No one knows who will win Super Bowl LII on Sunday, but the handful of travel brands running ads during the game are betting millions of dollars that they’ll score a swell of bookings and eyeballs during the annual most-watched TV program in the United States.
So far, teasers for ads from Turkish Airlines and Universal Parks & Resorts have been released (watch below) and there’s speculation whether other travel companies that traditionally run ads during the Super Bowl, like Disney, will make a return.
As the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles prepare for game time in Minneapolis, Minnesota in a few days, many Super Bowl viewers are likely more interested in watching the highly coveted ads as much as the game itself. It’s that sentiment that some brands will capitalize on and hope for a big pay-off.
For the 2018 game, the average 30-second ad costs about $5 million. Some 110 million people are expected to watch the game in the U.S. and around the world, making it the world’s largest single TV audience.
The cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad has grown more than 85 percent since 2008, when ads for the game cost about $2.7 million, for example.
Some brands such as Airbnb that ran an ad during last year’s Super Bowl won’t be returning this year. Airbnb released a new ad this week that ran during U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. The ad featured Haiti, El Salvador, and various African countries in response to the president’s disparaging remarks last month about those countries.
Airbnb’s new ad is in line with the theme of diversity and inclusivity that characterized the company’s 2017 Super Bowl ad, but Airbnb confirmed it has no plans to run an ad during Sunday’s game.
Turkish Airlines, on the other hand, will run its third consecutive Super Bowl ad this year. The airline’s first Super Bowl commercial, “Batman vs. Superman,” aired in 2016 and last year’s ad that featured Morgan Freeman has garnered more than 53 million views on YouTube. Turkish Airlines said its Morgan Freeman ad helped it reach more than 118 million people during and after the game, or 48 percent of U.S. households.
Turkish Airlines’ 2018 ad will feature Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Turkish-American surgeon and TV personality, and will launch the brand’s 5 Senses campaign that encourages travelers to use all five senses to maximize their trips.
The airline flies to nine destinations across the U.S. and sees more potential in the country. “Our brand is one of the world pioneers in sports sponsorships and we deem sports as one of the key areas to relay our message to the masses,” said Ahmet Olmuştur, chief marketing officer of Turkish Airlines.
But Olmuştur said it’s difficult to say if the Super Bowl ad can be linked to an increase in bookings from U.S. travelers, and added that the commercial will later air in Canada and across Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.
It’s also been widely reported that Tourism Australia will run a Super Bowl ad about Crocodile Dundee, but so far Tourism Australia hasn’t confirmed whether such an ad will air. Multiple publications have reported that the destination marketing organization will run an ad that teases a Crocodile Dundee reboot this summer starring Danny McBride and Australia tourism ambassador Chris Hemsworth, among others. There’s no record of such a film in the works and agencies that appeared in credits for the teasers declined to comment, leading to suspicions that the supposed film was a (well-received) marketing stunt.
Destinations like Ecuador have run Super Bowl ads in the past to try to build brand recognition among U.S. travelers, with Ecuador spending $3.8 million for a 30-second spot in 2015.
Other companies such as Amazon and Groupon, which appeal to many travelers, will also stake their claims to the Super Bowl audience. Amazon’s ad “Alexa Loses Her Voice” will feature CEO Jeff Bezos and various celebrities promoting the voice assistant, which companies like Expedia have been experimenting with. Groupon’s commercial won’t specifically reference travel, but does tout the importance of supporting small and locally owned businesses.
Universal Wants to Share The Limelight
The two-time Super Bowl champion has a starring role as “vacation quarterback” in an ad for Universal Parks & Resorts, promoting its theme parks in both California and Orlando. It’s the first time the park operator, which is part of Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, has run an ad featuring all its U.S. properties. Universal released the ad Tuesday.
In the 30-second ad that will run during the game [embedded below], Manning utters football-related quips as he rides roller coasters, taunts a Jurassic Park raptor, gets heckled by a Transformer, and explores The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
“You know, I really wanted to play quidditch, but we’re kind of a football family,” he says in a reference to the competitive ball-and-broomstick game played in the Harry Potter books.
The ad, along with a longer version that will run during NBC pre-game programming, mostly showcases rides that are in place both in Orlando and Hollywood. But it does not highlight Universal’s latest new addition, the Volcano Bay water park in Orlando, which opened in May. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Hollywood in 2016, several years after the first phase opened in Orlando.
“This is just a great case of finding a celebrity with very high likability and high familiarity with this particular (huge) TV audience,” said Martin Lewison, a professor at Farmingdale State College who studies the theme park industry. Manning, he said, is a hero for parents who would be likely to vacation in Florida and “does a great job playing the smarty-pants doofus and wins you over. Add some football jargon, cute kids, and some appealing ride and character highlights and you’ve got a winning ad.”
The company’s last Super Bowl, according to AdAge, ran in 2010 when the initial Harry Potter attraction first opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. A pre-show ad in 2015 highlighted a new Fast and Furious attraction in Hollywood. Super Bowl ads in previous years included a promotional offer during the recession in 2009 and a marketing push in 2002, when the U.S. saw the number of tourists drop following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
International tourist numbers have again been on the decline — down 4 percent through July of last year – and Lewison said a Super Bowl ad was a good way to target potential domestic visitors. Universal declined to discuss the strategy behind the ad.
And as Universal and Disney continue to battle it out for more visitors, expanding parks and adding hotels, it makes sense for much of that investment to go toward advertising.
“Universal has made clear that they are seeking continued market share gains in Orlando and 2018 provides the opportunity for further gains ahead of Disney World responding with its Star Wars expansion in 2019,” said Pacific Asset Management analyst Bob Boyd, who follows the theme park industry. “The combination of a strong domestic economy and a relatively open competitive environment in Orlando makes this year an opportune time to try to reach a large audience planning their summer vacations in mid-winter.”
So what about Disney, which has run “I’m going to Disney World” commercials featuring winning players after most Super Bowl games for the past 30 years? The company hasn’t confirmed its plans for this year. Said a spokesman: “We are exploring it as we do every year.”
Watch Universal’s and other brands’ ads or teasers below.
Universal Parks & Resorts