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Releasing Super Bowl Commercials Before The Big Game Is A Horrible Trend That Needs To Die

What would Super Bowl Sunday be without commercial breaks? 

Frogs croaking out the word "Budweiser." Frolicking Clydesdales. Superstar-laden beverage ads, or Michael Jordan and Larry Bird shooting hoops for a bag of McDonalds. Such memories aren't just major parts of advertising history, they're memorable parts of television history, at large. And the first place these commercials debuted was between plays during the Super Bowl.

Sadly, the tradition of Super Bowl commercials has begun to falter, as humankind crawls toward moving away from linear broadcast television and embraces viewing programs both live and taped via selected streaming. With audiences living online and consuming the big game through online snippets, companies large and small have begun looking for a way to get those sweet game day dollars elsewhere. That has caused some advertisers to debut their Super Bowl ads online before the big game.

Such early debuts occur in a few places — it could be "Entertainment Tonight," or it could be an official YouTube page — but no matter where it is, it's a problem. Releasing Super Bowl commercials before the Super Bowl is not only damaging to audience enthusiasm for the game itself, but also encourages audiences to hop between channels while the game's playing out, defeating the purpose of these big-budget, star-filled commercials in the first place. Let's dig deeper into why this trend is a downright awful idea that makes absolutely no sense for advertisers and networks alike.

Releasing Superbowl commercials early ruins the suspense

It's hard to hold the attention of audiences who come equipped with smart phones. These days, audiences are as likely to use the break between quarters to check their phones as to get up and use the bathroom or grab a snack from the fridge. And yet Marketing Brew reports that 79% of the 1,050 people they and Harris Polls surveyed in January reported that they're excited for whatever ads this year's Super Bowl serves up.

This is why debuting commercials early ruins that anticipation. With everyone from People Magazine to Forbes giving consumers a single go-to page to see the pre-released commercials before Sunday rolls around, why should they sit around during the game to watch what Fox serves up as the game goes on? True, some advertisers are holding back their big reveals for game day — the prime example being fan betting website FanDuel. The website is set to debut a live ad with former pro Rob Gronkowski during the commercial break in which he will kick a field goal during the advertisement (per Sports Illustrated). But they're in the minority, with companies as diverse as Downy, Doritos, and WorkDay all previewing their ads ahead of the big kickoff.

Why bother watching the Super Bowl during the breaks?

Another danger is counterprograming, of which there is plenty during the Super Bowl. While competing networks used to offer up repeats of popular shows or big screen movies during the Super Bowl, this year will see NBC putting out a double-dose of "America's Got Talent: All Stars." Naturally, those who love animals can always turn the dial to the "Puppy Bowl," which will offer up its usual sweet shenanigans and a kitten-related halftime show. 

The ultimate point is, naturally  — why should one hang around watching Fox between plays if they've already seen every commercial beforehand? Especially when it's possible to time down to the second how long each break is going to take, which means viewers can check their texts, zoom to the kitchen, and make it back to the living room before missing the latest call.

Casual viewership, naturally, is the lifeblood of events like the Super Bowl. After all, Variety reports that audiences for the game are likely to crest over 100 million viewers for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic — 50 million more viewers than watched the AFC Championship. That means 50 million viewers who either aren't regular football viewers or are single-team followers will be tuning in Sunday. When audiences are disinterested in football itself and are mainly around for the spectacle, giving away all of the goodies ahead of time just ensures an audience that slides away into the ether. Which is just a weird decision on the part of the companies advertising, considering that Variety claims they're coughing up over $6 million for every 30-second spot.

Teasing a Super Bowl commercial online is better than just releasing the whole thing

So what'll build anticipation for each commercial while keeping those tantalizing spoilers just out of reach? Trailers and teasers can do wonders to excite an audience, while making sure audiences still show up during each break for the main event. That is, assuming that studios don't follow suit and start releasing their Super Bowl trailers early, thus defeating the purpose.

Some companies, meanwhile, are splitting the difference by releasing teasers for their commercials online, while not giving away the goods just yet. Like FanDuel, Crown Royal has been teasing their Dave Grohl-centric ad with a series of mini-commercials leading up to the debut of the ad during the game. Avocados from Mexico also went the teaser route by giving a sneak peak of their Anna Faris ad without showing us the main thrust of the commercial. And Pringles touted an ad featuring resurgent pop singer Meghan Trainor (and one of her songs) that didn't even give the tiniest clue as to what lies ahead for the viewer, just showing Trainor at a stadium munching away at a bag of chips in casual clothing. 

These teasers are a fun way to both sell your wares before the Super Bowl but also prevent the audience from learning too much about what's going to occur before the big game begins. It's the best of both worlds, and thus the best way to get people excited for your Super Bowl commercial without ruining the surprise days ahead of the game. Hopefully, these companies giving everything away beforehand can take this lesson to heart.