Marketing Briefing: Despite the rapid rise of the creator economy, the Super Bowl relied on traditional celebrities — a lot of them

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For all the talk of the importance and rapid growth of the creator economy, few brands tapped creators for the Big Game stage this year. 

The Super Bowl is one of the few monoculture moments left for brands to show up and get the attention of a live audience that may actually pay attention to the ads. Given the varied audience and the need for mass appeal, marketers turned to celebrities — so many celebrities (several ads featured multiple celebs) — this past Sunday in hopes of connecting with consumers during the big game, according to agency execs. 

“You need names and faces that are recognizable cross generationally,” said James Nord, founder of influencer marketing shop Fohr, when asked about the lack of creator representation in linear Super Bowl spots. “Now that culture has fractured into hundreds of thousands of small branches, even somebody who is hugely influential in a number of those branches is going to be completely anonymous to others.” 

Many of the celebrities tapped by major marketers for the Super Bowl spots were recognizable and appealed to the mass audience in a way that many creators don’t yet — if they ever will. Throughout the 59 ads that aired, there were 80 celebrities featured with the average age of the celebrity featured clocking in at 49, according to Fohr’s celebrity tracking for the Super Bowl. 

“It’s the broadest mainstream segment that you’re speaking to so you’re looking for who’s going to be the most recognizable to everyone,” said Mae Karwowski, CEO and founder of influencer marketing shop Obviously, who added that the appeal of many influencers who dive deep into a cultural niche doesn’t translate to the mass appeal that brands need on Super Bowl Sunday. 

It’s not just recognition that had brands choosing celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Devito, Beyonce, Tina Fey and Usher, among others. Most of the celebrities in the ads are either actors, directors, sports stars, musicians or otherwise long standing members of the entertainment business. The outsized budgets of Super Bowl ads, where just 30-seconds of media costs $7 million, let alone the production costs, marketers may be more risk averse when it comes to choosing talent. 

“You’re basically locking in the performance you’re gonna get and you’re leaving very little risk on that vector for your investment,” said Nick Miaritis, chief client officer at VaynerMedia, of brands’ decision to lean on well-known celebrities over influencers. “When it’s a creator or influencer, they may need to play it a certain way based on who they are and what they’re famous for whereas an actor is a chameleon that can play any part.” 

Matt Fleming, svp of celebrity and influencer at The Marketing Arm echoed that sentiment in an email: “Celebrity actors, musicians and even athletes, if they’ve done a lot of endorsements, tend to have more experience acting/performing in commercial productions, while most creators excel at, and prefer, creating content in their native platform.”

That’s not to say that brands didn’t use creators for the Big Game but that creators were used to “support and surround” campaigns, noted Miaritis, which allows creators to play into their “equities as influencers” for brands. Brands like T-Mobile and Hellmann’s, to name a few, tapped various creators to do just that — create content as they normally would for their audience but with the brands and their Super Bowl efforts mentioned — before the Big Game. 

“A lot of the brands that ran Super Bowl commercials, ran influencer campaigns in tandem on social media,” said Vickie Segar, founder of influencer marketing shop Village Marketing. “[Marketers] did a good job running the appropriate media with the appropriate talent — major celebrities on their TV spots and really strong influencers running their own type of creative and content [on social channels], which I think is exactly the way that it should go.” 

Choosing the right talent for the right media is just one element of Big Game advertising. Even if marketers have the right talent, relying on the celebrity to make a Super Bowl ad work rather than a big idea is a much bigger problem than creator versus celebrity.

But that’s an annual problem. See you next Super Bowl.

3 Questions with Emil Martinsek, CMO at travel activity platform GetYourGuide

Get Your Guide has a vast creator and influencer community. How do they show up in your marketing?

What we’re finding is that as they grow, they’re learning how to produce better content and really engaging their audiences with their brand and our brand. And as a result, we see this great connection between what we do with our creative community and the lift in our brand awareness. So we have these really large influencers who have become successful and they’re sharing tips and tricks and all kinds of stuff with the smaller guys. So it’s become this organic growth in the community which you know, has been really fascinating.

Is Google’s cookie deprecation your win or loss?

There’s a couple of things within this to think about as a marketer. The first is that everything’s moving from [deterministic] to probabilistic. Which means that instead of being able to accurately measure every little interaction, you have to make models of customer behavior, channel behavior. This shift is an opportunity for marketers to really reconsider how they reach and talk to customers. We’ve shifted our tools and our measurement frameworks over the last three years into this more probabilistic model world.

Diversification is becoming a bigger deal now that everything is an ad. What does that look like for your company?

I don’t think there’s really new channels per se. What I’ve really seen are different ways of leveraging those channels. So for example, we found that in linear TV in the U.S., in our testing last year, we had done a lot of advertising and secondary programs, regional programs and then also national programs. We basically found [that] the national programs are the only ones that really give us the impact that we want to see, and you can complement that with this whole array of digital channels. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

The Kansas City Chiefs may have beat the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night, but they weren’t the only winners of this year’s Super Bowl. As the Super Bowl remains one of the last really huge cultural moments, advertisers spent big for a chance to get in front of millions of viewers simultaneously. Software company Brandwatch reveals this year’s winning brand moments. See details below:

  • Out of all the branded and advertised conversations during the Super Bowl, Temu garnered an astounding 32%, making them the winning brand.
  • There was one star who dominated the online conversation. Out of more than 98,000 mentions discussing celebrities, Beyoncé garnered 75%.
  • 5.6% of all Super Bowl mentions this year talked about Taylor Swift. In comparison, Travis Kelce is the most mentioned player, but only got around 30k mentions, representing 1.1% of all Super Bowl mentions. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“It’s great to have big budgets as a marketer. But in some ways, when you have a big budget, I don’t think you push your creativity in the same way.”

— Duolingo’s CMO, Manu Orssaud, on why the brand opted for a five second regional spot for its Super Bowl debut over a 30-second national ad.

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