In The News

Mercedes Revs Up High-Octane Super Bowl Appearance

Ad Week, January 30, 2013

By Anthony Crupi

With a record eight automotive brands set to air spots in CBS’ broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII, the battle for hearts and minds will be more heated than ever. But one car company has a distinct advantage over its competition.

According to data from ImageTrack, the advertising/sponsorship monitoring service from IEG Consulting and Kantar Media, Mercedes-Benz will win the day, thanks in large part to a naming rights deal that will keep the brand on the lips of CBS Sports broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

Per ImageTrack estimates, New Orleans’ iconic sports venue, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, will garner the automaker around 6 minutes and 19 seconds of exposure during the game broadcast. This assessment does not take into consideration pre- and post-game coverage.

Based on the ImageTrack’s methodology for calculating the value of incidental exposure, the 379 seconds of on-screen shots and mentions from the booth works out to a value of roughly $4.6 million. Toss in a 60-second spot for the 2014 CLA Coupe and the total value of Mercedes’ media exposure works out to around $12.2 million.

If the 90-second version of the CLA spot airs on Sunday—while the final duration has yet to be determined, the ad will air in the fourth quarter—the total media exposure will be worth a cool $16 million.

"Most of the exposure will be a result of verbal mentions," said Jim Andrews, svp, content strategy, IEG, adding that the classic overhead blimp shots will also provide an additional visual push. (Unlike Ford Field in Detroit, which has its sponsor’s logo emblazoned across its roof, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome rooftop signage is somewhat understated.)

Four illuminated "Mercedes-Benz Superdome" signs are also positioned on the building’s four sides

(Next year, when Fox broadcasts Super Bowl XLVIII from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.—the first cold-weather venue in the game’s storied history—the value of the media exposure should go through the roof. Literally. The facility is configured in such a way that the insurance company’s logo will be visible in the vast majority of aerial and indoor shots.)

Andrews added that CBS is likely to give Mercedes a little more attention, thanks to its in-game buy. "The networks tend to play favorites," Andrews said. “You’re much more likely to get mentions if you also buy a spot or two within the game itself.”

Of course, Mercedes is already garnering a lot of attention for its Satanically entertaining creative, which features actor Willem Dafoe as Old Scratch and cameos from Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model Kate Upton and R&B standout Usher. (That the company licensed the Rolling Stones’ timeless "Sympathy for the Devil" adds even more spice to the mix. Conservative estimates put the cost of such usage at around $1.5 million.)

The ad was created by Merkley + Partners and New York director Dante Ariola.

What’s particularly interesting about Mercedes’ Super Bowl buy is that the CLA Coupe won’t roll out onto dealer lots until September.

"Usually an automaker will begin this sort of awareness campaign in the summer, or around 90 days before the car is released," said Andrews. “But seven months out? They’re going to have to plan a lot of activity in that expanded time frame if they want to keep people talking.”

In another break from tradition, the CLA Coupe is a decidedly budget-friendly model, with a starting MSRP of just $29,900. Compare that to Mercedes’ S-Class Sedan, which boasts a base sticker price of around $92,350.

"This is more of a mass-market vehicle than a high-end brand," Andrews said. “The idea is to hit more of a mass audience, to appeal to a younger, less affluent consumer than those targeted by the S-Class.”

Meanwhile, the other seven Super Bowl auto sponsors expect to make some noise of their own. With a 30-second spot for the Forte set to air in the third quarter and a 60-second Sorento ad primed for the fourth quarter, Kia has invested an estimated $11.4 million in media. Toyota, Lincoln, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Audi are all in for $7.6 million a pop, while Chrysler has not confirmed its investment.

One thing to look for at game’s end is how CBS will finesse the presentation of the Super Bowl MVP Award. As an official NFL sponsor, General Motors pays upward of $200 million a year for certain entitlements—among them, the presentation of the MVP trophy. But because it punted on investing in one of CBS’ $3.8 million in-game units, GM effectively waived its rights to any on-air postgame positioning.

CBS Sports sales chief John Bogusz last fall said the postgame sponsorship has been sold, although he declined to identify the client. When asked about how the network would handle the post-game interlude—GM is expected to go through with the ceremony, which effectively will be invisible to the 111 million or so U.S. viewers—CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus on Tuesday deferred to the sales team. CBS Sports sales declined comment.

Last year, GM spent $165.1 million on regular season NFL broadcasts, per Kantar Media. A single Super Bowl :30 would account for just 2 percent of the automaker’s total NFL budget.

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