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B2Bowl: The growing embrace of the 'C' in B2B marketing

Lucas Leverett

By Lucas Leverett
February 20, 2024

B2Bowl: The growing embrace of the 'C' in B2B marketing

In this year's Super Bowl game the annual crop of top-dollar advertising once again included B2B marketing, as has been a continuing trend. From a long-term AWS partnership with the NFL, to the big game's big buys, we're seeing more and more B2B in a space traditionally regarded as B2C.

Buzz has built over the past few years about the end of the era of boring, stodgy branding and a growing renaissance embracing the reality that there is, indeed, another human being involved in the relationship between two companies. (Maybe even a few human beings.)

An audience ignored no longer

That person on their couch, at the sports bar, or multitasking while the game plays in a window on their second monitor because the product launch is this week? They're as much a "consumer" as the next fan.

They are consumers of beer and nachos as well as payroll solutions and CRM platforms. They respond to humor, drama, music, and visual effects just like any of us do. They represent a target market with disposable income, affluence, and—perhaps most importantly—positions in businesses as key decision-makers. Just ask BMW and Mercedes, who've targeted these people with consumer-oriented car ads for years via NFL programming. They're certainly not vying for the attention of the same bargain shopper as the local mattress store in a fourth quarter slot.

These potential business clients are among the 123 million viewers who made this year's championship the most-watched telecast ever. It's not just a market made up of at-home viewers staring at screens either. As Forbes noted in a recent C-suite newsletter, B2B activations and sponsorships in Las Vegas were akin to what one might see around any given industry conference.

Many important approaches discussed and examined by experts have gained even more ground, driving the B2B ad space year over year toward the establishment of their own subgenre among the annual competition for attention and critique.

2024 B2B ads "pass in review"

Rather than getting in the weeds of attempting to rank this expanding subgenre, as we have ranked ads before, here is a recap of the B2B spots you might have caught between plays.

One big bet placed on these pricey nuggets of screen time was by workforce payment startup Papaya Global. As reported in TechCrunch, brand-building is at the center of the strategy, rather than the continued pursuit of the small-bet incremental needle-nudges often found in the ROI rat race.

In just 30 seconds of storytelling, Papaya accomplishes many best-practices of video advertising: a clear value proposition, repetition of the product or brand name, distinct characterization, and simplicity of message.


Scoring high on theme and fine-tuning their ad to match the occasion at hand, HubSpot leaned in on the sports zeitgeist and all the talk of "dynasties."


Also with an eye to relevance and timeliness of topic, CrowdStrike playfully employed the trope of Sci-Fi–meets–Western with production value and a bit of spectacle.


Last but hardly least is perhaps the biggest buzz of the year, generated by the Squarespace spot directed by legendary film maestro Martin Scorsese. Similar to Ridley Scott's groundbreaking Apple ad, "1984," (arguably the all-time grand champion G.O.A.T. of Super Bowl ads), this piece has been earning media and attention well beyond its in-game engagement.

While the 30-second on-air version was well edited, the extended edition has been getting impressive viewership as, essentially, a short film in its own right.


Simply put, everyone is a consumer

What comes next will be determined by factors and events that may not yet be evident. If this trajectory holds, we can expect to see the bar raised on what B2B marketers can and will do to build and maintain brand strength, creating new household names out of products and services previously unknown to the average person.

With the growth of various privacy measures impacting digital channels, and fewer eyeballs drawn to linear live broadcasts, the sports audience in all its diversity will continue to appeal and stand out. The growth of that audience seems to be rivaled only by the expansion of business brands showing up to the line of scrimmage.

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