Viewers of Super Bowl LI understand from the outset that they’ll see 60 or more high-caliber TV commercials, all part of the annual ritual of watching the game. What many fail to realize each year is that they will also see a bevy of “promos” for various TV shows to which the network broadcasting the game hopes to draw attention. Fox expects to air about 30 promos across its Super Bowl broadcast, pre-game and post-game coverage, with about ten of them slated to air in the game itself.
Just like Budweiser and Snickers, networks have something to sell during the Super Bowl, too. Promos typically make up 15% of the Super Bowl’s ad time, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending, and about 25% to 30% of all the ads shown during the actual contest.
The choice of what shows to back often reveals which the network sees as being most critical to its operations. In Fox’s case, the most important pitch it will make on Game Day is convincing viewers to stick around for the launch of its “24: Legacy” revamp, set to debut right after the end of the its post-game analysis. One of the promos will be an effort supported by Samsung, which has a big presence in the drama this season. That effort will alert viewers to a virtual-reality prequel available only via Samsung technology. In all, the 21st Century Fox-owned network expects to air as many as seven different promos for the show, a second episode of which will air on the Monday night following the Super Bowl broadcast.
The promos can often be as fun to watch as the traditional ads – in some cases, even more so. CBS, for example, has sparked water-cooler chatter with its Super Bowl promos on two different occasions. In 2007, the network ran a promo for “The Late Show with David Letterman” showing the talk-show host and Oprah Winfrey watching the game on a couch. The surprise drew praise from viewers. In 2010, CBS threw Jay Leno into the mix, just weeks after NBC said it would return him to late night, ousting Conan O’ Brien in the process. That promo held its own against competing spectacles from Denny’s, GoDaddy.com and even a Motorola spot featuring actress Megan Fox – largely because Letterman and Leno had feuded famously over the years.
Fox’s promo push will start during its pre-game coverage. In the hours leading up to the game, Fox will highlight “24: Legacy, “APB,” “Lethal Weapon, “The Mick” and “Shots Fired.” Just before kickoff, the network will launch a special promo for “Masterchef Junior” featuring a ten-piece orchestra and four kid vocalists trying their hand at a tribute to the song “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from the Broadway play “Annie.” The new song and the routine around it were conceived by Martin Charnin, the play’s original lyricist and director.
During halftime, Fox will run a music-heavy promo for “Empire” that puts a spotlight on the character Cookie, all in an attempt to remind viewers the show returns to the air in March.
In an interesting twist, one promo for “Lethal Weapon” will feature the Asia song “Heat of the Moment,” in honor of John Wetton, a co-founder of the band who passed away earlier this week. Fox secured a go-ahead for the idea from the musician’s family.