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Why the Super Bowl’s Top Advertisers are Targeting the 50+ Demo

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With younger audiences cutting back on spending, marketers are wise to focus on the 50+ audience at this year’s Super Bowl.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…1995. That is, at least, if you’re watching commercials for the upcoming Super Bowl LVII.

When the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 12, viewers will see some of the decade’s biggest stars.

In a partnership between Marvel Studios and Heineken 0.0., Paul Rudd appears in costume as “Ant-Man” to promote Heineken’s alcohol-free beer and the third installment of the Marvel film. Seen in a recording studio, Foo Fighters star Dave Grohl plays himself in an ad for Crown Royal, the Canadian whiskey brand. And animal lover Sarah McLachlan pokes fun at her old ASPCA commercials in a humorous ad for Busch Light featuring the 1997 song “Angel.”

Big brands are paying big money to reach the 50+

Last year's championship game estimated over 208 million viewers, and this year’s audience is predicted to be even larger. With that many eyes on a company, it’s not surprising that 30-second spots during the show’s broadcast on Fox are going for a record $7 million this year, up from $6.5 million last year.

To maximize their multi-million dollar big game investments, more than a dozen big brands have tapped 50+ celebs, including Mars’ M&Ms (Maya Rudolph), Planters (Jeff Ross), PopCorners (Bryan Cranston), Michelob Ultra (Brian Cox), Workday (Ozzy Osbourne), Budweiser (Kevin Bacon), Uber (Sean Combs), Dorito’s (Missy Elliott), Netflix and General Motors (Will Ferrell), Booking.com (Melissa McCarthy) and Hellmann’s (Jon Hamm).

With younger audiences cutting back on spending, marketers are wise to focus on the 50+ audience at this year’s Super Bowl.

Nostalgia rules. Social media has given rise to niche subcultures, making it more challenging for brands to reach wide audiences with a single ad. But nostalgia still offers a safe bet – helping to reach GenXers, while also potentially resonating with their older parents and younger children. GenXers remember 90s icons like Grohl, McLachlan and Rudd fondly, rekindling ‘90s nostalgia and reminding consumers of a seemingly simpler time.

They’ve got money to spend. Adults 50+ are responsible for more than half of all of the consumer spending in the U.S., according to the Consumer Expenditures Survey. Every year, this cohort spends $458 billion more than adults aged 18 to 49 and have a median household net worth that’s 66% higher than their younger cohorts. Households headed by people 55+ also hold more than $92 trillion, or 69%, of the country’s total wealth. Brands should ignore them at their own risk.

They watch TV. The bulk of live, linear TV viewership comes from the 50+ demo. And they pay attention to what they watch, rather than multitasking: In 2022, attention measurement firm TVision found that viewers ages 55+ paid the most attention to Super Bowl commercials.

To reach this key demo, marketers need to first earn their trust and then capture their attention with messaging that uniquely resonates. Conventional wisdom would suggest (and AARP studies confirm) that the best way to do this is to feature people in their life stage, as well as experiences and values that are meaningful to them in game day advertising.

For Super Bowl LVII, advertisers are doing just that – enlisting a packed line-up of 50+ stars to tap into classic pop culture references.

Reviving iconic films. Marketers are turning to hit films from the 80s and 90s, such as Clueless and Caddyshack in their ads. Michelob Ultra’s ad, which stars Succession actor Brian Cox, for instance, is set on a fictitious golf course from the 1980 film.

A wink and a nod to ads from the past. Budweiser will bring back its classic “This Bud’s for You” slogan in a regional spot starring Kevin Bacon. Comedian and “roastmaster” Jeff Ross will roast Mr. Peanut, one of advertising’s oldest celebrities.

Classic rock. Ozzy Osbourne and Joan Jett are among the 50+ classic rock stars who will appear in Workday’s minute-long spot. “Which one of you wants a piercing?” Osbourne, in a button down shirt and tie, asks stunned cubicle mates.

By hiring 50+ stars to represent their products, marketers understand the power of iconic celebrities to influence the spending power of this economically and culturally influential demo – especially when it comes to big-ticket Super Bowl ads. Whichever team wins this year’s Super Bowl, 50+ will come out ahead.

This article originally appeared in Campaign US.