I know you've written about the Super Bowl being an inefficient time to advertise, but I am seeing a lot of advertisements selling products to enhance the Super Bowl — mostly snack food and televisions. But instead of directly saying it's for the Super Bowl, they're saying it's for the "big game." I imagine this is due to some copyright concern. Is this "nickname" practice used in other situations, is there more at play here then copyright and is it fair to say these event-based advertisements are the real advertising success stories around the Super Bowl?
Thanks, Michael. Let me break this down into two parts.
1. On advertising during the Super Bowl
I wouldn't characterize the Super Bowl as an inefficient time to advertise. It draws a mass audience, a big chunk of which actually looks forward to watching the ads. If your objective is to put your message in front of a huge, receptive audience, the Super Bowl is ideal.
But before spending the minimum $2.6 million for one 30-second exposure this year, you'd have been well-advised to weigh the benefits. A "receptive audience" in this case may mean "expecting to be entertained," not necessarily "open to making a decision to buy." And reaching a vast audience is no assurance that you'll sell anything to any of them.
Running spots during the Super Bowl may make sense for certain advertisers. But I'd recommend a better success measure than how many people saw, recalled or liked the commercial.
2. On "Super Bowl" as a trademark
Michael is right as to why advertisers tell you to stock up on their product for "the big game." Were they to come right out and say "for the Super Bowl," they'd hear from the big game's attorneys in no time.
The Olympics get nasty in like fashion when you use the O word and, sometimes, even "Games." During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, a ski resort ran billboards promoting the fact that no Olympic events were were taking place on their slopes. The idea was to attract locals seeking a crowd-free place to ski. The IOC made them remove "Olympics" from their billboards.
My non-legal opinion is that both organizations are bullying and getting away with it. Companies name other companies in their ads all the time. Pepsi names Coke. Mac names Windows. GM names Toyota. But who wants to take on the Super Bowl or the Olympics in what would certainly prove a costly, years-long legal battle? Is it worth the fight, given that the Super Bowl arrives but once a year and the Olympics, counting summer and winter, arrives but every two? And who wants the PR liability of being the whiner who sued a beloved institution? Those are, I suspect, the reasons that no one bothers to call the bullies' bluff.