The Puppy Bowl is Back!
To honor this absolute institution in pet marketing, we want to give you an inside look at the insane success of the Puppy Bowl and how it can inspire YOUR Marketing Genius.
You know those marketing campaigns that leave you thinking, ‘Why didn’t I come up with that idea?!’…I think we can safely say the Puppy Bowl definitely falls into this category!
Created by the Animal Planet network as ‘counterprogramming’ to the wild popularity of the Super Bowl, this inspired event has gone from strength to strength over the last thirteen years. We think it’s a stroke of marketing genius.
What IS The Puppy Bowl?
First we need to look at why the idea was conceived in the first place. The Super Bowl (which, in case you somehow don’t know), is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), arguably one of the biggest sporting events on the US calendar.
The advertising costs for slots during the commercial breaks during the Super Bowl are astronomical, only available to the really big guys! In fact, it’s been reported that the cost of a 30-second long national commercial during this year’s Super Bowl will cost over $5 million. Yes, you read that right!
So the question for every other channel that is NOT showing the Super Bowl, is what on earth do they do while it’s on? How do they keep viewers’ tuning in to their channel, and is it worth even bothering to compete? Well, one creative mastermind at Animal Planet cracked it in 2005, with the idea of broadcasting a their own ‘on brand’ version of the Super Bowl, and the Puppy Bowl was born.
Photo: Stuart Ramson/AP Images for Animal Planet
From Then to Now…
I think we can all agree, this idea was ingenious.
How does a TV channel with a pet-loving audience compete with the Super Bowl? Easy! Add cute puppies looking for new homes, and you can’t go wrong.
The first ever Puppy Bowl was literally just puppies that needed homes, from animal shelters across the US, doing their puppy thing in a fake football stadium – playing with toys and just generally puppying around. As a montage shown for twelve hours…
You might think there are only so many hours of puppies you can watch (though we would have to disagree!), but that first year a total of almost 5.6 million viewers was recorded, and viewing figures today now hit more than 12 million.
The event has grown over the years and all of the ad space in the Puppy Bowl stadium is now sold to big name companies like Pedigree, Petco, AT&T, Subaru, and Bissell. It’s not just advertising on the event itself that’s working for them, either, as potential Puppy Bowl sponsors are asked to commit to advertising on other Animal Planet programming throughout the year.
Inspired marketing if you ask us, and something you can learn from of you want to harness some of the same sort of genius for your own business!
Photo care of Animal Planet
Marketing Lessons We Can Take From the Puppy Bowl:
- Don’t dismiss an idea as crazy straight away – Sometimes the most off the wall ideas are the ones that end up being the most successful. Imagine the response when the Puppy Bowl idea was first floated…You want to use puppies? Running around a pretend football stadium? At the same time as the SUPER BOWL is on? The practice of counterprogramming usually works by offering something completely different. Animal Planet offered something complementary instead…and it worked!
- Don’t be afraid to harness the natural emotional advantage you have – The authentic emotional connection we have as pet businesses and brands means your audience will find it easier to relate, so you’re already on to a winner! But Puppy Bowl isn’t just about cute puppies, it shares animals with a story that need a home, tugging on viewers’ heartstrings. Well in advance of the event itself they advertise the starting line-up on their website, which means most of the puppies involved find homes before Puppy Bowl even airs. Your business already has that emotional advantage, so consider how you could make even more of it. For example, could you team up with an animal rescue or charitable cause to make that emotional connection even deeper?
- Take an existing idea and give it a creative twist – You can see just how much the format has developed over the years, from a bunch of puppies running around, to a structured event with a referee, guinea pig and rabbit cheerleaders, a ‘kiss cam’, and even a half-time show. Animal Planet has given their audience an innovative twist on a recognisable brand by replacing pro football players with adorable puppies, and the viewing figures and ad revenue speak for themselves.
- Understand what your audience wants – This may seem like an obvious one, but it can be easy to forget some of the simplest marketing strategies in an attempt to do something different. Puppy Bowl works BECAUSE of the American public’s love of pets, and the advertisers themselves are getting themselves in the right place – the ideal showcase for new pet products or services. How can you apply a similar concept to your own marketing strategy? Look for spaces or platforms that make sense for your business and your audience, and use them. (This month in Working with Dog we’re diving into ‘Understanding and Finding your Ideal Client’ so if this is one you need help with – join us!)
If the incredible success of the Puppy Bowl teaches us anything, it’s not to be scared of trying something that might seem bonkers, or that goes completely against the grain. Look, you might try things that don’t work out, and that’s OK because you can learn from them.
Remember, your business is NOT your BABY – it’s an experiment! Test, try, play away!!
I mean, what if you try that crazy idea, and it turns out to be the most lucrative idea you ever had?