Restaurants Leverage Super Bowl Without Pricey TV Ads


When it comes to advertising during the Super Bowl, restaurant companies don’t need to shell out $3.5 million per spot to be in the game.

There were no national restaurant TV commercials during the National Football League championship last Sunday, but many brands still found ways to leverage the Super Bowl’s power. According to Mountain View, Calif.-based Ace Metrix, a marketing research firm, restaurants were still able to draw millions of Americans, including hard-core football fans and casual observers, to their televisions during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl pregame festivities without the hefty price tag.

“The Super Bowl is not something to shy away from if you have strong creative,” Jonathan Symonds, executive vice president of marketing for Ace Metrix, said. “But it has to be balanced against what you can do with $3.5 million in media buying.

“The Super Bowl looks just like America demographically,” Symonds continued. “Pizza Hut has that strong demographic base, but Taco Bell, for example, is targeted at a younger demographic, and the game may not be right for them.”

Papa John’s flips the script

Even though Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s Pizza is in the second year of a three-year official sponsorship of the NFL, the chain decided not to advertise during this year’s Super Bowl.

But the brand said it was happy with the exposure it gained in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl when the chain’s commercials for its “Super Bowl XLVI Coin Toss Experience” promotion ran.

Watch Papa John’s commercial; story continues below

The promotion asked customers to vote on Papa John’s website to predict whether the pregame coin toss for the Super Bowl would come up heads or tails. If they voted correctly, Papa John’s pledged to offer a free pizza and bottle of soda to Papa Rewards loyalty program members. When the toss came up heads, as the voters predicted, “we had an incredible amount of traffic to our website and Facebook page,” said Chris Sternberg, senior vice president of corporate communications.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the response to our coin toss promotion,” he said. “It was a crescendo to our season-long activation. … We’re very pleased with the growth in Papa Rewards members that resulted from this promotion. You don’t have to advertise in the game to be in and around the game.”