IMB_ExplodingTV The Super Bowl is the largest advertising event in the world. This year, brands will pay an average of $2.8 million to $3.0 million for 30 seconds of airtime during the Big Game – a resurgence after a rare decrease in rates for Super Bowl spots in 2010. Unlike last year, where slots were still available up to the week of the game, for this year's contest, every free slot was sold out by October … a full 4 months before the game. The estimated live audience for the Super Bowl this year is 100 million – even more impressive considering media fragmentation has led to the demise of any other television event that could even come close in terms of reach.

Clearly the Super Bowl in 2011 will be bigger than ever. So why doesn't TV matter for the lasting effect? Mainly because most of the conversation and ongoing engagement around the advertising and brands will be related to the secondary conversation about the advertising that will be happening online. The first airing of a spot during the game is certainly the big bang that every advertiser is paying for. The effect, however, moves instantly from the TV to the web-enabled realm of social conversation. In 2011, it is the ripple effect of social media that contributes the most engagement to what would otherwise be a static 30 second piece of advertising. Here are a few ways that is already happening:

  1. Consumer generated advertising contests. Brands like Doritos (this year adding PepsiMax) using consumer generated ideas to create their Super Bowl spots extend the buzz of the Super Bowl many weeks and months before the game itself – generating potentially millions of branded impressions and hours of engagement prior to the game itself.
  2. Advertiser efforts to build pre-buzz. Aside from contests, some advertisers like Bridgestone are releasing teaser versions of highly anticipated ads designed to build excitement. Other advertisers are using the web to deliver a full preview of their ads so some fans can get an inside look.
  3. Branded engagement inspired by ads. A survey of Super Bowl consumer behaviour from ad agency Venables Bell & Partners (VB&P) found that 25% of young adults are likely to "like" a brand on Facebook during the game and 59% of young adults say they will use Facebook to share ads. Combined with moves like Audi's claim to be the first major brand to use a hashtag as a call to action in an ad show that the engagement inspired by Super Bowl ads are set to be a big metric this year.
  4. Real life discussions fueled by ads. Perhaps a non-digital conclusion, but one important to note is that the ads from the game create many real life discussions about the ads themselves. This will be at the game, but also the day after – and will be fueled by online conversations as well.