“A Coke is a Coke,” but is it worth $5M?

“A Coke Is A Coke,” But Is It Worth $5M?

Each year, the Super Bowl draws more than 100 million viewers, making it not only the most watched sporting event in the U.S., but also the most watched broadcast on television, beating out beloved shows like This is Us and events, such as the Academy Awards. The unparalleled viewership numbers make it also one of the largest advertising stages for brands to “perform” on. But this year, one notable brand will be noticeably absent from the game.

After 11 consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola has chosen not to run any ads during the four-hour stretch of primetime. Instead, they’ve elected to run an ad right before the national anthem. Coca-Cola’s 60-second ad, which is already available on YouTube, features animated characters, both human and imaginary, sharing Cokes while a poem is read in the background, touting a message of inclusivity and diversity. Carrying on the theme of togetherness from past Super Bowl advertisements, the spot was inspired by a passage from Andy Warhol’s book, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol”.

On social media, Coca-Cola will ask fans to share selfies celebrating what makes them different and beautiful, some of which will be recreated using a similar illustrative style as the characters and will be featured in a mural on the brand’s Instagram. Along with this campaign, the Coca-Cola Foundation has announced a $1 million donation to Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which will allow the museum to provide free admission from January 28 through the end of February.

Coca-Cola’s absence from primetime is particularly surprising given that the Super Bowl’s host city, Atlanta, has been the beverage company’s hometown for more than 130 years. Further, Coca-Cola’s rival, Pepsi, is once again sponsoring the Super Bowl halftime show and is hard at work covering the city in advertisements ahead of Sunday night’s game.

Advertising in the Super Bowl is a huge investment for brands. According to Bloomberg News, a 30-second advertisement during this year’s big game will cost between $5.1 – $5.3 million, a figure that has nearly doubled in the past decade for a comparable ad. Do brands see a return on this investment?

The most obvious desired return to brands of advertising investment is increased sales. Many brands report sales increases after Super Bowl ads, yet there’s limited data to verify that claim. Additionally, a survey by Adlucent shows that 87% of those who watch Super Bowl ads are doing so solely for entertainment or social purposes.

Some brands use advertisements to create “brand lift”, the likelihood of someone recognizing a brand after seeing an advertisement, and report seeing increase sales. Wix.com has seen continued growth after each of their Super Bowl slots, beginning in 2015. After Super Bowl 2017 Wix reported that 5.2 million users joined their website-building platform during the first quarter.

The greatest draw for advertisers is the sheer number of people who watch the Super Bowl. Over the past 20 years, the game been the most watched television broadcast on a single network each year, with the exception of the M*A*S*H finale in 1983 and the 1975 fight between Leon Spinks and Muhammad Ali. On that alone, brands may feel that by not “participating”, they’re losing out to competitors.

Without clear return on investment, one can’t help but wonder if Coca-Cola has decided that it’s time to quietly take a step back from the Super Bowl. Their positioning at the start of the big game ensures they’ll catch the eyes of 100 million football fans and retain brand presence, all while saving millions.