Super Bowl ads reflect gender shift

The Super Bowl, traditionally the focal point of any good man-cave, is no longer just an interest of men. Last year, more than 51 million women tuned in to the event, making it a game changer for the NFL—and advertisers.

According to a recent survey by Advertising Age, 55 percent of American women watched at least one regular season NFL game last season, and women account for 20 percent of all fantasy football participants.

While the NFL has done its job, appealing to the female audience; it is now up to advertisers to deliver those fans to their clients. In order to capitalize on this growing fan base, advertisers must revisit the question, what do women want?

The answer appears to be more family fare.

Since 2004, NFL has been promoting more family-oriented half-time entertainment and fan attractions. It also recently launched a new line of women’s fan gear called, “It’s My Team.”

Some advertisers and their clients have also altered their audience approach by using cozy animals, talking babies. For example, the most popular Super Bowl advertisements as rated by USA Today’s “Ad Meter” include the E*Trade talking babies and the driving monkeys. 

Ads that include cleverness and humor are most appealing, a survey by PHD Worldwide Media, suggests. The survey also found that cute animals were a close second.

But that doesn’t mean advertisers are moving away from the idea that sex sells.

“Especially given the female viewership, advertisers have to be broadly acceptable without being polarizing,” said Tim Calkins, marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Of course there are exceptions like that depend on being polarizing as part of their marketing strategy.”

Each year, companies such as Axe and rely on beautiful women to carry their campaigns, and this year will be no different. Mercedes Benz has partnered with model Kate Upton for a commercial that is sure to be a topic of discussion.

In the ad, the model is taunting a football team washing new Mercedes Benz C-Class in revealing attire for the entire 90 seconds of air-time.

 Upton/Benz screen grab“With fewer sex appeal ads running, it makes companies like separate themselves. It makes their sex-driven ads standout,” Calkins said. 

In general, “Marketers are very cautious about what they run,” Calkins said. The Super Bowl is almost as synonymous with flashy advertising as it is football. And, like the NFL, advertisers are quick to adapt to a changing audience.

More than half of all women polled in the PHD survey reported that Super Bowl advertisements using sex appeal equally targeted both genders. Seventy-four percent of women aged 18 to 34 said they liked the sexy images in the previous year’s Super Bowl advertisements, compared with 84 percent of men in the same age range. 

“Today women are increasingly owning their sexuality for themselves and thus women, particularly younger women, have little problem seeing empowering female sex appeal used in advertising,” said Emnos consultant Leah Wawrzyniak.

“Still, I would challenge advertisers to find a way to embrace female sexuality without the woman being a mindless servant or the man displayed as weak.”

Calkins said the bottom line is that “savvy marketers test everything.”

He referred to an ad that fans won’t see during this year’s Super Bowl.

“A testing process that just prevented Coca-Cola Co. from running a Super Bowl advertisement involving camels that has drawn a lot of criticism,” he said.

As for the Mercedes Benz ad, “You can safely assume it tested well in the marketplace prior to the Super Bowl,” Calkins said.

Most advertisers agree that nothing compares with the reach provided by the Super Bowl, which offers a rare opportunity to enter the household of more than 100 million viewers. For that reason, Super Bowl advertisers strive to create advertisements that are both memorable and relatable for a mass audience.

“As an advertiser, the best Super Bowl ad is the one that can broadly resonate with the most viewers,” he said.


Scott Kitun/The Medillian

Scott Kitun/The Medillian

Each year St. Patrick High School, in Portage Park, and St. Viator High School, in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, compete to see who can collect the most toys for the annual Walter and Connie Payton Foundation Christmas Party.

This year is no different.

St. Patrick has outdueled St. Viator in the annual Christmas toy drive two of the past three years.

“Having played for St. Viator and competing against St. Pat’s and coach Galante, I am truly appreciative for everything they have done for my family and our foundation,” said Jarrett Payton, son of the Chicago Bears’ legendary running back Walter Payton.

Known by the nickname of “Sweetness,” for his graceful running style and generous personality, Walter Payton was well-known for giving back to the community and especially to the children, his son noted.

Following his passing in 1999, Connie and their children, Jarrett and Brittany, established the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation to carry on their father’s legacy of sweetness.

By hosting toy drives over the past decade, the foundation has provided Christmas joy for thousands of underprivileged children throughout the city of Chicago, Jarrett Payton said.

“I just remember as a little kid my dad letting me go to the toy store and fill up a cart with anything I wanted. Then he would pull into a poor neighborhood and just pop the trunk and I would look at him like he was crazy,” he said. “Then, he would look at me and explain what it meant to be blessed and how to bless others and we would give all the toys away. That’s how it all started.”

For the past four years the Gary family, of 686 Buena Vista Dr. in Glen Ellyn, has hosted an annual Christmas party for the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation.

Last year alone, St. Patrick’s helped to collect over 300 toys for the annual toy drive and already this year according to St. Patrick Principal Joe Schmidt, they are on pace to collect even more, having collected over 250 toys to date.

“The foundation is very dear to our hearts and this party is a thank you to all of those who get involved,” Christy Gary said Saturday evening at the party.

The growth of the foundation has relied on the effort of families such as the Gary’s and on schools such as St. Patrick High School and St. Viator, where Jarrett was a star football athlete at quarterback and running back before his pro days in the Canadian Football League and the NFL.

“We always had to face Jarrett and St. Viator in sports and I got to know Walter over the years. I grew to have such respect for him that we retired his jersey, number 34,” St. Pat’s Athletic Director, Brian Glorioso said.

“Actually, each year the boys that do the most community service get to wear number 34 for the day,” he added. “That’s the kind of respect we have for the Payton’s.”