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3 Super Bowl Marketing Wins for Athletes

The first Super Bowl game ever was broadcast on public television in 1967, with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers going head-to-head. Back then, a thirty-second ad slot cost $37,500. This year, the same amount of time on CBS was a 5 million dollar deal. There are many components to sending the correct message, whether it be a picture, a gesture, or a video. When your company is spending that kind of money for half a minute, you want to get all three of them right.

This year’s Super Bowl was full of memorable moments. From the puppy-monkey-baby to Beyoncé’s performance, we were struck again and again by the event’s elaborate production. Sports marketers can learn from the commotion by focusing on the marketing tactics that were used to bring certain brands to the forefront of the audience’s attention.

Super Bowl Marketing Scores

Months after the game has ended, here are three marketing wins from the Super Bowl that stood out to us:

Serena Williams’ Snaps

serena-snapchat-super bowl

Serena Williams’ Snapchat debut took the digital world by surprise, as this is the first year that Snapchat has advertised during the Super Bowl. The newest social media platform to be used for sporting event ads featured a GIF of Williams being doused in Gatorade. Little did viewers know, Snapchat was using special technology that simulated the dunk—Williams never actually got wet.


With 119 million views, Serena’s endorsement helped Gatorade’s brand gain traction across multiple audiences thanks to this simple, yet effective ad.

Peyton Manning’s “Unofficial” endorsements

Peyton Manning endorsed Budweiser (without “officially” endorsing them), which was expected given that he owns a share in the beverage company. Peyton also hugged Papa John on the field after his team won the game, unofficially endorsing one of the largest pizza companies in the country. Though Manning’s gestures were understated, they highlighted his deep connection to two brands in a way outside of the standard TV spot. Whether intentional or not, these events demonstrate the fishbowl effect that many athletes experience: constantly being under public scrutiny while the audience is analyzing every decision against their brand.

Mini’s Marketing

Abby Wambach starred in a 30-second ad for Mini USA, the American division of the British Mini brand. As a retired FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, Wambach was a strong choice for this role. Mini USA was transparent in its technique: listing labels and then having the actors transcend them.

Randy Johnson, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners in the 90s, joined Wambach in the “defy labels” commercial by using his height to highlight the idea of “This is a short man’s car.” Mini USA effectively used multiple athletic endorsements to convey that their product can be for anyone. By using a variety of people, the company used the ad to combat purchase barriers, change the perception of consumers, and ultimately boost sales.

After 50 years of being broadcast on public television, the Super Bowl has had its fair share of shockers and unexpected wins. But 2016 highlighted the various ways that social media and other forms of targeted communication can affect the reputation of a brand, a team, or a player in public and behind the scenes. Being a sports marketer means combining knowledge about communication, technology, and human motivation to craft a message that will impact people’s behavior. Any marketer’s goal is to provide a positive view of a brand and motivate a purchase. Sports marketers leverage their contacts in the media and athletic worlds to promote brands, boost sales, and more.

Interested in learning more about the impact of marketing on the sports industry? Click here to explore the University of Florida’s online Master of Science in Sport Management.

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