Do Super Bowl Commercials Even Matter to Gen Y?

Super Bowl

A debate has gone on for years in the marketing world; is the insane cost of a Super Bowl ad worth it?  Some argue that Super Bowl spots have lost their clout, especially with Gen Y.  This just isn’t true… Gen Y loves Super Bowl commercials like everyone else; just make sure they are good.

Gen Y can be considered the anti-commercial generation.  We grew up with an individualistic outlook and a general distaste for those talking “at” us.   These characteristics combined with an upbringing that included the VCR followed by the DVR makes Gen Y the perfect commercial hating generation.  For the most part this is true… except on Super Bowl Sunday.

Now I realize that I am in the minority, I actually like commercials (but hey, I’m a marketing guy).  This is not the case with most of my peers.  In fact, I can only think of a handful of people other than myself that can tolerate commercials, but come Super Bowl Sunday, everyone is instantly glued to the TV and is a die-hard commercial fan.  What other event in our history has accomplished this feat?

The Super Bowl does it every year.

The true test of the weight that a Super Bowl commercial carries isn’t necessarily the spots that came out in recent years; because frankly I don’t think they are nearly as good as they have been in the past (but that’s a whole different article).  The true weight can be measured when you ask Gen Yers their opinions of past commercials.  One can just say the title of the spot and the majority of Gen Y will remember the spot and their feelings.

Let’s try it… Do you remember?

  • 1984
  • Terry Tate Office Linebacker
  • Budweiser Frogs
  • Tabasco Mosquito
  • Wassup?!
  • McDonalds – The Showdown (Horse)
  • Go Daddy (The original)
  • Sprint – Crime Deterrent

Gen Yers will remember the majority of these commercials.  Some of these spots ran over 15 years ago (one over 25 years ago) but the widespread knowledge of them demonstrates what an great impact a Super Bowl commercial can have.  Now compare the recall rate of these good spots to that of other 15-year-old commercials.

For example, I remember the Budweiser Frogs just like it was yesterday, and I was 10.  Most Gen Yers can’t remember the majority of their lives when they were 10, but I still remember Bud, Weis and Err.

Some say that the defining campaigns for Gen Y now come in nontraditional forms: mobile, social, viral, events, etc.  Gen Y may prefer these forms of “new media” on an everyday basis, but none of these methods can create the buzz and recall that a good Super Bowl ad can.  Marketers are also becoming more effective in their targeting of Gen Y and are turning these highly coveted television spots into internet sensations.  This gives us an opportunity to interact with the commercials; something we LOVE to do.

Yes, we (Gen Y) are different in many ways, but our love for Super Bowl commercials is no different from those who came before us.  Bring on Sunday!

Todd Liss Hi everyone, I'm Todd. I recently completed my MBA coursework in marketing and decided to to blaze my own Gen Y trail and start my own business. I now spend my days helping small to medium companies improve their online connections with their past, current and future customers. Twitter: @ToddLiss

View all posts by Todd Liss

15 Responses to “Do Super Bowl Commercials Even Matter to Gen Y?”

  1. Christine

    Thank you, that is good to know! For the past few years I've worked during the Super Bowl and always have to go searching for them. :)

  2. McKenzie Lawton

    I agree with Angela. I'm not too big on the football, but bring on the commercials!

    I definitely think people are wrong about Gen Y. They think we don't watch television advertisements, but they're the only ones we actually pay attention to. The Super Bowl has become huge just for the commercials drawing in more than just sports fans. I always try to watch all of the commercials post-game online.

  3. Adam Di Stefano

    I'm Canadian, and in Canada, American commercials aren't broadcast, because the Canadian broadcasting networks that pick up the American feeds replace the ads with Canadian ads. This has always been the case.

    I'm also a football fan. Every year I watch the Super Bowl with a group of friends who run around like crazy people trying to find a place where the game is being picked up from an American satellite signal, because that's the only way they'll see the commercials, and that's the only reason they watch.

    So, do Gen Yers care about Super Bowl commercials? In Canada, at least, I think it's safe to say they do.

    Glad you decided to write this article, Todd.

  4. Scott Templeman

    I am with you as being part of the anti-commercial movement. Thanks to the internet I no longer have to watch live television and suffer the endless interruptions that rarely influence my purchase habits. While I remembered all the examples you gave, I don't own a Mac, drink Bud, use Tabasco, eat at McDonald's, or subscribe to Sprint. The Super Bowl has become just as much a celebration of catchy commercials as a game to determine the world's best football team. I think with media shifting to the more social settings of the web, this annual Festival of Commercials may be due for some evolution itself. Great insight Todd!

  5. Carlak

    Super Bowl fever doesn’t reach to the shores of Australia. Yet there is always hype around the commercials that accompany.

  6. Andreana Drencheva

    For my entire life I've watched exactly 5 minutes of American football (yes, I am calling it American football because that is how 98% of the world calls it). However, for the past 5-6 years I've seen every commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl, because they are funny. The power of the Internet, what else can I say :)

  7. toddtheodore

    This is all great input. I'm interested, is there anyone out there that disagrees with anything I said in the article or any of the comments?

  8. Kristen Fritz

    I know nothing about football but love the Super Bowl because of the ads. There's so much hype about which commercials will air for the event, and even though some of them aren't that great I enjoy partaking in the excitement.

  9. Mark Boles

    I loved all of those commercials and so did most everyone else. But I in particular am in the business so I'm inherently biased. I will say however that SB commercials have fallen off considerably in quality and now most of the commercials are hype mongers. The reality is that nothing will surprise us, enlighten us or get us to change our behavior. All of the brands that advertise don't need awareness. For Zappos to run a basic awareness spot with perhaps an offer of free overnight shipping would probably shut down its servers and it's not necessary given the cost. Stick to the business strategy.The Super Bowl is done in my mind.

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  11. Momily

    I think the Ads between the superbowl game are very interesting! And it's a good way to relieve the tension of superbowl. Some of them did work, I can still recall them, like Dorito, Dove, Coke and


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