I’d Like to See One Brand Move Their Super Bowl Ad Budget to Influencer Marketing in 2021

I feel for T Mobile right now.

They ran four ads in yesterday’s Super Bowl. That’s $20 million spent on airtime alone. I can only imagine what the production cost of these videos were. I can only imagine how much they had to pay Justin Bieber, Martha Stewart, Snoop Dogg and Kristin Schaal to be featured in their ads. To justify these costs, T Mobile needed to generate a large amount of buzz.

Did they? I don’t think so.

Activism won big yesterday. The most buzzed about commercials were ones that used their platform to make statements about the current political climate. Ads by Audi, Budweiser, AirBnB and 84 Lumber are driving the majority of the conversation today. 

Brands that stuck to the traditional model of humor, shock value and celebrities aren’t being discussed. Are the marketing executives of T Mobile agonizing over the fact that they didn’t go political? Are they upset that they spent all that money and still missed the cultural zeitgeist? Perhaps a better strategy would have been to diversify their marketing spend.

Thought exercise: what if T Mobile had invested their $20 million in influencer marketing instead? 

The ROI of a $20 million Super Bowl Ad Spend

Determining ROI of a Super Bowl ad is an inexact science. Advertisers are drawn to the large audience (111.9 million viewers last year). A chance for a brand to get in front of that many eyeballs can be very valuable – but it often isn’t.

Jeri Smith claims 80% of Super Bowl ads don’t boost sales or purchase intent. That’s obviously a high number, so why even take the risk?

These 111.9 million viewers are far more receptive to the ads being aired, as they serve for conversational fodder throughout the game itself and the days after. Nielsen reported that last year’s game generated 16.9 million tweets. While this may not lead to direct sales, marketing research and advertising technology company Fluent estimates that the average brand lift generated from ads is 12.7%.

Would you pay $1.57 million per 1% brand lift?

What Would a $20 Million Influencer Marketing Campaign Look Like?

An influencer marketing campaign has a variety of variables. I’m going to have to make a number of assumptions to estimate what a $20 million spend would look like, so again I want to stress that this is just a thought exercise.

If InfluenceLogic was managing this campaign, we would take a “YouTube first” mentality. While all social networks provide value, we value YouTube the most for these reasons:

    • Ability to place CTA links in on-video annotations and cards, as well as in the description of videos.
    • Ability for YouTube videos to rank for important search terms and provide value long after initial publication.
    • Ability to link YouTube accounts to Google AdWords and run remarketing campaigns to viewers.

I’ll also stick to YouTube for simplicity. It’s easier to compare TV viewers to YouTube viewers in this thought exercise than trying to compare them to Instagram or Snapchat impressions. Obviously these would be an important part of any influencer marketing campaign of this scale.

This large budget would allow me to use InfluenceLogic’s identification software to find influencers with large followings that have high engagement scores. While rates will vary, I often find that influencers that are consistently generating one million views a video will charge $50,000 for a dedicated video and about $20,000 for a brief mention in one of their videos. For simplicity, I will extrapolate these numbers.

A strategy I typically like to employ is having an influencer produce a dedicated video that is optimized for competitive keywords related to a brand and augment that video with more “light touch” mentions in other videos from them. I’m going to assume that I can get one dedicated video and three mentions out of each influencer I recruit.

(Note: I’ve gone into more detail about various strategies we use at InfluenceLogic on our blog).

My assumptions:

  1. Successfully recruit 100 influencers that average 1 million views per video they create.
  2. Each dedicated video will draw 500,000 views, on average. These draw less viewers because they are basically an infomercial compared to the other content an influencer is producing, but the viewers that do end up watching are far more likely to take action and connect with the brand featured in the video.
  3. Each video that briefly mentions the brand will draw the influencer’s typical average of 1 million views.
  4. Each influencer agrees to produce one dedicated video and three mentions in videos for a total compensation package of $100,000.

These assumptions would lead to each influencer producing 3.5 million views for the brand, so 100 influencers would deliver 350 million views for a brand.

350 million views for $10 million. That sure as hell beats 119 million views for $20 million.

There are some differences in these views. The 119 million Super Bowl viewers are unique, where the 350 million YouTube views wouldn’t be. But the YouTube views are completely trackable, there would be no way to tell how many of the Super Bowl viewers actually saw an ad.

Additionally, brands could use the leftover $10 million to run remakreting campaigns on all the viewers of these videos, pushing potential customers further down the funnel while using Google’s similar audience feature to identify even more customers based on the highest converting viewers.

The only advantage a Super Bowl ad would have? The potential that the ad could go viral. That’s a pretty big gamble to make, so hopefully brands making this bet in the future are fully aware of what types of conversations their consumers want to have surrounding the big game.

This year, it was activism. Too many brands missed this trend. It was an expensive miss.

It would be fascinating if next year someone takes the budget they have for a Super Bowl ad and instead redistributes it to the content creators who have their fingers firmly on the pulse of what type of content their audience is craving.

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