One celebrity is no longer enough for Super Bowl advertisers.
Big Game commercials are becoming a team sport, too. In an era when Super Bowl marketers are paying $4 million for each 30 seconds of broadcast time, the advertisers are working every angle to get viewers to pay attention. It's arguably the world's biggest ad stage, with up to 110 million TV viewers expected — plus many millions more oglers via social media.
Some advertisers believe it's no longer possible to stand out with just one celebrity. Several are now widening the field to two, three, four — or more.
Dannon and Jaguar each have three celebrities in their ads. Anheuser-Busch has four, , including Arnold Schwarzenegger — and a rock band. Speaking of rock bands, U2 will perform its new song Invisible in a fund-raising ad sponsored by Bank of America for (RED) to fight AIDS. Toyota's celebrity, former NFL player turned actor, Terry Crews, is teamed with a car full of Muppets. And on Friday, Hyundai is expected to name two celebrities who will star in one of its Super Bowl ads.
"In most cases, it's just the theory that if one is good, two or three are better," says Noreen Jenney Laffey, president of Celebrity Endorsement Network.
Call it the shotgun approach. The Super Bowl audience is so massive that it includes every conceivable demographic, says Darcy Bouzeos, founder of DLB, a sports and entertainment marketing firm. "Using multiple celebrities helps a brand appeal to a more diverse audience." The strategy also helps create a "wow" factor, says Bouzeos. "The audience may be impressed by the shear star power connected to the brand."
The exception is that if a celebrity is very big, the star doesn't typically share screen time. For example, red-hot actress Scarlett Johansson's only co-star is the soda-making machine in her SodaStream spot. And soccer hunk David Beckham, isn't expected to have celebrity company when he shows some skin in his Super Bowl ad for H&M undergarments.
These are some of the Super Celebs we know. More are being kept under wraps. Chrysler, which has plucked Clint Eastwood and rapper Eminem for past Super Bowl commercials, is tight-lipped about its 2014 plans.
Perhaps the key to a hit Super Bowl ad with celebrities is for them to play against their typecast roles. Laurence Fishburne, for example, who starred as the oh-so-serious Morpheus in The Matrix films,reprises the role with a comic twist in Kia's Super Bowl spot, unexpectedly breaking into opera. "It's really going to be funny," says Fishburne, by phone from the Hollywood set where he filmed the spot. "You see Morpheus in a whole new light."
But increasingly, celebrities are being teamed with other celebrities for symmetry or, hopefully, bigger laughs. "Sometimes, the creative works better if it's written for people to play off each other," says Laffey. The social-media impact can be bigger, too, when popular celebrity names are involved.
But beware; celebrities can totally tank, too. A study by the research firm Ace Metrix of 2011 Super Bowl spots reported that ads without celebrities performed more than 9% better than ads with them.
"If you can come up with a great non-celebrity spot, it can be just as effective." says Laffey. "It's all about this: Does anyone remember the commercial after Super Bowl Sunday?"
Celebrities run up the cost of Super Bowl spots. Even the lowest B-lister will demand at least $250,000; A-listers typically get $1 million or more, says Laffey.
How several Super Bowl advertisers plan to blanket viewers with multiple celebrities:
• Lots of everything. Anheuser-Busch, the game's biggest advertiser, will have one Bud Light spot with four celebrities (all in cameos) and a rock band. Schwarzenegger, Don Cheadle, and Reggie Watts are three of the stars, A-B won't yet reveal the rest. A teaser for the ad that aired in last weekend's games breathlessly boasted: "412 actors ... 58 hidden cameras... five rock stars ... and four celebrities."
"When you introduce a new campaign at the Super Bowl called 'The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens,' there's an expectation for the unpredictable," says Rob McCarthy, vice president of Bud Light.
• Lots of villains. British car maker Jaguar is plopping three actors who have played notorious villains — Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong — into a single Super Bowl spot. The use of three "elevates the spot to major motion picture caliber," explains Jeff Curry, brand vice president at Jaguar North America, and using three familiar villains "gives the audience added subjects around whom they can start a conversation."
• Lots of laughs. There's nothing like a prime-time reunion to get folks talking. Three key actors from sitcom Full House — John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier — reunite in a spot for Dannon's Oikos yogurt. "These three guys help to personalize that Dannon Oikos can be a delicious part of every day — including game day," says Art D'Elia, vice president of marketing at Dannon.
• Lots of Muppets. Then there's Toyota, which is linking the Muppets with Crews. "It gives our spot immediate recognition," says Toyota Vice President of Marketing Jack Hollis. "We're able to create anticipation through social media and provide fun and excitement on game day — a time when viewers are expecting a memorable ad."
Crews, in a phone interview, says he knows why lots of game ads have celebrities. "You have to give people a reason not to click the remote," he says. "When Kate Upton shows up in an ad, I guarantee you, most guys aren't going to change the channel."
Alas, Upton, who starred in a steamy Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl spot last year, isn't booked for a Super Bowl ad this go-round — that we know of.