This Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots will clash in the highly anticipated Super Bowl LI in the final step towards the coveted Lombardi Trophy. The Super Bowl is one of the most celebrated sporting events in the United States, as last year’s matchup drew 111.9 million total viewers, according to Statista. As a result, corporations are presented with a prime opportunity to reach a high level of exposure through the utilization of television commercial advertisements during the game broadcast. A detailed report by Fortune explains that a 30-second commercial could be obtained for a whopping $5 million during last year’s Super Bowl. Given these staggering numbers, the effectiveness of the commercials is a critical determinant of whether these corporations experience a significant increase in sales and publicity.
One key component when it comes to commercial advertising is its ability to gauge the interest of the viewer, even if he or she does not exactly fit into the company’s target market. When examined from a sports marketing perspective, new customers may be gained if they feel inspired in some way to follow or participate in a specific sport. Prospective consumers may be influenced to purchase a sports product if manipulated by specific internal or external factors. Additionally, consumers may develop an interest in a sport or sports product through a fundamental marketing concept known as the Learning Theory, which explains three basic characteristics that may occur in any order to influence the consumers’ involvement in a sport. These types of involvement are known as behavioral, cognitive, and affective involvement.
Behavioral involvement includes physically participating in the sport through practice or competition, or in a fan’s scenario entails rooting for their team at home or at the competition itself.
Cognitive involvement entails educating oneself in order to gain more information and knowledge about a specific sport. Individuals may utilize sources such as the internet, sports networks, and game broadcasts to further increase their understanding of the rules, traditions, and significance of that sport.
Affective involvement deals with the attitudes, feelings and emotions that a consumer has toward a sport, which may include pre-game tailgating, watch parties, or fan superstitions. Many sports corporations use this technique in commercials to tap into the viewers’ emotions, therefore producing within them a desire to follow that sport and purchase that company’s product or products.
An excellent example of how these factors influence a consumer’s buying decision is seen in this 2011 New Balance television advertisement entitled “Tell Me”, featuring Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia:
Of the three components that form the Learning Theory, this commercial places strong emphasis on the idea of cognitive involvement. It is intended to stir the viewers’ emotions, as the 5’9″ All-Star rattles off multiple statements that he has heard over the years from people who doubt his ability because of his lack of height. Pedroia is seen overcoming these criticisms throughout the commercial, in turn generating a supportive reaction from the viewer. This is a beneficial marketing technique for New Balance because they will likely gain customers who want to start playing baseball despite any personal doubts they have had in the future. It may make the viewer think, “if this 5’9″ man is one of the elite players in baseball, and wears New Balance cleats while doing it, then maybe I should purchase a pair and give it a shot too!” From here, the consumer will likely exercise cognitive involvement in order to grasp the overall concept of the game, and ultimately reach behavioral involvement when they begin practicing baseball and playing in games.
A series of individual and environmental factors influence the behaviors of the consumer as well. The most obvious individual factor of consumers based off this commercial is his or her motivation. Those who purchased New Balance cleats after seeing this advertisement likely did so because they buy into the “underdog” concept that Pedroia models. Of all the environmental factors that influence consumers to purchase the product, market behavior is likely the most important, since much of fan behavior relates to the success of their favorite players. New Balance adequately harnesses this fact through the endorsement of Dustin Pedroia in their “Tell Me” advertisement, as he is one of the most talented and beloved players in all of Major League Baseball.