These are odd times we’re living in. Two billionaire presidential candidates (including the current president) are dropping lots of cash on Super Bowl ads. This is not your father’s election cycle.
There are a slew of Democratic candidates vying for the nomination. Some of them, along with President Trump in his reelection bid, are spending unprecedented amounts of money, faster and earlier than in previous election cycles in part due to the inflated budgets of the billionaires running, including Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.
Trump is communicating directly from his pocket to your Twitter feed. Candidates are focusing on things like geotagging as part of their social media strategies, finding and targeting you better than they ever have before based on the data you have provided the internet when you’ve, say, Googled a recipe or streamed something on your ad-supported Hulu.
Days after Bloomberg announced he was running for president, he scooped up 60 seconds of Super Bowl airtime for north of $10 million on one of the world’s largest media stages—because, as his campaign told Adweek, they had heard rumblings that the president had done the same thing.
It’s the first time in recent memory a politician has decided it’s worth spending millions of dollars to reach hundreds of millions of people at one shot during the Super Bowl. That decision alone, in a time of great political tension in this country and abroad, speaks volumes about where they are putting their money, and why.
“They have the budget,” said Lindsay Stewart, CEO and co-founder of Stringr, a digital video marketplace. “Trump has raised a lot of money, and Bloomberg is fantastically, personally wealthy. They can do it so they’re going to.”
That political fight, taken to the largest sporting event in America, is blurring politics and entertainment and branding in a way we’ve never seen before. And because it’s such a unique cycle, we’re not likely to see it again.
Politicians have not traditionally taken out Super Bowl ads—defined as spots that run nationally between kickoff and when the clock runs out on the football game—according to a handful of marketing and advertising experts who spoke with Adweek. Perhaps that’s in part because politicians didn’t used to treat themselves as brands.
“Now, we’re seeing more and more business-minded candidates, and they approach a campaign differently than someone who has a career or record in public service,” said Southwestern University’s Debika Sihi, associate professor of economics and business. “They see it very much as a campaign or business where you do advertise and get ahead of the competition and brand awareness.”
Candidates running for office at all levels have taken out ads during the Super Bowl in local markets. That includes President Obama, who while running his first presidential campaign in February 2008 took out ads in local markets in 24 states during the Super Bowl. This year, there are also bound to be political ads running in local markets, like one from Stacey Abrams in Georgia advocating for the expansion of voting rights.
The value for politicians in taking out Super Bowl ads is the same as it is for brands. A spot in the Super Bowl is a great way to spend your money if you want a lot of eyeballs on the ad, don’t really care about targeting a specific audience and have the budget to spend. These truths, experts told Adweek, have created even more tension as audiences continue to fragment.
In this Super Bowl, you’ll see ads from two of the biggest political ad spenders of this election cycle who will end the race, by all predictions, spending unparalleled amounts of money on advertising.