Detroiters watching Super Bowl ads leading up to the big game might recognize some familiar local names in one of the commercials. That is, if they can pick them out of the 35 other brand logos being flashed on the screen at the same time.
McClure's Pickles, a small, family-owned business in Detroit, and the Detroit Beard Collective, a locally made line of men's grooming products, are two of the companies featured in Newcastle Brown Ale's "Band of Brands" commercial. The one-minute ad pokes fun at the pay-to-play space that is Super Bowl advertising by featuring a non-stop onslaught of product placement and logos for 37 small but scrappy companies.
"There's so much static in the consumer goods space, so it was a way to draw attention, in a tongue-in-cheek way," said Bob McClure, who co-owns the pickle business with his brother, Joe. "I thought, what a great opportunity to have a funny take on how smaller brands seek to get above the fray."
The commercial itself will not air during the Super Bowl. Newcastle, a beer brand brewed by Heineken and imported from England, cannot afford to spend the kind of cash needed to get a spot in the high-profile slot.
According to reports, the going rate for a 30-second spot during the bowl game on NBC is about $4.5 million. That's a price neither Newcastle nor any of the featured brands would be able to afford on their own.
Instead, the Newcastle commercial will air online and in Palm Springs, California, which it says on its website is the only NBC affiliate "where we could afford airtime." Online viewing is free.
The commercial starts out with a couple moving into their new home and celebrating with some Newcastle brown ale. Soon, the two start name-dropping brands from the floors, to the fridge to the food. The names and logos pick up the pace until it's a non-stop deluge of advertising as the man and woman seem to try to outdo each other.
For its part, McClure's is featured early on, with the man wearing a green McClure's Pickles T-shirt. Then, at the end of the commercial, he holds up a jar and says, "McClure's Pickles."
Bob McClure, who is also an actor, has shot many commercials and knows how it works. He's thrilled that his company was able to get about three seconds of air time.
"I'm not looking for my Web sales to spike. I'm looking for people who would normally not be aware of the McClure's brand to take a second look," he said. "Usually, you have to spend a lot of money for that. Having a national commercial like this really helps people become aware of it."
The Detroit Beard Collective comes in as the man is dashing up the stairs to flop onto a bed and pitch the bedding brand. The logo is seen on the wall. It's shown again, briefly, at the end of the commercial.
"We built this whole business from the ground up on basically $200 last January. It was spurred on a hobby and, with enough backing from friends, I decided to turn it into a business," said owner Matt Pionk. "Now I'm in a Super Bowl ad. Who would have thought of that?"
Newcastle has made a name for itself through its subversive and quirky advertising. Last year's ad, titled "If We Made It," featured two minutes of actress Anna Kendrick complaining about Newcastle reneging on a contract deal for a Super Bowl ad featuring her. It went viral online and earned accolades all across the advertising world. This year's ad was created in partnership with Droga5, Fast Horse and MediaVest.
The company is showing what it believes is the ridiculousness of Super Bowl advertising by, well, being ridiculous.
"Everyone loves a great underdog story," Newcastle brand director Priscilla Flores Dohnert said in a statement. "What's more 'underdog' than being short on cash and not having the right to advertising during the game?"
The participating brands signed a non-disclosure agreement so they couldn't reveal how much they paid to be a part of it. But it was clearly significantly less than what a typical commercial would cost.
"These brands — Newcastle and its 37 partners — are getting a ton of visibility and brand love," said Mike Keliher, client relationship director at Fast Horse. "Pretty great bang for the buck, and that's exactly Newcastle's point: You don't need to spend $4.5 million to get noticed in the Big Game conversation."
More than 100 million people are expected to tune in to watch the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. For many, the commercials are more entertaining than the game, said Johnny Sparks, an associate professor of advertising at Central Michigan University.
"The advertising sideshow of the Super Bowl represents a main attraction for many, if not most," Sparks said in a statement. "Not all viewers have enough in-depth knowledge of football to talk about the plays and strategies within the game, but with commercials, diverse audiences can find common ground for conversation."
Even if Newcastle had the money to advertise during the Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch — brewer of Budweiser (think Clydesdales), Stella Artois and other brands — typically holds a monopoly on the space.
Pionk is still excited.
"My advertisement space is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram," he said. "The opportunity is amazing. I never would have been able to afford it."
The McClures are also thrilled to be a part of it.
"To have your product up as well as a shirt, it's great," said Bob McClure. "We were very happy with our placement. Everybody is really proud of what they created."