Marketing the Super Bowl
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Feb. 1, 2012
Marketing the Super Bowl
Trinity University professor Charlene Davis tracks advertising for premier sports event
SAN ANTONIO -It didn't matter whether she liked sports, especially football, but as a marketing professor at Trinity University, Charlene Davis knew she couldn't ignore Super Bowl commercials.
For nearly two decades, Davis, associate professor of business administration, has studied television ads aired during football's premier game, acknowledging that they have taken on a life of their own.
She said the ads that people now love to discuss, rate, and watch over and over again were once ordinary spots that flowed from ongoing ad campaigns. But as the game has grown in popularity, ads have become more complex and more appealing to everyone, not just Super Bowl fans. This year's gridiron extravaganza will be Sunday, Feb. 5.
"Even for the consumer who doesn't like football or sports, watching Super Bowl ads has become a separate event," Davis said. To illustrate that point, she nods to polls by local, regional, and national media outlets for selecting the most popular ads, and she even incorporates an analysis of Super Bowl spots into her classes. "It's such a good media event to measure recall and recognition. It's not only what did you like, but what do you remember? What was the story line? "
A frequent lament by beer companies is that while the spot for their product might have appeal, people don't necessarily have "next-day recall," she said, adding that consumers don't always remember which beer had the funny ads. For that reason, ad agencies have moved to story-driven commercials that help nudge the memories of viewers to get their message "stuck in your head."
Companies can spend an average of $5 million per 30-second spot to hire an agency that designs and produces the ads and buys television time. Although each ad may be self-contained, as many as five to seven ads may be tied together with a theme or story line, she said. "So on Game Day, it could be, 'Look, there goes $5 million,' but to get that same number of eyes it would take multiple separate media purchases," she said. "You also get a buzz that you don't pay for," in the form of media replays and YouTube views.
Humor is always a winning element and serious themes are discouraged, she said. "Remember, people are ready for a good time and appreciate silly, campy, over-the-top messages because of the association with a fun event."
When she's not researching Super Bowl ads, Davis studies service and service quality, such as the consequences of not delivering a product as promised. Examples are live performances that are less than engaging or a restaurant that doesn't provide the level of service that patrons expect.
She also analyzes the aesthetics of products, the concept of form over function. Her interest in this area was sparked by a computer that was marketed in vibrant colors with the slogan that it was "the" computer for creative people, in contrast to everything else in the digital world that seems to be black, gray, or white. "The function of the product was laughable. It had no disc drive, a mouse pad ill suited to adult hands, and was noisy and prone to overheating, but it was wildly successful. People are rabid brand loyalists."
Exploring marketing concepts such as brand loyalty appeals to Davis, who began her undergraduate career as a psychology major. She enjoyed classes in sociology and communication, blending those disciplines with the business classes suggested by an aptitude test. While earning an MBA, she took a graduate level marketing class, which made her heart sing. "From Day One, I said, 'I've got this. I understand.' I got to answer the geeky questions of 'Why do people do these things?' At the end, it all coalesced."
Outside class, she loves reading history books or murder mysteries. Cooking is another passion. Among her Trinity activities, Davis has served on the Faculty Senate, the Campus Board of Publications, campus information literacy programs, and organized student projects that are showcased during Spring Family Weekend.
Her advice to students is to try different things in college: "Don't miss a chance to do something outside your comfort zone."
Principles of Marketing
Davis, J. Charlene and Scott R. Swanson (2012). "Delight and Outrage in the Performing Arts: A Critical Incidence Analysis." The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, forthcoming.
Davis, J. Charlene and Scott R. Swanson (2009). "The Importance of Being Earnest or Committed: Attribute Importance and Consumer Evaluations of the Live Arts Experience," The Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 21 (1), pp. 56-79.
Gassenheimer, Jule B., J. Charlene Davis, and Robert Dahlstrom (1998). " Effects of Incongruency: Is Dependent What We Want to Be?" Journal of Retailing, Summer, pp. 247-271.
Davis, J. Charlene. "Dependency, Self-Interest, and Relationship Marketing: A View of the Nature of Exchange" (1995). Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Fall 1995, pp. 17-23.