Once a year, on the first Sunday of February, the National Football League’s annual championship game known as the Super Bowl is viewed by millions and millions of live audiences all around the United States. As a result, the Super Bowl is also the biggest advertising event of the year especially during an era that people usually tend to skip ads on various streaming platforms. Despite the increasing political tension from the Kaepernick incident, Coca- Cola should, by all means, continue to advertise in the Super Bowl 2019.
Going back two years, the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem before kick-off as to protest against the racial injustice in the United States which had attracted a lot of social attention and ultimately put NFL in the center of this ongoing controversy (The Independent). Because of this controversy, advertising and performing in the Super Bowl have taken on a political message for both the brands and artists. A few artists decided not to perform in the Super Bowl halftime which could bring them both fame and money to show their support for racial justice and equality. For instance, “recently, pop superstar Rihanna even declined the invitation to perform at the halftime show,” (Mercury News). For these famous artists, whether to perform in the halftime or not has elevated to a matter of what type of personal brand image they want to establish which would require them to weight the decisions more carefully. The same applies to the national brands too.
The recommendation to advertise in the Super Bowl will be examined from the aspects of brand value, competitors, and economic value.
Coca-Cola has a long history of advertising in the Super Bowl. Coca-Cola did a successful commercial named “The Wonder of Us” during the Super Bowl this year. “‘The Wonder of Us’ shows people of all different races, ages, and genders engaged in an assortment of carefree activities, many of which tangentially involve bottles and cans of Coke. Some memorable shots include kids playing spin the bottle, a wheelchair-bound daredevil catching air off a half pipe, two cowpokes gazing up at a star-filled sky, and a pair of nature enthusiasts jumping from a teepee into a lake at sunset,” (Eater). Through Super Bowl, Coca-Cola was able to deliver such a positive and inclusive message to the general public on such a grand scale.
Meanwhile, it is undeniable that the social pressure and risks of running Super Bowl ads exist, but it does not mean Coca-Cola should be scared of it and give up. As long as Coca-Cola continues to deliver ads with a positive message that celebrates diversity and inclusion, its brand value will not be impacted but be emboldened by the marketing investment during the Super Bowl despite the intense controversy. In short, it is not about the advertisement; it is more about the message the brands deliver through the ad.
Pepsi has always been the biggest competitor of Coca-Cola. Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi spent a lot of money on the advertisement during Super Bowl this year as well (Adage); Pepsi purchased three ads compared to two ads bought by Coca-Cola (Adage). Based on past trend, it will be reasonable to expect that Pepsi will continue to have a prominent appearance in the next big game. For the beverage industry, an industry that demands massive advertising, every single advertising event has to be captured and fought to maintain the competition with its competitors. It will be disastrous for Coca-Cola to miss out the Super Bowl ads; It will be a great victory for Pepsi if Coca-Cola chooses to opt-out. As a result, there is not much consider in the matter of whether to advertise in the Super Bowl; Coca-Cola has to do it as it always does.
Besides all the reasons above, it is clear that Super Bowl ads do generate a decent return on investment. According to a study called “Super Bowl Ads”, it is proved that “Super Bowl ads do help sell Coke after the game, especially among sports fans,” (Informs). More importantly, the effect of Super Bowl ads can continue into other Sports seasons like basketball (Informs). From a sales perspective, advertising in the Super Bowl is essential for the sales performance next year; it will have an impact on the earnings reports of 2019. Thus, running Super Bowl ads is a responsible and sensible decision for the corporation and its shareholders.
Advertising in the Super Bowl has traditionally been a neutral thing to do for brands. However, it has become complicated since the Kaepernick event occurred; brands need to evaluate the risk and benefit of running Super Bowl ads more closely based on their unique situations. As for Coca-Cola, the risking of being criticized by some media and people persists; running Super Bowl ads under political and social pressure does involve potential unintended consequences. However, Coca-Cola has no choice but to advertise during the Super Bowl due to immense pressure from its competitors and obligation to the shareholders; Coca-Cola needs to handle the production and the delivery of the Super Bowl ads more carefully to manage the increased risk in the environment.
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