Free Advertising During the Super Bowl! Wait, What?

By: Ben Okun

Imagine a company spending $4.6 million on advertising during an AFC Championship game. You’d probably say to yourself that $4.6 million is a ridiculous amount of advertising money to spend on anything other than the Super Bowl. What if I then told you that the “company” didn’t pay a dime and still got $4.6 million worth of advertising for free?

This is exactly what happened to Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city. Omaha isn’t exactly a “company,” but it received so much unexpected marketing over the past couple of weeks that companies who did spend large amounts of money on advertising were probably in fits, and for good reason.

Peyton Manning, arguably the most popular and marketable player in the NFL, not to mention one of the best QBs in history, frequently yells the word “Omaha,” as part of his pre-snap cadence before he hikes the ball. In the AFC Divisional Game against the San Diego Chargers, Manning yelled Omaha 44 times and yelled it 31 more times this past weekend against the Patriots. Front Row Analytics, a sponsorship-evaluation company, estimated that the value of a Manning on-field endorsement (yelling Omaha) during the AFC Championship was $150,000 in equivalent ad value. You do the math; 31 Omaha’s at $150,000 apiece is about $4.6 million!

The city of Omaha caught wind of the free publicity during the game and the city’s official tourism center, Visit Omaha, tweeted out “We certainly appreciate all the love from #PeytonManning #OmahaOmaha.” Even after 4,000 retweets, the love didn’t stop there. Omaha was trending on twitter for the entire game and over the past couple of weeks, Omaha’s tourism website has seen a huge spike in traffic. Hotels.com noted that searches for hotels in Omaha increased by more than 20% since the Divisional game. Omaha Steaks even mulled the possibility of paying Manning to say “steaks” after he yells Omaha during games. There is currently no rule in place by the NFL that prohibits such in-game marketing, but the proposed idea never came to fruition.

Furthermore, five Omaha-based companies, ConAgra Foods, First National Bank of Omaha, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha Steaks and Union Pacific Railroad agreed to donate a combined $800 to Manning’s charity every time Manning yelled Omaha during last week’s AFC Championship against the Patriots. For both Manning and the companies, this was a win-win deal, as Manning’s “PeyBack Foundation” received $24,800 and the companies received millions of dollars worth of free publicity.

Now that the Denver Broncos have reached the Super Bowl, the free publicity has reach a whole new level. The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of advertising and marketing, with companies regularly shelling out millions of dollars for just one, 30-second spot. These 30-second spots have been thoroughly planned and strategically created to appeal to the massive Super Bowl audience. Last year, the Super Bowl averaged 106.6 million viewers. To reach a similar audience this year, companies must pay $4 million for a 30-second ad. First Row Analytics estimated the value of one branded audible (yelling Omaha) during the Super Bowl is worth between $400K-$1.3 million.

To put this all into perspective, the city of Omaha is in for a huge day of marketing and publicity on Super Bowl Sunday. Unless Manning suddenly changes his cadence, the Super Bowl audience can except to hear Omaha upwards of 30 times during the game. That’s the equivalent of roughly $30 million in ad value! Before last week’s AFC Championship game against the Patriots, Doug Parrot, EVP of Nebraska-based Bailey Lauerman PR firm said, “Everybody in Omaha really needs to root for Peyton to take down Tom Brady so we can hear ‘Omaha’ in the Super Bowl.” Well, Parrot and the state of Nebraska got their wish.

“Omaha…Omaha! Set… Hike!”

Does in-game marketing like this ruin the integrity of the game? Are people more focused on the corporate aspect now, instead of the game itself? What other examples of “free marketing” can you think of that have taken place during an NFL game?

As always, I look forward to your feedback and welcome any and all comments. If you enjoyed what you read, be social and share.

 

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