Cheetos Popcorn, Coke Energy—Inside the Art of Launching a New Product in the Super Bowl

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Cheetos Popcorn, pretzel Pop-Tarts, Coke Energy, Mountain Dew Zero Sugar and Bud Light Seltzer all have two things in common: They’re all new additions to a brand’s produce lineup, and they’re all the focal point of ads airing during the Super Bowl.

This Sunday, several brands will be putting their latest offerings on display in Super Bowl ads, a time-honored tradition when it comes to advertising in the Big Game. It makes sense: In a world with more video content options than ever (including ad-free alternatives like Netflix), opportunities to run commercials in front of a large audience are slimmer than ever—and events where audiences are actively interested in watching the ads are even fewer still. As sales expert John Livesay put it: “The Super Bowl is one of the few situations that are left where people watch TV in real time in a group setting.”

With an audience of over 100 million and spots costing up to $5.6 million for just 30 seconds, the Super Bowl, of course, offers brands what will likely be their biggest opportunity all year to make a splash—and with that, brands are putting their newest products front and center in hopes that some of the buzz around the Big Game will rub off on them.

“All brands are striving to have an emotional connection with people,” said Livesay. “If the game is particularly exciting, and people are cheering it on, and then they see your new product, then that same energy and excitement they’ve had from the game transfers over.”

For Cheetos, which calls its release of Cheetos Popcorn its “biggest innovation in years,” or Coca-Cola Energy, the first energy drink released under the Coca-Cola brand, the Super Bowl provides the perfect launch pad for brands looking to create a campaign (or perhaps, a viral moment) around their new products.

“Many of these brands are using the Super Bowl not as the end in itself, but a means to an end,” said Deb Gabor, CEO and founder of brand strategy agency Sol Marketing. “When brands sort of use the Super Bowl as as a platform versus just like a single point in time, they’re seeing that as a great advantage either to start off a longer lasting product launch campaign, or be the centerpiece in a campaign.”

As Jaideep Kibe, VP of Coca-Cola for brand, put it: “There’s no better way than to show up, on one of the biggest culture moments and stages in the country.”

The announcement of a new product has served as a catalyst for several brands to get back into the game after several years without running an ad in the Super Bowl (Cheetos’s last Big Game ad was in 2009), or run an ad in the game for the first time (Pop-Tarts has never advertised in the game before.)

And for food and beverage products, the Super Bowl’s status as a major snacking event helps to justify the expense—there are few other moments where people across the country are near-exclusively eating chips, dip and the like. (Though automotive brands get in the game, too—General Motors and Hyundai are highlighting new features or products in their spots, too.)

“The Super Bowl being the snacking event, I’d say, globally, of the year, there’s no other event I can think of where we get so many eyeballs on a new innovation. ” said Philipp Schaffer, senior director of marketing at Pop-Tarts, which is in the game for the first time this year. “So, to get food into people’s mouth, it made all the sense in the world to introduce this innovation at the Super Bowl.”

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