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Big game’s marketing blitz goes online

PEPSICO — A puppet likeness of rapper Eminem. Eminem is joining the PepsiCo Lipton partnership for Brisk ice tea in a Super Bowl ad to debut on Sunday during the first quarter. PEPSICO — A puppet likeness of rapper Eminem. Eminem is joining the PepsiCo Lipton partnership for Brisk ice tea in a Super Bowl ad to debut on Sunday during the first quarter. (Pepsico via Associated Press)
By Mae Anderson
Associated Press / February 4, 2011

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NEW YORK — The Super Bowl commercial blitz is extending beyond the usual talking babies and office chimps to engage viewers online and get more for advertisers’ $3 million-plus investment.

Marketers are using every trick in the playbook to dominate the buzz before the game and long afterward, too. The gimmicks include online contests, a car “race’’ powered by Twitter mentions, and a secret new level of a hit iPhone game.

The goal is to build buzz, not get lost in the 42 minutes of Super Bowl ad time, and get cheap or free exposure when viewers watch again on YouTube.

“Nowadays you’ve got to get more out of your investment than 110 million viewers watching a 60-second spot,’’ said Steve Cannon, head of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.

As part of a tie-in to the automaker’s first Super Bowl ad, which introduces five new models and celebrates the company’s 125th anniversary, Mercedes developed a pregame race among five teams headed for the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas. The racers buy gas based on the number of times they are tweeted and retweeted.

Advertisers have bought up all the commercial time on Fox’s broadcast. Last year, space was still available near game time, but for this year’s contest, it was gone by October.

Thirty seconds of air time is selling for $3 million, up slightly from last year’s $2.97 million, according to Kantar Media. A typical 30-second prime-time commercial runs between $100,000 and $500,000.

Companies covet the Super Bowl audience because it is huge and because viewers are paying attention.

As people spend more time on computers and smartphones and browse among 500 cable channels, it’s perhaps the only broadcast that allows advertisers to reach such a broad audience.

The ad lineup features both familiar and new characters. Budweiser’s classic Clydesdales return, E-Trade sticks with its talking babies, and Careerbuilder.com brings back its office chimps.

A musical odd couple, Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne, will star in Best Buy’s first Super Bowl commercial, which is still under wraps.

Standing out in an increasingly crowded Super Bowl ad lineup takes more than a funny gag or celebrity of the moment.

“We’re seeing social media embraced by Super Bowl advertisers like never before,’’ said Tim Calkins, marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.