Celeb collabs, eye-popping ad spend and the NPD: What is the true value of the Super Bowl for snack producers?

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

There is so much more to the Super Bowl than the Big Game. Pic: GettyImages/Arseniy45
There is so much more to the Super Bowl than the Big Game. Pic: GettyImages/Arseniy45

Related tags Super bowl PepsiCo Frito-Lay consumer behavior Super Bowl snacks Pringles Hormel foods

Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest food consumption day in the US (pipped at the post by Thanksgiving), which for major snack producers, translates into billions of dollars spent on coveted TV spots, billboards, celeb reinforcements, immersive experiences and NPD. It also means many more billions earned in sales.

This year, Super Bowl-related consumer spend is expected to punch in at around $17.3bn, an increase of nearly a $1bn over last year. With a record number of Americans planning to tune in to the Big Game – around 200.5 million (more than 60% of the US population), according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) – that’s an opportunity no serious manufacturer can afford to pass up.

This year’s matchup is between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, to be held for the first time in Las Vegas on Sunday, February 11. The halftime performance by Usher is expected to be a drawcard in itself.

Almost two in five Americans plan to watch 20 minutes or less of the actual game. For many, the bigger excitement is all the hoi polloi that comes with it.

Americans take their Super Bowl parties seriously and 31% are likely to spend more time planning for it than for a holiday celebration (24%) or a graduation party (8%), according to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Char-Broil.

The same research found the halftime show (55%), commercials (45%) and drinks (40%) outweigh the competition on the field (38%); while a whopping 77% believe that snacks are a game breaker. Frito-Lay’s annual Super Bowl Snack Index found one in three guests cite running out of snacks to be worse​ than their team losing or having to put up with chatterboxes during the game or celeb-forward commercials.

Location, location, location

Super Bowl fans Getty Jon Feingersh Photography Inc
Pic: GettyImages/Jon Feingersh Photography Inc

Super Bowl parties represent a huge sales boost​ for manufacturers, supermarkets and foodservice operators. The NRF survey disclosed 112.2 million people plan to throw or attend a party this year, while another 16.2 million will watch it at a bar or restaurant. Conversely, the Index also revealed an uptick in symptoms of #JOMO (Joy of Missing Out: delight in canceling plans and putting on sweatpants) with 81% of fans preferring to watch the game from the cozy confines of their couch than venturing out into the Las Vegas party scene. Parents (27%) however, are more likely than non-parents (15%) to want a night out on The Strip.

And here’s the ultimate gamechanger. According to the Index, 46% of Americans would rather celebrate surrounded by delicious food than their friends. Game Day will see each individual spending around $86.04 on Super Bowl paraphernalia – merch, apparel, decorations, TV, BBQ, etc – but the main chunk of that (80%) is spent on with food and drinks.

“The Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon that we look forward to being an integral part of each year,” said Denise Lefebvre, senior VP of R&D for PepsiCo Foods.

“Whether Americans choose to enjoy it with a quiet evening or at a large social gathering, it’s clear that culinary creations will rule the day.”

Serious snacking

Super Bowl snacks arinahabich
Pic: GettyImages/arinahabich

Some foods are synonymous with Super Bowl Sunday.

If last year’s stats are anything to go by, a whopping 1.45bn chicken wings will be consumed over the weekend, according to the National Chicken Council (NCC). Crunching down on salty snacks is also expected to increase. Last year, SNAC reported snacks sales jumped 10.5% to $616m during Super Bowl Week, with the super sellers being potato chips and tortilla chips. In fact, Sarah Zou, clinical dietitian at the Osher Center for Integrative Health at University of Utah, said 11.2 million pounds of potato chips and 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips are typically purchased on gameday alone.

Other must-haves are pretzels, cheese snacks and refrigerated dips. Frito-Lay’s Dip Dynasty comprises salsa (27% – best loved by Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X), French onion (21% – a fav among Boomers) and queso (20%). And let’s not forget guacamole – the avo industry reports 20% of its annual sales take place during Super Bowl weekend.

As the Big Game approaches, retailers kick into high gear with sales, instore promotions and massive displays of the products fans most want: salty snacks, frozen appetizers, beer and soft drinks. Grocers also expect to see a spike in perishable items like prepared foods, cold cuts, salads and cheeses.

Inflation won’t damper that enthusiasm, according to ecommerce accelerator Pattern. Although the average inflation rate currently sits at +3.4%, the most popular Super Bowl snacks are still seeing inflation well above that number. However, consumers have indicated they are willing to pay 12% more at checkout for a basket of Super Bowl goodies this year.

“It’s an American holiday,” added Andy Keenan, exec VP of Advantage Solutions, a provider of sales and marketing services to consumer goods manufacturers and retailers.

“The Super Bowl is like a second Thanksgiving, where people gather in huge numbers and it’s all about food, family, friends and football.”

Mammoth ad spend and celeb tie-ups

Dinamita x Danny Ramirez Portrait #1
Danny Ramirez

With Super Bowl LVIII set to be one of the most-watched sports games in 2024, it’s not surprising it presents the world’s biggest stage for advertising. It’s a massive opportunity for marketers to stick in the minds of consumers for the rest of the year.

According to Kantar estimates, companies spent almost $450m on in-game advertising during the Big Game in 2021, while last year, Fox alone secured $600m in gross advertising revenue for its broadcast of SBLVII.

The average cost this year for a 30-second ad is $7m – in comparison, the first commercial to air during Super Bowl was $37,500 back in 1967 – and the most expensive ad flighted to date is Amazon’s 2022 Mind Reader commercial ($26m for a 130-second spot, starring real-life couple Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost).

