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Zeus and free bitcoin: Super Bowl ad frenzy is back
Zeus and free bitcoin: Super Bowl ad frenzy is back

Zeus and free bitcoin: Super Bowl ad frenzy is back

Big brands who in recent years have sat out the TV advertising frenzy around the biggest US sporting event -- the Super Bowl -- are returning in force Sunday and forking out millions for prime spots.

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After the bruising politics and pandemic grief that had clouded the American football championship, this year viewers are primed for a good time and offer advertisers a nearly unequalled mass audience.

Budweiser's clydesdale horses, Arnold Schwarzenegger flogging BMWs as Zeus and a Lay's potato chips trip down memory lane with comedian Seth Rogan and actor Paul Rudd will all be there.

"The Super Bowl is a completely unique advertising property in that it can reach still 100 million consumers," said Charles Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova University.

The game and probably more importantly its ads, which have spawned widely-used catch phrases and cultural symbols in the United States, are an American phenomenon.

"It's such a pop culture event in the US that people pay heightened attention to it," Taylor added.

This year's crop is thick with jokey, celebrity-heavy pitches for everything from beer to bitcoin, and will include some notable returns.

It's only been a year off for Budweiser and the clydesdale horses synonymous with the brand that chose to stay away from the festive event as America crossed its darkest pandemic days.

This year's spot, directed by Nomadland's Chloe Zhao, is a patriotic tale that features one of the draft horses making a post-injury comeback.

But Lay's and fellow Super Bowl ad returnee Gillette razors have been away for over 15 years each, while it's been seven years for BMW.

That said, Hyundai wasn't present last year and won't be on Sunday, nor reportedly will Coca Cola -- a not entirely unprecedented decision as broadcaster NBC said about 40 percent of advertisers this year will be new.

- Bitcoin giveaway -

Super Bowl airtime has always been costly, but the price was $7 million for some 30-second spots this year and NBC called that a record for the US football championship.

The sky-high prices come even after the Super Bowl notched last year its lowest number of viewers -- 96.4 million -- since 2007.

That total includes some 5.7 million watching via streaming and reflects how audiences' habits are changing, as streaming platforms eat away at cable and network dominance.

Yet, the Super Bowl remains an intense draw for audiences.

By comparison, the most-watched non-sports TV program in the United States in 2021, the Harry and Meghan interview, only had 21 million viewers.

After the bruising 2020 US presidential contest, which crept into the game with spots from Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg and then 2021's somber pandemic mood -- 2022 has viewers looking for a break.

"We will not see people wearing masks, we won't see discussion of the virus, we won't see discussion of politics," said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University.

"You're going to see people leveraging, just broadly acceptable things -- celebrities, but only celebrities that everybody likes -- and humor, but only humor that is very safe and inoffensive," he added.

In addition to the regulars, start-ups are looking to capture some of the limelight of this big event between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.

Crypto currency is a theme, and the exchange FTX has tied a bitcoin giveaway to its Super Bowl ad.

To make things interesting, the amount of the freebie will depend on the East Coast time the ad runs -- if it airs at 8:50 pm, the exchange said it will give away 8.50 bitcoins which was about $373,300 as of Tuesday.

The exposure that kind of ad generates -- and an accompanying promotion -- is hard to match elsewhere.

Advertising has massively migrated to the internet, with its data-heavy targeting of specific consumer profiles and exactly how many click.

"That's really not what Super Bowl advertising is about," Calkins said. "The Super Bowl is about building brands."