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Rakuten, other advertisers plan upbeat tonality for Super Bowl ads

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Rakuten Rewards plans to run its first Super Bowl commercial in February to use part of the biggest television show of the year to help US consumers understand what they are doing.

Locally, the company plans to continue the upbeat mood of its other marketing drives and is betting that Super Bowl audiences will seek a release after another year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rakuten Rewards, a US division of Japan-based e-commerce giant Rakuten Group Inc.,

operates a shopping rewards platform. Stores pay the company a commission for referring customers, and Rakuten shares a portion of that commission with customers as cashback.

The Super Bowl ad will be “a wink and a smile and be positive and upbeat because I think people need and want this,” said Dana Marineau, chief marketing officer at Rakuten Rewards.

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Advertisers in the pandemic’s first Super Bowl in February 2021 had to grapple with striking the right tone for an event that preceded the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccines and shortly after the divisive presidential election and the following January. 6. Attack on the US Capitol. Some companies advertising in 2021 took a somber approach while others used humor, a time-tested Super Bowl tactic. Many did not acknowledge the pandemic.

Some industry executives said marketers will have more freedom to have more fun at the 2022 Super Bowl, which will air February 13 on NBC, after months of vaccine availability in the US and more than a year since the presidential election.

“It feels like the excitement is huge,” said Jon Cook, global chief executive of VMLY & R, which has worked on Super Bowl spots for its clients. “There are no creative restrictions due to the pandemic or politics. People are really ready to get back to humor in this Super Bowl. “

Unlike the big game in 2021, this Super Bowl coincides with NBC’s Olympic programming, another major platform for advertisers to reinforce their Super Bowl messages. A month after the Super Bowl, the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament is slated to resume in cities across the country after being restricted to Indiana in 2021 and completely canceled in 2020.

“This gives us a driveway we haven’t had in nearly two years,” said Nick Miaritis, executive vice president of VaynerMedia, which has done Super Bowl ads for brands like Scotts Miracle-Gro and Planters. “There are actually big audiences and live events that allow brands big and small to activate in ways that they just couldn’t during the pandemic.”

NBCUniversal, part of Comcast Corp.

, searched at least $ 6.5 million for 30 seconds of in-game ad time versus the $ 5.5 million cost of the CBS television show in 2021.

This is still a bargain for some, given the growing difficulty of attracting large live audiences to traditional commercial television, said Mr. Miaritis. “As the audience has become even more fragmented from this pandemic, it’s really hard to find a group of people that size,” he said.

Avocados From Mexico, a nonprofit that represents avocado growers and packers, is returning to the Super Bowl promotional list after suspending the game in 2021, breaking a six-year streak of participation.

While Super Bowl ads can be a powerful tool for building brand awareness or favor, Avocados From Mexico also aims to generate instant sales with their ad, said Ivonne Kinser, vice president of Marketing and Innovation for the group. “We combine [a] Super Bowl commercial with a very robust digital campaign and also a big sales effort, ”said Ms. Kinser.

Other advertisers in the upcoming Super Bowl include automaker Nissan Motor Co.

, Intuition Inc.’s

TurboTax tax preparation software; Sports betting provider DraftKings Inc. and the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, which will appear in the game for the first time.

TurboTax will be hosting its ninth straight Super Bowl course in hopes of doing business before the April 15th tax filing deadline.

“We have a very limited window of time for TurboTax … to stand out from the competition, differentiate ourselves from our competition and deliver what we believe to be a very compelling message to customers,” said Cathleen Ryan, vice president of marketing at Intuit’s Consumer Group. “The Super Bowl is really the biggest stage for us to get that message across.”

Rakuten Rewards is hoping the game will serve as a coming out party for its cash back platform, helping reach consumers who might know its name but aren’t sure what it’s doing.

“We don’t have what I would call a traditional awareness problem because people have heard or seen the word ‘Rakuten’,” said Ms. Marineau, the CMO, citing the company’s sponsorship deals with the Barcelona football team and the Golden State Warriors basketball team. “What we have is an educational and considerate subject … it’s not an ‘I’ve never heard of you’ but ‘I don’t get it. How are you?'”

Many Super Bowl advertisers see the 2022 event with a more festive feel, said VaynerMedia’s Mr. Miaritis.

“There was a real ‘hold breath’ moment last year,” he said. “It’s almost like exhaling.”

Write to Megan Graham at megan.graham@wsj.com

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