans rewrite traditional mediums of engagement, with virtual experiences becoming increasingly popular, the NFL should focus more on richer, more innovative ways to connect with global audiences. 

The Super Bowl itself is no stranger to innovation. In 2023, it paired up with WMG and Roblox to offer fans a virtual concert, Rhythm City, with hip-hop artist Saweetie. The NFL also launched Super NFL Tycoon, an experience where players could ‘live the fantasy of being an NFL team owner’. Most interestingly, users were able to move between Super NFL Tycoon and Rhythm City through a designated portal. The experience itself was a hit – becoming the highest-rated concert ever on Roblox with a 91% player rating. 

But the NFL missed a trick this year. 

The ‘Taylor Effect’ 

Following a media frenzy surrounding pop superstar Taylor Swift and NFL player (and boyfriend) Travis Kelce, the NFL has experienced the ‘Taylor Effect’. Viewing figures amongst women are up and brands associated with the sports body want to cash in. This intersection of pop culture presents myriad opportunities to tap into new audiences and it calls for a refreshed approach beyond traditional advertising. 

Imagine, you’re at the virtual Super Bowl – and better still, you’ve secured a space in a private box hosted by Taylor herself. You hang out with other Swifties, watch the game, and swap your favourite tracks from the new album. But that’s not all, connected to the box is another door, a portal to another world – a concert where more artists from Taylor’s record label are getting ready to perform an exclusive show.  

What gives these interconnected experiences the potential to be so special is the fact they are built for and around existing communities – in this case, Swifties – expertly curated to cater to their shared interests while tapping into potential new areas. This labyrinth of rich interaction and engagement is inherently more valuable for brands, and infinitely more exciting for communities. The NFL was on the right track with Roblox, but it needs to go further. 

Spatial computing and AI for rich fan engagement 

Spatial computing makes virtual world-building possible. It bridges the physical and digital, enabling the creation of virtual spaces that are as interactive and navigable as their real-world counterparts. From immersive gallery spaces to virtual film production sets to city simulations for large-scale event planning, spatial computing is laying the foundation for the next version of the internet.

AI also plays a critical role in personalising these virtual experiences. By analysing data on user preferences, behaviours, and interactions, AI can tailor the virtual environment in real time to suit each visitor’s interests. Imagine watching the game in a stadium that is catered to your favourite team, including analytics offering you real-time insights to improve your knowledge of the game, or creating micro-communities amongst fans with the same allegiances.  

As the buzz around Super Bowl Sunday dissipates, the NFL should be asking itself how it can capitalise on the ‘Taylor Effect’ by continuing to engage its newly won viewers with immersive experiences bespoke to them. By doing so, it can pave the way for a new era of immersive fandom. 

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