Big profile snack brands are no shrinking violets when it comes to high-priced Super Bowl advertising

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Super Bowl Sunday is 'the gold standard' of TV advertising. Pic: GettyImages/Llgorko
Super Bowl Sunday is 'the gold standard' of TV advertising. Pic: GettyImages/Llgorko

Related tags: Super bowl, Pop-Tarts, Doritos, Cheetos, Pringles, Little Caesar's

Come Sunday (February 2, 2020), the living rooms of Americans will be invaded by slick, Hollywood-style Super Bowl commercials, designed to be debated long after the final touchdown is scored. We check out why and how some of the US’s biggest snack producers are getting in on the act.

No need to 'struggs to snack'

Pop-Tarts’ Super Bowl 30-second ad​ stars TV makeover personality Jonathan Van Nes, who invites fans who are ‘stuggs to snack’ to ditch the standard pretzel and try the iconic brand’s new sweet and salty creation: Pop-Tarts Pretzel.

“Pop-Tarts Pretzel is one of the biggest product innovations in our brand's history,”​ said Phil Schaffer, senior director of marketing, Pop-Tarts.

“While our fans have always enjoyed Pop-Tarts any time of day, we couldn’t think of a better opportunity to unveil Pop-Tarts Pretzel than on one of the biggest snacking days of the year.”

New York City-based creative agency MRY created the high-energy informercial-themed commercial, which will air after the first half’s two minute warning.

“Infomercials are a tried-and-true format for launching new product innovations, so we wanted to create a self-aware infomercial that lived up to that ingenuity,”​ said James Wood, head of creative at MRY.

“Our priority was to work with a genuine, outspoken fan of Pop-Tarts, and Jonathan has more than proven his fan cred.”

According to Van Ness, he's been the biggest Pop-Tarts fan since he was "knee high to a pig’s eye.

“The commercials were always THE Big Game that I was tuning in for growing up, and this year is the most surreal ever because I'm the star of the Pop-Tarts ad," ​he said.

“Who knew that pretzels could be such a diva?”

Why the Super Bowl is considered the gold standard in advertising

Big Game Ad Cost, Prof Oscar Chilabato, Johnson & Wales University
Credit: Johnson & Wales University

According to Frito-Lay’s US Snack Index, Super Bowl Sunday, historically, is the​ biggest day of the year for salty snacks sales.

It’s also advertising’s biggest day, attracting the likes the Pop-Tarts, Pringles, Doritos, Walmart and Facebook and other big brands.

But it doesn’t come cheap, with figures ranging from $5.6m for a 30 second spot up to $20m for a 90 second ad being bandied about.

However, according to Oscar Chilabato, professor of Advertising & Marketing Communications at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, the reason ­the Super Bowl is considered the gold standard is the staggering number of people it reaches.

An estimated 110 million Americans purportedly tune in for the big game.

“The fact is that it still generates the largest audience to watch one program at any one time​,” said Prof Chilabato, adding it’s a “showcase for advertisement agencies and brands to create immediate awareness and gain traction with earned media.”

In a Forbes article, Derek Rucker, co-lead of the Kellogg School Super Bowl Ad Review, postulated that he could not think of another event that gets consumers to actually talk about the TV commercials.

“The Super Bowl is like a buffet where consumers approach it in anticipation of seeing what ads will be presented,”​ he wrote.

And it does not stop there, with Super Bowl ads developing a life of their own beyond the Big Game.

With companies paying millions to grab the consumer’s attention, ads are typically posted on YouTube, discussed and debated over by several news channels, and linked to an entire digital campaign to maximise reach. 

Taking flavour stacking to new heights

Pringles’ 2020 Super Bowl ad​ is hoping to make a connection with the younger sect with the help of cult favourite sci-fi duo Rick and Morty.

In the ‘humorous, mind-bending animated’ spot, a Pringles robot disguised as Morty enthuses over a Spicy Barbecue Pizza stack – made using Pringles Pizza, Barbeque and Jalapeno crisps. Rick catches on to his grandson’s antics and unmasks the Mortybot – only for both of them to realise they are trapped inside a Pringles commercial and can’t get out.

“The premise of the Rick and Morty show is that they go to different universes … everything is possible within the world of Rick and Morty,”​ said Gareth Maguire, senior director of marketing for Pringles, adding it would be the perfect platform to “showcase the infinite possibilities of stacking different flavours of Pringles.

“We want to do something completely new for the brand for the 2020 Big Game and are thrilled to be partnering with Adult Swim and Rick and Morty.”

According to Macguire, the special edition, collectable Pringles Pickle Rick flavour – available in stores for fans to purchase before the Big Game – was inspired from the series.

The 30-second spot – created by Grey Advertising – will air during the second quarter of the game.

Sliced bread is toast

The premise of Little Caesars’ first-ever Super Bowl spot – starring Rainn Wilson of The Office fame – is that its pizzas are better than sliced bread.

Wilson plays the 'cushy' head of a company named Sliced Bread Inc., but things go quickly array after the Detroit-based pizza franchise rolls out its ‘sterling’ delivery service.

Little Ceasar's Super Bowl ad

“The opportunity to leverage the advertising scale of the Super Bowl is the perfect place to showcase our extreme value with our new delivery service,”​ said Jeff Klein, senior VP of global marketing at Little Caesars.

The 30-second ad was created by  creative agency McKinney, and will air during the third quarter of Sunday’s game.

Can’t touch this

Frito-Lay's Cheetos​ makes an appearance at the game for the first time in a decade to punt its new popcorn snack.

The 30 second ad enlists MC Hammer to put the ‘cheetle’ – a term trademarked by the company to describe the snack’s orange cheese dust​ – on centerfield. The protagonist realises he can get out a lot of chores because of his orange digits, using the excuse he “can’t touch this”.

Frito-Lay has already launched an extensive media campaign, entitled Ready for Crunchtime, to get consumers stocked up with snacking essentials for the game, including a commercial starring NFL legends Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Terry Bradshaw and Tony Gonzalez.

So cool

Another Frito-Lay brand, Dorito’s, ​sees Grammy winner Lil Nas X challenging 75-year-old Hollywood legend Sam Elliott to a dance battle to Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’. ​Lil Nas X wins the dance-off then asks "who's next?" ​which leads nicely into Doritos' broader campaign.

The brand is inviting viewers to use the Sway app to scan their bodies – which will then be augmented with the profile of a professional dance – to recreate the ad’s dance moves. It hopes fans will share their footage with the hashtag #CoolRanchDance on TikTok.

The 60 second spot – designed by Goodby Silverstein & Partners – will be aired during the game’s third quarter.

The brand also released two teasers leading up to the Big Game.

In one, Elliot – in iconic cowboy mode – saunters up to the bar in a dusty saloon. As he’s served a drink, he begins to recite the lyrics to ‘Old Town Road’.

The song’s bassline strike up and drinks on the bar counter begin to shake from the vibrations.

Elliott simply puts his drink down and ambles out. The ad ends with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

In the second teaser, Lil Nas X is mounted on a horse with a saddle outfitted with speakers blaring out the song.

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