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Brands Gaining Super Bowl Exposure by Getting Banned

14 February 2011 30,689 views 89 Comments

By Ron Matejko

Year after year, one of the regularly covered aspects of the Super Bowl is the high price of purchasing a 30-second commercial during the game.

Reports state companies are paying about $2.8 million to briefly expose their brand to the estimated 100 million people who will watch this year’s Super Bowl. That is a slight drop from last year but still nearly triple the cost of a 30-second spot from just 15 years ago.

That price tag is too rich for many and some companies are finding another way to leverage the cache of having a Super Bowl commercial, without actually having to pay for one.

In the weeks leading up to the biggest sporting event of the year, we frequently see stories about Super Bowl commercials that were banned from the broadcast for various reasons.

There will be plenty of coverage about the Super Bowl commercials that did air after the game, but in the meantime, we have seen many headlines about those who didn’t make the cut.

Domain-name registrar GoDaddy has benefitted greatly from this. While the company does pay for Super Bowl spots, it was the banning of the famed 2005 spot featuring Candice Michele that made the GoDaddy brand a household name while providing $15 million in free exposure.

Two years ago, PETA gained much publicity for its banned commercial Veggie Love. It appeared doubtful PETA intended on paying to have the commercial run, but mission accomplished as the organization gained nationwide coverage.

Recently, a website called JesusHatesObama.com garnered nationwide headlines when its ad was banned from the game. Chalk this up to shrewd marketing, as its management had to know there was no way a website with that name would be approved, yet they got the desired results with a few days of free media exposure for the url. The same story goes for another web site called AshleyMadison.com, which is a dating site for married people.

Other recognizable brands that have gotten the thumbs down are Budweiser, Chiclets, Rolling Rock and Doritos.

A case could be made that this is a wise marketing strategy. A banned 2007 Budweiser ad has received 13.1 million views on YouTube to date, or more than 14% of the Super Bowl audience that year, and at no cost.

An ad from Doritos that was banned from the 2010 Super Bowl has received more than 1.6 million views on YouTube and the ad from AshleyMadison.com that was banned from this year’s game received 100,000 views in three days and more than 700,000 to date.

GoDaddy is definitely the leader in taking advantage of the opportunity … and why not? A recent study by Kantar Media of Super Bowl commercials from 2001-2010 found that during that span the number of spots has increased from 82 to 104 and total commercial time has increased by almost eight minutes to 47:50.

Increased clutter isn’t the only reason for this alternative marketing strategy. Tack on the high cost to run the spot and the negative brand PR that comes with a poorly executed commercial, and there are many reasons to leverage the attention that comes with being banned.

While most media outlets willingly go along with this ploy and write about the banned ads, some are taking notice to how they are being used and putting a stop to it. Adweek recently noted they would discontinue such coverage.

Advertising during the Super Bowl has its value. Where else can a brand potentially expose itself to more than 100 million viewers at one time? However, the cost to do so has gotten so high that only the largest companies can afford to do so.

So if you can’t join them, beat them.


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