Can’t Afford A Super Bowl Ad? Here’s the Playbook for Smaller CPG Brands

By Nishat Mehta, President, Global Products and Solutions, IRI

The NFL Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated CPG marketing events of the year, even before the amazing few weekends of playoff football that we have enjoyed recently. Commercials during the “Big Game” reach a nationwide audience of over 100 million people, rapt by one of America’s greatest past times. This year, CPG giants including Anheuser-Busch InBev, PepsiCo and Kellogg will be investing up to $6.5 million for each 30-second spot, according to AdAge, not including the cost to actually produce a high-quality ad. It’s a marquee opportunity that can drive strong brand equity and sales.

Of course, for most CPG brands, the cost of a national Super Bowl ad is prohibitive. But there are other ways that smaller CPGs – including regional and middle-market brands – can design highly impactful marketing campaigns on smaller budgets. Whether using your brand’s own consumer data or by partnering with third-party data companies like IRI that can identify your consumers, there are many options available to you on a small budget.

Here are three of the best “bang for your buck” strategies for smaller CPG brands looking to drive growth.

1. Share Your Full Story With Targeted AVOD Consumers

According to a study done by Roku, 73% of streamers searched online for a product or brand they’d seen advertised on streaming TV. The explosion of AVOD (Advertiser-supported Video-On-Demand) services specifically, like Hulu, Peacock and Roku, offer CPG brands with smaller marketing budgets a very effective opportunity for several reasons:

  • Viewers are more engaged. Digital video ads are a huge market, where advertisers are continuing to allocate more and more of their budgets. But the relaxed, entertainment-oriented AVOD programming audience is significantly more engaged while viewing ads than audiences viewing digital video online while searching the web or other interactive experiences. Catching your target consumers at a time when they are more open to your message can drive stronger conversion.
  • Pinpoint your audiences based on historical behavior and content consumption. Compared to linear TV – like the Super Bowl – AVOD campaigns leverage user data to reach significantly more specific gender, age, location, ethnicity and income demographic audiences. Most importantly for CPG brands, ads can be targeted based on offline purchasing behavior to reach the subset of a show’s audience that is most relevant. Ads can also be more purposefully positioned alongside more tailored, relevant programming.
  • BYO Data. Advertisers can bring their own deterministic data, potentially augmented by their third-party partners (such as IRI in the CPG industry) to further support campaign targeting, ensuring your marketing budget funds impressions that reach the right people.

AVOD video ad campaigns allow your brand to retain the benefits (sight, sound, motion) of the linear TV ad format, so companies with lower budgets -- especially those with a complex story best told via video -- can maximize their budgets through targeted AVOD and drive impactful results.

2. Embrace Social Media

Social media campaigns also offer strong benefits for smaller CPG brands, driving significant ROAS with sophisticated audience targeting, increased reach through earned media, and real-time optimization tools to control costs and drive results:

  • Set Your Budget. Various payment models are transparent and easily scalable, providing an economical way for smaller CPG brands to compete with incumbent category leaders for awareness and market share.
  • Custom Audiences. Similar to AVOD, audience data within social media platforms enables advertisers to create custom audiences of platform users to ensure marketing resources fuel effective impressions. Advertisers can also bring their own first- or third-party data to most platforms, to support even more efficient reach.
  • Optimization Tools. All major social media platforms now provide accessible tools to optimize a campaign to reach a brand’s goals, including A/B testing on creative, using sales or other outcome data. These optimization solutions are so good that brands should consider the tradeoff between the effort required to launch the perfect campaign weeks from now vs. launching a good-enough campaign today and using the first days to optimize it based on achievement of the stated objectives.

3. Retail Media

Another impactful and relatively cost-effective strategy for smaller CPG brands is retail media. Many retailers have programs — broadly characterized as “retail media” —allowing their supplier partners to collaborate on in-store and online marketing and promotions using purchase-based data from the retailer’s loyalty programs. Retail media offers several benefits:

  • Right Place, Right Time. Retail media campaigns catch consumers at the last stop in their shopping journey – as close to the point of sale as possible. And consumers already have a level of trust in the retailer where they choose to shop, which can support your brand’s equity and awareness by association.
  • Loyalty Data. Purchase-based loyalty data from loyalty programs is a fantastic predictor of future purchase behavior. For newer brands or those with little to no first-party consumer data, working with retailers provides access to that rich data set, which offers the best conversion impacts.
  • Pay Where You Play. Retail media programs allow you to limit your advertising spend to only where you have distribution. For new brands launching in select markets or retailers, leveraging the brand capital of your retailer partners to drive success in-stores or online is a highly impactful strategy.

Looking Forward

It has been well reported that the pandemic has been hard on smaller CPG brands and businesses, as consumers sought out familiar, big and nostalgic brands – a reversal of years-long trends where the growth was in smaller, niche brands; and larger CPGs had the stability and resources to continue to invest in marketing and their supply chain despite a volatile environment. But the long-term trend pre-pandemic was towards growth from smaller players and I believe we will return to growth from small brands as the landscape normalizes. That means the stage is set for small CPG brands to harness the value of data and insights to inform their media strategies and look for the best “bang for their buck,” to drive growth. Harnessing the power of data and measurement today can turn your brand into a Super Bowl advertiser of the future.

For help measuring and maximizing your return on advertising spend, reach out to your IRI representative or

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