By The Motley Fool
RISMEDIA, Feb. 1, 2007-Can Peyton Manning win the big one? Can the punishing Chicago Bears defense stifle the high-powered Indianapolis Colts offense?
For many who will tune in on Super Bowl Sunday, the gridiron action is just football filler to endure between commercials.
It may seem heretical, but to these viewers, the big game is all about the prolific, high-priced ads.
With companies paying as much as $2.6 million for a 30-second national spot, it's clear that companies believe they have something to say. However, with so many rich sponsors shouting at the same time, who will be heard? That is the question that only history can answer.
With Brian Urlacher's bone-crunching hits and Marvin Harrison's acrobatic catches on display, purists may shake their heads at the way advertising has taken over the game. Most stadiums bear the names of corporate sponsors. Advertiser banners and electronic ads encircle the playing fields. Yet which scenario do you find more plausible: the de-commercialization of football or Rex Grossman being named Super Bowl MVP?
Don't answer that. The Bears quarterback is due for the game of his life.
Despite the hype behind some of the more lavish campaigns you'll see, the most talked-about spots won't feature big stars or costly budgets. Coming off Time magazine's designation of You — yes, You — as its Person of the Year, it's only fitting that leading brands would turn to folks like you and me to dream up their next commercials.
Amateur ads but not amateurish
PepsiCo's Frito-Lay is leading the way with its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest for Doritos. The soft-drink and chip maker called out for user-submitted videos late last year. It received more than 1,000 entries and narrowed the field to five finalists. Users then voted for their favorite. The winning ad will air during the game.
All five of the finalist submissions are pretty slick. This isn't the typical YouTube crowd, waxing wistfully before their Webcams as they dig into a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Frito-Lay has been milking the user-submitted angle, but it finds itself with several promising spots from aspiring filmmakers.
PepsiCo isn't the only company that turned to its fans to call the next play. General Motors and the National Football League ran contests in which marketing concepts were submitted.
GM flew out finalist teams of college students to complete an ad for Chevrolet. The NFL cast its gray matter out to armchair quarterbacks everywhere. In both cases, winning suggestions are being transformed into professionally produced spots during the big game.
Naturally, it can't all be about You. Many of the big names will be back again this year. Anheuser-Busch will once again lead the way with 10 of the available ad slots. Coca-Cola will air three ads during the game, no doubt to keep halftime-show sponsor Pepsi honest.
It's a bold move for Coca-Cola. The company gave us the timeless Mean Joe Greene ad during the Super Bowl in 1980, but it had stayed away from advertising during the game since 1998.
FedEx will also be an advertiser, yet the more memorable game ad may belong to ex-Fed: Nationwide Mutual Insurance has Kevin Federline in a self-effacing spot that finds Britney Spears' ex failing as a rapper and toiling away at a burger joint.
The ad has already sparked a bit of controversy. The National Restaurant Association says the spot demeans the profession of the 12.8 million members of the fast-food industry.
Speaking of conflict, it wouldn't be a Super Bowl if domain registrar GoDaddy.com weren't tripping up the censors. Earlier this month, the company's CEO conceded that two of its three Super Bowl ads had been turned down.
So who will win the big game? With 45.9 million homes tuning in to last year's game, is it any wonder whom the free-spending advertisers are rooting for?
In a game between Bears and Colts, every marketer wants to be a lion.
This article was reported and written by Rick Aristotle Munarriz for The Motley Fool.