Should Athletic Brands Invest in Super Bowl Ads?

Super Bowl LI Houston NRG Stadium
The outside of Houston's NRG Stadium, the home of Super Bowl LI.
AP Images.

Super Bowl ads give non-football fans a reason to watch the annual event. But if you’re interested in performance athletic footwear-based ads, the game’s TV broadcast isn’t the place to find them.

According to multiple reports, brands including Budweiser, T-Mobile, Hyundai, Snickers and KFC have secured TV spots for Super Bowl LI (the TV broadcast starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox). But brands that haven’t made advertising plans clear thus far for today’s game are athletic standouts such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

The reason you may not see these athletic brands and others securing TV ad space, according to industry insiders, is their lack of effectiveness in communicating with the target consumer.

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“It worked amazingly back in Bo Jackson’s days and so on; when [Nike] put an ad out there, those things were great. But that’s not how you reach our consumer anymore,” Ankur Amin, co-owner of East Northport, N.Y.-based athletic retailer Renarts, told Footwear News. “The millennial doesn’t respond to hard sells like TV ads.”

However, where you could see marketing directed toward the desired consumer is on social media.

“With Nike in particular and others following over time, brands have moved away from marketing in conventional media and spending much more time on social [media]. I would not be surprised if there were some great YouTube ads that pop up from these brands around Super Bowl weekend. But they won’t have to pay $5 million to have them broadcast,” Matt Powell, VP and sports industry analyst with The NPD Group, explained to FN.

But the rich social media experience alone isn’t what Powell believes is keeping athletic market leaders from flooding Super Bowl LI with promotional content on TV.

“The golden age of Super Bowl ads has passed us. People used to watch the Super Bowl just for the ads, [but] we’ve come out of a couple lackluster years where no ad really stood out and they all seemed kind of derivative,” Powell said. “And how do you do something really clever and unique in short time that hasn’t already been done?”

Powell continued, “[And] I think we’re all sick of advertising and having so much of it in our face all the time. I watch the NFL every Sunday; I record all the games and watch them so I could flip through the commercials. The barrage of ads trying to sell me things I have no interest in buying, trucks and beer, are not high on my list of desired items. I think people avoid advertising as much as they can.”

While Powell believes advertising is largely viewed as a nuisance, there are some still have an interest in the ads delivered during the big game. According to data provided by the National Retail Federation, 17.7 percent of the viewers during last year’s Super Bowl 50 — making up 43.4 million of the 189 million viewers — watched the game for the commercials.

Click here to check out some of the best shoe advertising moments from past Super Bowls.