Sunday 8 December 2019

A tale of two sporting events - and how their ads ran

LET'S ALL TACKLE HOMELESSNESS: Ahead of last week's opening Six Nations match the Irish rugby team lined out to urge fans and the rest of Ireland to help by texting HOME to 50300 to donate €2 with all funds going directly to Focus Ireland. Photo: Dan Sheridan
LET'S ALL TACKLE HOMELESSNESS: Ahead of last week's opening Six Nations match the Irish rugby team lined out to urge fans and the rest of Ireland to help by texting HOME to 50300 to donate €2 with all funds going directly to Focus Ireland. Photo: Dan Sheridan
Steve Dempsey

Steve Dempsey

Last weekend, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 in Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California. It's a sporting contest that doesn't mean much on this side of the world - but as an example of advertisers and big brands going head to head, it's pretty compelling stuff.

The game was broadcast on CBS and reached an average domestic audience of 111.9 million viewers. Commercial ad-spend around the game reached a record $377m (€296m), according to Advertising Age's Datacenter. The average price for a 30-second spot was an eye-watering $4.8m.

So if they cost that much, they'd want to be pretty good, right?

Well, they ranged from the amusing to the downright strange. Heinz created a stampede of sausage dogs that leapt into the embrace of humans dressed as giant ketchup bottles. Doritos created a spot where an unborn baby tried to escape from the womb to get at a packet of nachos. Budweiser forgot that everyone prefers David to Goliath and tried to make a virtue of size by taking a swipe at microbreweries and the hipster-powered craft-beer brigade.

Mountain Dew's creative agency was clearly on something stronger than Mountain Dew, creating an ad that featured a slightly creepy hybrid of a puppy, a monkey and a baby, which offered caffeine drinks to three couch potatoes.

Celebrity endorsements were to the fore. Willem Dafoe starred in a Snickers ad that recreated the The Seven Year Itch scene where Marilyn Monroe's dress blew up. Liam Neeson shilled for LG TV in a spot directed by Ridley Scott. Silicon Valley's TJ Miller and a beer tap traded insults. Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler had his portrait created in Skittles. Budweiser (yes, again) had Helen Mirren call drunk drivers "pillocks". Meanwhile, Hyundai created Ryanville - a town populated entirely by multiple versions of Hollywood dreamboat Ryan Reynolds.

But Super Bowl's marketing madness now extends online, with advertisers tracking the social chatter around their spots, the ads' virality and (perhaps most importantly) how many searches they engender.

The Wall Street Journal even ran a live blog that had nothing to do with the football, but was all about the ads. After the experts had looked at all the available data, it transpired that the Doritos ad emerged as the most shared online, but overall it seems that sharing was down.

According to video data and technology company Unruly, the 10 most viral adverts as of Monday morning had been shared online almost 2.9 million times. That's an impressive second-order effect. But it's a 36pc fall from 2015, when the top 10 adverts generated almost 4.5 million shares by the same point.

According to Google, the Super Bowl ads drove over 7.5 million related online searches, with 82pc of those searches done on smartphones. Audi's 'Shoot for the Moon' ad - which featured a retired astronaut reliving his glory days in a fast car to the tune of David Bowie's Starman -garnered the largest number of searches overall.

To a non-American audience, the Super Bowl 50 ad experience was kind of like Donald Trump - big and brash but slightly baffling. However, there was another sporting occasion closer to home last weekend that offered an antidote to the Super Bowl's super-sized orgy of advertising.

Last Sunday, an average audience of 836,100 tuned in on RTE2 to see Ireland kick off its RBS Six Nations defence against Wales.

Before the match, viewers would have seen an ad from Focus Ireland entitled 'Let's All Tackle Homelessness'. The campaign, which includes digital, radio, outdoor and in-stadium executions, features Jonathan Sexton alongside real homeless people singing Ireland's Call. It was paid for entirely by Three Ireland and Boys & Girls was the creative agency.

Homelessness and rugby aren't exactly easy bedfellows - so how did the campaign start?

"When we looked at our sponsorship of the Irish rugby team, we challenged ourselves to give something back to society," says Elaine Carey, chief commercial officer at Three.

"Homelessness is one of the major issues facing us today and we felt it was a worthy cause to support by giving our assets and a €1m marketing campaign associated with the rugby sponsorship to Focus Ireland.

"This campaign sits within marketing and sponsorship, with the initiative aligned to our overall CSR strategy. Three believes the most relevant issue to our business, one to which we can make a difference, is disadvantaged young people."

Carey believes that the campaign has been a success.

"There has been great reaction and feedback online," she says, "which has raised huge awareness and started a bigger conversation, which we hope continues. Donations were really strong last Sunday and are still rolling in."

The campaign will continue throughout the Six Nations with TV, radio and digital. Large format outdoor ads will run across sites in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway and Waterford.

It's a far cry from the wild glut of advertising and media spending that the Super Bowl engenders, but Three Ireland deserves credit for confronting us with an issue that should be a source of national shame - during an event that engenders national sporting pride.

Sunday Indo Business

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