Forget The Ads. What Does It Take To Win The ECommerce Super Bowl?

Brahm Buck

Over the past decade, Super Bowl advertisers have complemented their investment with a surround-sound approach, attempting to create a closed loop to measure Super Bowl efficacy. Doing so required investment in PR, digital, social strategies, and even newsrooms (I was complicit, having overseen the Oreo team that created the Dunk […]

Over the past decade, Super Bowl advertisers have complemented their investment with a surround-sound approach, attempting to create a closed loop to measure Super Bowl efficacy. Doing so required investment in PR, digital, social strategies, and even newsrooms (I was complicit, having overseen the Oreo team that created the Dunk in the Dark Twitter ad during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout as the unofficial kickoff real-time newsjacking spree).

This year more than any other year, the connection between a Super Bowl ad and an actual purchase is closer than ever. With almost half the country adopting online grocery shopping this year, the likelihood of seeing an ad and sparking a click to “add to cart” is greater than ever. Well, maybe not for an electric Cadillac, but certainly for a bag of chips.

With the retail search box functioning as the new endcap or pop-up display, Super Bowl advertisers, or brands who make products that people consume during the Big Game (e.g. chips, beer, wings), now need to think about how their brands show up in eCommerce. 

So let’s say you’re the brand manager for a snack brand that has spent millions on TV advertising and PR for a Super Bowl ad. But when your consumer searches for “snacks” on Amazon, Walmart.com, or Target.com the week before the game, your brand does not show up at all on the first page of search results. It’s the equivalent of your products not being on shelf at a brick-and-mortar grocer.

Now, imagine if you were the brand manager for Pringles, another Super Bowl advertiser. When a shopper searches on Amazon to buy Pringles for the big game, she sees ads for Ritz at the top of the page. Ritz is using a tactic known as conquesting – buying ad space on Pringles’ brand terms to steal awareness, based on Profitero data pulled from January 25-31. While Pringles does capture 52% of its paid search results, Ritz is getting 21%.

With less than a week to the showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, some of this year’s advertising brands weigh in on how they’re connecting the dots.

Scotts Miracle-Gro: In this past year, 30 million new people began gardening with 75% of them indicating they will do it again this year. Ensuring Scotts Miracle-Gro is top-of-mind at the onset of gardening season is important towards capturing demand in 2021, which may explain their first-time investment in a Super Bowl Ad. But the “commerce trinity of online shopping, in-store experiences, and coordinated media activity and investments will lead to the best experiences for any consumer and a productive one for brands and retailers as partners,’ said Patti Ziegler, Chief Digital Officer, Scotts Miracle-Gro. From Jan 25-31, they captured 75% of branded sponsored results on Amazon, Target.com, and Walmart.com, according to Profitero. 

Huggies/Kimberly-Clark: Huggies is also a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, which they’re using as an opportunity to launch their new global brand campaign. While they’re not sharing the specific tactics of their marketing plan, they have shifted budgets to digital. It’s clearly working, as they’ve captured more than half the sponsored search results for their branded keyword, with Seventh Generation conquesting 9%.  Says Zena Arnold, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at Kimberly-Clark, “Brand and performance marketing efforts are no longer mutually exclusive, and we view every brand-building moment as a new opportunity to also inspire consumers to buy – digital commerce simply enables this in a more frictionless way.”

PepsiCo: Few companies are more synonymous with the Super Bowl than PepsiCo. While the flagship Pepsi brand won’t be advertising, ads for other PepsiCo brands like Doritos, Cheetos, Rockstar Energy and Mountain Dew will be featured. Connective tissue is key, and they’ve lined up multiple retailer partnerships to ensure an “omnichannel marketing approach ahead of the big game,” says Michal Geller, SVP, global eCommerce marketing at PepsiCo, from giving online shoppers a curated PepsiCo shopping experience to personalized offers and more. 

M&Ms/Mars: M&Ms is previewing its Super Bowl ad via Zoom four days before the game. Their eCommerce tie-in? “Offering a hybrid e-commerce call to action on February 7th that will allow our consumers to gift a bag of M&M’S® to a loved one or friend,” says Shubham Mehrish, Vice President of Data Analytics Management and Integration at Mars. Shoppers can already buy NFL branded M&Ms on their Super Bowl landing page.

Hellmann’s/Unilever: Hellmann’s is taking a slightly different approach. Rather than focusing on buying their product, they’re raising awareness of food waste, while conveniently offering a solution of Hellman’s as “an ally or ‘secret weapon’ in the kitchen to be more creative with what’s left over in their fridge to make a delicious meal,” says Rob Master, Vice President of Media and Digital Engagement at Unilever. Even with that in mind, Hellmann’s is “is loaded up with retail partners and we will have an active digital campaign and response-driven approach leading up, during and post-game,” says Master. Leading up to the game, from Jan 25-31, Hellmann’s captured 100% of branded search results on Walmart, and 60% on Amazon, ceding 14% to Blue Plate.

Planters/Kraft Heinz: While not advertising this year, Kraft Heinz is making a splash by giving away the cost of a Super Bowl ad to those who have performed acts of kindness this year, in their campaign called “A Nut Above.” VP of Kraft Heinz Global eCommerce Elizabeth Bennett says, ”Brands need to be wherever, whenever and however consumers choose to shop if they want to win, which is why a seamless omnichannel experience, coupled with a mix of traditional and non-traditional media to deliver the message, is critical.” Planters now has a large digital ad running in the Snacks section of Walmart.com

At the time of publication, most ads haven’t been fully revealed, so it remains to be seen who will best connect the dots between online and offline. Also at the time of publication, there are zero Jason Alexander hoodie sweatshirts for sale on Etsy, though Bernie Mittens are still doing well. On Sunday, how many Super Bowl advertisers will be owning their branded and non-branded keywords? We’ll do our own post-game wrap-up of who won the eCommerce Super Bowl this time next week.

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