The Success and Failure of Big Game Marketing

The Success and Failure of Big Game Marketing
© 2010 Legg

The other day I was thinking I wanted to write a column on bad marketing tools. I am always writing about what you should do but never about what you should not do. Then I remembered that actually, there is no such thing as a bad marketing tool, just bad planning. Well, how was I supposed to write about bad planning? And then, lo and behold, I watched the Super Bowl. More than 106 million people watched the Super Bowl this year. More than have ever watched any television program ever. The last episode of M-A-S-H held the record previously with 105.97 million viewers.


During the Super Bowl a commercial is not a bad marketing tool, especially if 106.5 million people are watching. Some of those commercials, whether they were “good” or” bad,” were definitely the result of bad planning. Let’s take a look, shall we?

“Doritos was a big winner in a measurement of interest in the commercials played during the Super Bowl. TiVo Inc. said the snack company’s ad featuring a boy telling a man to keep his hands off his chips and his mom was stopped and played back in 15% of homes with the digital video recorder,” according to “The secretly filmed CBS promo with David Letterman, Jay Leno and Oprah Winfrey came in second, followed by the Snickers ad with Betty White and Abe Vigoda flattened in a football game.”

Best laid plans …

I love the “measurement of interest” analytic. I was definitely interested in the Doritos commercial and I was actually one of those that played in back. But, I played it back for several reasons — none of which signal its immediate success. For starters, it was hard to understand the kid in the commercial. Beyond that, even if you thought it was funny — I didn’t — you certainly weren’t running out to buy Doritos. Letterman, Leno and Winfrey were funny, but so what? It was funny because Letterman was mean, Leno was dopey and Winfrey was the peacemaker. Funny? Yes, but they are supposed to be funny. Too bad the commercials failed at their main goal. They aren’t going to make me watch any specific show or buy a certain product — unfortunate for them, but great examples of bad planning.


Snickers hit a homerun with White and Vigoda — or for sake of a more relevant comparison — scored a touchdown. “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” A funny, relevant, memorable, inoffensive visual representation of what the product can do for you and it included a football reference. Consider the audience. Most of us don’t play football, may never have played football, but we might have played touch football so we could identify with it, as opposed to two mega millionaires and one billionaire sitting on a couch complaining about a party. Snickers brought their “A Game” and they brought it to the right audience, at the right time, for sure. This is an example of great planning.

Your toolbox

You probably aren’t going to buy a spot for a television commercial for the next Super Bowl, but there are some lessons to be learned from companies that do. Look at your marketing tools. You need to ask the following questions for each one you use:

  • Where are you using these tools?
  • Who is the audience for your message?
  • Is the intended audience the same as the actual audience?
  • Is the message you are trying to send the message this is actually received?
  • Is your message relevant and inoffensive? Is it memorable?

Take the time to craft a message that will catch the attention of your audience and use analytics to see that it does. And remember, there is no such thing as a bad marketing tool, just poor planning.

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Elizabeth Mansfield

Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing Solutions. She can be reached at

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