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Originally published Monday, February 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Danny O'Neil

Once again, NFL wins advertising game

The dynasty rolled on Sunday. No, not the Patriots. They won every game this season until the most important one. We're talking about the...

Seattle Times NFL reporter

The dynasty rolled on Sunday.

No, not the Patriots. They won every game this season until the most important one.

We're talking about the NFL here — the undisputed champion in American sports marketing. That's who really won, and it wasn't even close on what has become the high holy day for advertisers.

The Super Bowl is the one time a year that commercials are considered part of the entertainment. Usually, ads are what we get subjected to. We might have to sit through one to see a specific sports highlight on the Internet, yet it's different in the Super Bowl. The nonstop promotion of "American Idol" and Fox's ridiculous animated football robot were the most annoying elements of Sunday's broadcast, not the advertisements.

Some commercials were amusing, others were outright funny, and a few erred on the side of poor taste.

They were ads. Better than the ones we see on most programs, but ads. Nothing more and nothing less. Except during the Super Bowl they get celebrated status.

We get scouting reports on the commercials before the game is played, we'll get second-day analysis on places like NBC's "Today," and it's even homework for Marcus da Cunha's students at University of Washington. He teaches Marketing 340, a class with more than 30 students who'll spend a good chunk of class time today talking about what worked, what didn't, and why.

"Most of the time advertisers struggle to capture people's attention," said da Cunha, an assistant professor of marketing.

Not during the Super Bowl. The ads are part of the show, and da Cunha's students will look beyond the entertainment value to determine the techniques advertisers used and which ones worked best.

The attention given Super Bowl ads — and the $2.7 million it cost for a 30-second spot — are examples of the NFL's success in selling anything it puts its mind to.

The Super Bowl is the league's crown jewel, and the fact that it's an accepted truth that even the commercials are worth watching is testament to the league's success in marketing itself.

This is usually the cue for a good old-fashioned rant about the hype and hoopla. There's certainly ammunition, starting with Ryan Seacrest's inane enthusiasm from the red carpet before the game, to New England's team reading some corny definition of teamwork before taking the field, all wrapped up in some indignation about how the ads just aren't as funny as they used to be.

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Well, they're ads. Some are funny, others annoying like Seacrest. But there are worse ways to spend four hours than alternating between a football game with three lead changes in the final quarter and advertisements that included Will Ferrell in tighty-whitie basketball shorts. He explained that a lot of sweat goes into every bottle of Bud Light, though not literally because that would be gross. Audi's ode to "The Godfather" evoked a chuckle, and the guy wearing a big fuzzy mouse costume administering a beating to acquire Doritos merited a laugh.

There were some stinkers, too. One commercial started with a drawing of someone pushing a boulder uphill. Seemed like an ad for Prozac or some self-help clinic. Nope. Just an SUV. GoDaddy.com again went for lowbrow sex appeal, urging people to go to the Internet with a picture of Danica Patrick provocatively unzipping her shirt. There was also a man with jumper cables clipped to his nipples. Was that really necessary? There was an outright offensive spot, too, featuring an animated panda with a stereotypical accent that was just awful.

But don't take my word for it. If you go to www.myspace.com/superbowlads, you can watch all the Super Bowl ads you want. The fact that a Web site thought it would be appealing to host all those ads is just one more example of what a big deal the commercials are.

So while the Giants came away with a victory, it was the NFL that really won once again this year.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Danny O'Neil
Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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