The Super Bowl is back and so is the trash-talking, retired Vikings defensive tackle John Randle with his latest commercial about how a good rest in his Sleep Number smart bed inspired the 53-year-old to prepare for an NFL comeback.
The 40-second comedic spot first aired during the playoffs and will run again Sunday during Super Bowl LV. It is the creation of Minneapolis ad firm Griffin Archer.
The boutique firm is one of two Twin Cities ad firms airing commercials during the biggest televised sporting event in the country. Minneapolis-based Colle McVoy is running two lighthearted ads for Inver Grove Heights-based Cenex. One of the Cenex "brand awareness ads" features a customer jumping into the wrong car after making a snack purchase. A second ad stars a begging dog and his softhearted owner.
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, the Cenex and Sleep Number commercials air just as perennial players such as Hyundai, Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Pepsi sit out Super Bowl 2021, citing the pandemic.
Some sitting out this year's broadcast have said they will donate their usual ad spend to COVID-19 vaccination aid and charitable causes. Others are skipping the big day to save money.
The Sunday airtime won't go unused as newcomers fill the void. COVID-affected firms — Uber Eats, DoorDash, online car seller Vroom and virtual freelance service firm Fiverr — are joining the Super Bowl fray for the first time. Chipotle is also a first-timer, celebrating farming and sustainable practices in an ad that poses the question, "Can a Burrito Change the World?"
The newbies join Amazon's Alexa and perennial participants Frito Lay, Pringles and Bud Light during Super Bowl LV. Companies pay about $5.5 million for 30 seconds of national airtime. Regional ads command far less.
Depending on how many states they reach, regional ads "can be as little as 10% of a national Super Bowl [spot]. It is an incredible bargain," said Mike Caguin, the chief creative officer at Colle McVoy. "You basically have a captive audience who is eager and paying attention to the advertisements. And you have the halo effect of being among these big-name brands. Super Bowl viewership was over 99 million on linear TV [last year] with roughly 3 million watching via digital/streaming."
Colle McVoy is no Super Bowl newcomer. It previously produced regional gameday ads for Associated Bank, Explore Minnesota and Cenex.
The agency plucked two of its Cenex ads from 2016 and 2018 to run this Sunday. They will air in nine states. Replaying ads instead of creating new ones meant no one risked being infected on set.
"For Cenex, we knew we had a whole cadre of [past] work that we had done," Caguin said. "So instead of trying to navigate a complex production with COVID going on, we thought, 'They may have run before, but certainly not everyone has seen them.' "
Sleep Number became the NFL's sleep and wellness partner three years ago. This year, it spent roughly $1 million to run its regional Super Bowl ad in Minnesota, where Randle lives. The regional TV ad will run on WCCO and online via ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Hulu.
Sleep Number, Griffin Archer and Drive Thru Productions filmed Randle's comedic spot in Wayzata, largely using Zoom and a skeleton crew on set. While other companies scrapped ad plans, Sleep Number never considered it.
"As the official sleep and wellness partner of the NFL, they are in a different place than Budweiser," said Ellie Anderson, founder and CEO of Griffin Archer. "I don't think it would be a time to pull back on messaging that could really benefit someone's health."
Sleep Number Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Brown said his firm took every COVID-19 precaution. "We were in lockstep with our partner, the NFL. A lot of stuff had to go right to pull off the season, the playoffs, and to just get to this Sunday. This is a franchise we have invested in for three years."
The marketing spend has paid off big for the maker of high-tech smart beds, which generated $1.7 billion in sales in its most recent fiscal year. The company boasts yearlong partnerships with the Vikings, the Chiefs, the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL Players Association and other platforms.
For three years, Sleep Number and Griffin Archer worked to outdo their year before with humorous Super Bowl ads featuring Randle, who "was known as one of the biggest motor mouths and trash-talking players in the NFL," Anderson said.
This year, the ad depicts Randle as so well rested he is planning a "comeback" and is "in training" — bench pressing his home refrigerator, running with cinder blocks tied to his legs, high-stepping tires, tackling trees and donning war paint with his teen daughter's mascara.
A positive reception to the ads prompted Sleep Number to post a new and fourth ad on YouTube this week.
"I think we could all use a little bit of humor and levity right now," Anderson said. "On this national stage there will be a real mix of ads this Sunday. Some emotional that are pulling at the heart strings and some serious. We will see a mix."
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725