Will Super Bowl Advertisers Score On NBC’s Free Live Stream?

NBC will show the digital audience a separate ad load on its live stream. TV advertisers could play it safe or break out with custom-tailored commercials just for online viewers.

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This week, NBC rolled out its big plan to make the Super Bowl available via a free live stream to tablets and desktops — including the half time show for the first time. The live stream will feature a separate commercial load from the TV broadcast, giving advertisers have a chance to experiment and connect with digital viewers with different messages. Will they take a chance or will most play it safe?

The network is limiting the digital inventory to the game’s broadcast advertisers. Some advertisers are choosing to run the same creative on both TV and digital, but many will run different creative on the live stream. Additionally, not every TV advertiser will have a spot on the live stream due to limited digital inventory.

It’s not the first time digital ads will be showing during the live cast of the Super Bowl, but TV Everywhere is growing and brands are getting savvier at integrating traditional campaigns with digital — as we’ve seen with social media integrations.

Reaching “The Trend Makers”

So what will advertisers serve up to viewers like me as we stream the game? We’ll be in the minority — last year’s game set a record with 111.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen; FOX estimated 2.3 million watched its online stream of the game. We can bet the digital audience will increase over last year, but certainly TV will continue to dominate.

“These days, people watching the Super Bowl on a live stream are the trend makers and innovators and the people who we struggle to find elsewhere,” says Lee Maicon, Chief Strategy Office at 360i, the digital agency that delivered Oreo’s real-time marketing coup with its “You Can Still Dunk In the Dark” tweet two years ago. “The challenge should be for brands to use new platforms to break through to this audience in an inspiring and intriguing way.”

“You’re One Click Away From An Action”

On the one hand, it’s easy to look at the digital viewership as a measly few million people — a drop in the bucket — compared to the 100-plus million that will tune in on TV. And, let’s face it, reaching the biggest mass market out there is the point of running Super Bowl TV ads.

But the live stream provides an opportunity for valuable audience segmentation and experimentation — a way for brands to connect with viewers who are on the leading edge of TV Everywhere. Advertisers seem to recognize this. NBC has said demand for digital inventory among Super Bowl advertisers was swift, with ad sales doubling since 2012 — the last time the network broadcast the Super Bowl — and wished it had more inventory available.

Those spots also won’t get any extra visibility on NBC’s Tumblr site for the Super Bowl, which will showcase the TV ads just after they air. The live stream app will have a link to the Tumblr site so those of us watching the live stream can catch up on the broadcast ads.

“For now it’s all about experimentation and understanding the different ways in which people consume content on the traditional TV versus the streaming option,” says Maicon. “This year is a great chance to understand that behavior and pilot new ways of playing across the different platforms.”

Nicole Estebanell, SVP, Media at Publicis Groupe’s DigitasLBi, which has done digital work for clients such as Coca-Cola, Taco Bell and Motorola, acknowledges the desire among Super Bowl advertisers to get as much out of their TV ads as possible, but cautions, “Yet on the other hand, running the same creative on TV and digital makes no sense at all.” In addition to different KPIs, “if you’re already online, then you’re one click away from an action – which is not true for TV – so it’s wise to take advantage of that. Finally, try turning the question around: would you run your digital creative on TV?”

“Last year’s audience may have been small, but I suspect we will see this year’s audience even bigger,” predicts Maicon. “Given the relative desirability of the broadband only/streaming audience, it really gives us an opportunity to break through to a difficult-to-encounter, but highly desirable target.”

So far, advertisers have been quiet on their digital plans for the game. Here’s hoping this is the year advertisers make outgoing plays to dominate the live stream and capture the attention of digital viewers.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Ginny Marvin
Ginny Marvin was formerly Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day-to-day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin wrote about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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