Interpret: Does advertising to Gen Z through the Super Bowl make sense?

With Super Bowl LVII having brought in a six-year viewership high, with more than 113 million viewers watching the Kansas City Chiefs win it all, advertisers paid a pretty penny ($7 million for a 30-sec ad spot) to get in front of all those eyeballs. But who exactly are big brands reaching with their major ad spends? Traditional sports have had an ageing fan problem for years, and the Super Bowl in particular has seen its 18-49 demographic plummet over the past decade.

Interpret’s New Media Measure®  data further highlights the problem, as only 8% of Gen Zers report following the Super Bowl, and that number isn’t much better among Millennials. The bulk of Super Bowl viewership comes from Gen X and especially Baby Boomers. It’s surprising, therefore, to see that a number of big brands “aggressively” targeted the Gen Z audience with cameos from celebrities that would likely resonate with the younger demographic. For example, Pringles featured singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor in one of its ad spots, Doritos teamed with rappers Jack Harlow and Missy Elliot, while Budweiser teamed with hip-hop producer Metro Boomin.

“They decide what’s cool, and specifically in the age of social, Gen Z decides what’s worth a like/comment/share… These specific big brands recognize that — these are brands that consistently work to be part of the culture and if they do their jobs right, young people, the arbiters of culture, like them and give them their vote as a cool brand,” Nitin Dua, strategy director at creative agency Mojo Supermarket, told The Drum.

Young people have always had a say in shaping popular culture, but whether or not they’re tuning into the Super Bowl and viewing any of the ads that were geared towards them is another matter, which is why a strong social media component has to be a part of any campaign that’s targeting today’s youth. That said, the NFL is also cognizant of its fan demographic issue, and the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Rihanna seemed to resonate with Gen Zers. It’s an interesting pivot from last year’s Gen X-leaning show that put Eminem, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, and Snoop Dogg in the spotlight.

As some advertisers experiment with reaching Gen Z, many others played it safe, leveraging the talents of Ozzy Osbourne, Sarah McLachlan, Dave Grohl, Adam Driver, Bryan Cranston, and Aaron Paul, among others. The latter two, in particular, likely struck a chord as they recreated a Breaking Bad scene to promote PopCorners – possibly the last time these two actors reprised their iconic roles as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.