Why do advertisers post Super Bowl teasers and sometimes premiere full new ads before Game Day? According to some ad experts, it started with "The Force."
The 2011 Volkswagen commercial, which launched midweek before the big game, racked up 11 million views by the Saturday before the Super Bowl. Now, four years later, it has collected more than 61 million views, making it a viral hit.
The auto company's ad features a little boy dressed in a Darth Vader costume trying to make the force his own as the "Imperial March" music from "Star Wars" plays in the background.
"That was a game changer," said Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch North America, whose Los Angeles branch created the advertisement. It piled up views on YouTube before its Super Bowl debut. "[The] Darth Vader spot set the trend in how we measure the value of a Super Bowl commercial."
Google executives agree that the VW ad helped show how advertisers could engage with viewers ahead of the Super Bowl game.
"It used to be that brands would be very secretive about their ad leading up to the game and sharing the copy of the ad in advance was almost unheard of," said Crystal Dahlen, Google's communications manager. "Now the trend is about having a teaser video for the ad itself or posting the ad early."
Super Bowl ads are no longer just about the TV time or wowing audiences on Game Day.
It comes as no surprise, especially since many tune in to the Super Bowl for more than just the game. An estimated 51% of Americans think of the Super Bowl as a social event or entertainment spectacle versus a sporting event, according to a survey conducted by communications firm Burson-Marsteller and strategic consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland.
About 55% of millennials surveyed said they consider the Super Bowl to be a social or entertaining spectacle as opposed to a sporting event. A third of millennials would prefer a boring Super Bowl with great commercials versus a great game with boring commercials.
Leading to game day, many advertisers — including Toyota, Carnival Corp. and Bud Light — now release "teaser" spots for their brands, specifically for YouTube.
The Google-owned video platform has helped to create a rich after-life for the Super Bowl ads, which can cost as much as $20 million to produce and air.
Super Bowl ads were watched more than 160 million times on YouTube before last year's game even began. Commercials that were released before they aired drove about 2.5 times more views on average than commercials that were released on game day.
YouTube has a gallery of more than 115 Super Bowl ads or teasers that users can watch, up significantly from last year. The ads have been watched more than 80 million times, up 75% from last year.
These advertisements also help to generate revenue for YouTube. The Web platform's net U.S. video ad revenues totaled $1.12 billion in 2014, according to figures released by research firm eMarketer in December. The projected video ad revenue for YouTube is expected to rise 20% in 2015 to $1.55 billion, the report said.
“YouTube has really become a go-to place for advertisers,” said Paul Verna, an analyst at eMarketer. “It is an essential part of the ecosystem.… Now marketers approach advertising around the Super Bowl as a whole campaign.”