However, those eye-watering prices don’t deter conglomerates like PepsiCo Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s and Hormel Foods competing for the most attention.

While Google Pixel led in strategic ad rankings with its #FixedOnPixel spot in the 2023 Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, Doritos, Pringles and Planter’s Peanuts each earned top marks. Annually, Kellogg School students grade the ads in real time – based on strategic criteria known as the ADPLAN (attention, distinction, positioning, linkage, amplification and net equity) – and produce a final ranking of their most (and least) effective advertisers.

“A lot of money is on the line for any brand that advertises in the Super Bowl, and they put themselves in position to benefit from the exposure by bringing awareness to their product offerings,” said Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and co-lead of the Ad Review.

Companies also regularly home in on celebrity partners​ to make their propositions come to life, and this year is no different. Doritos is tapping the lure of Top Gun’s Danny Ramirez and Wednesday star Jenna Ortega to make its Dinamita spot the spiciest Doritos Super Bowl yet. Football legends Rob Gronkowski, Marshawn Lynch and Troy Polamalu – with a combined seven Super Bowl victories between them – rediscover the taste of victory with the ubiquitous shower of confetti bursting from bags of Lay’s, Cheetos and Tostitos.

Frito_Lay_M_G_knuckles 2

“Snacks are a key part of gameday – especially when coming together to watch the Super Bowl – and no one does it better than Frito-Lay,” said Gronkowski.

“I had a blast reliving some of those Super Bowl memories and creating that experience for the fans with Marshawn and Troy.”

Other celebs to rock out an SB appearance this year include Sir Anthony Hopkins (Stōk Cold Brew), Kris Jenner (Oreos), Chris Pratt (Pringles), Jeremy Renner (Silk), Martin Lawrence (Oikos), Ice Spice (Starry, PepsiCo’s new lemon-lime soda), Jelly Roll, David and Victoria Beckham (Uber Eats), and a myriad of others.

Chris Pratt

And so much more...

In addition to their big time advertising campaigns, snack producers are boosting excitement with immersive experiences and sweepstakes.

From February 8 until gameday, fans are invited to the Frito-Lay Chip Strip at the New York, New York Hotel to try their luck at the Frito-Lay Snackpot, take a seat in the hottest ride on the Strip or feel the love at the Cheetos Chapel. The snack giant has also rolled out specially marked Taste of Super Bowl products in retailers across the US, so no fan will have to go through JOMO.

For this NFL playoff season, Cheetos is embracing the second-best concept with its latest creation: Cheetos Crunchy Buffalo. Buffalo wings have long maintained their spot in the spotlight, so Cheetos is claiming the title of the second-best Buffalo thing.

Keeping to the 'two' theme, the PepsiCo brand has enlisted the second overall 2023 NFL Draft pick and Houston Texans quarterback, CJ Stroud, as its Super Bowl ambassador. It is also giving LV-based fans the chance to win the second-best Super Bowl viewing experience. While it might not beat watching the game live at Allegiant Stadium, one fan and five of their closest friends will get an exclusive watch party, complete with an appearance from Stroud.

Fans across the US also have the chance to win rewards that are 'second to none' – from  bags of Cheetos Crunchy Buffalo to a $22,222.22 cash prize – by dropping a chicken wing emoji on Cheetos’ Instagram page.

Cheetos Crunchy Buffalo 2

Tostitos – which proclaims to be the official Chip & Dip of the NFL – is once again opening the doors to its free, limited-time culinary experience. At Tost by Tostitos, diners will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime Tostito’s-forward meal prepared by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.  

HERO_ Kirk Cousins Tost by Tostitos Asset #1
Pic: Kirk Cousins

One fan will also win the ultimate Super Bowl experience, including travel and accommodation, a pair of tickets to SBLVIII and a VIP reservation at Tost by Tostitos with tableside service by Kirk, Vegas style. To qualify, fans must follow the brand’s Insta, like the posts and comment on which game day dish they like the most.

And despite being across the pond, around 50% of Brits will tune in to the Big Game, so Aldi has stepped up to cover all bases with an NFL Snack Helmet that holds a variety of halftime snacks. The design features removable snack compartments for easy cleaning and is available in red, blue or black. It’s a great way to get your head into the game or to get ahead of the game and is available across the UK for an RRP of £14.99.

Aldi_NFLSnackHelmet (003)

Meanwhile, Doritos Dinamita is dialling up the heat for gameday with four fiery flavors – Flamin’ Hot Queso, Smoky Chile Queo, Tany Fiery Lime and Hot Honey Mustard join Chile Limón – some in the brand-new Dinamita sticks format, available in retail across the US for an RRP of $2.49 (4oz) and $5.99 (10.75oz).

HERO__Doritos_Dinamita_Full_Lineup

“Doritos has a long history of delivering fan-favorite Super Bowl commercials, but the new pack-a-punch flavors, unique shapes and some spicy stars will make Dinamita’s Super Bowl commercial a campaign that will get snackers across the country buzzing like never before,” said Tina Mahal, senior VP of Marketing for PepsiCo Foods North America.

So, in summary, the best part of the Super Bowl is obviously the snacks, so it little wonder that it presents an eye-popping lucrative opportunity for snack producers.

And while victory might be sweet, it also comes with a side of post-game recovery. Fans of the winning team are 56% more likely to take a celebratory sick day than their counterparts, according to Frito-Lay’s Super Bowl Snack Index.

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