Ready for some brainwashing ... err, I mean football?

About 111 million Americans will be tuned into watching this Sunday's Super Bowl but for advertisers and marketing teams, the real action will be outside the lines. With this game having the attention of 40 percent of American households, companies are betting on image-conscious consumers like you to make their day.

While Super Bowl tickets are bringing in around $3,000 a pop, that's small change compared to the big advertising bucks. The cost of a 2013 Super Bowl commercial averages a record $3.8 million per 30-second ad spot. Since nearly 30 percent of advertisements are related to food and drink, Sunday's game, with its holiday-party atmosphere, is a huge honey hole for those companies.

The Super Bowl's trickle down effect is also good news for this sluggish economy. In just one example, National Retail Federation reports a record 7.5 million households will buy a new television for the big game, up from last year when there were 5.1 million households purchases.

Times have certainly changed in sports commercials over the last half century. Fifty years ago, when smoking was seen as cool, the biggest names in the game were endorsing tobacco products. Women in the 1950s and 60s were largely seen as homemakers - raising the children, cooking and cleaning. Thus, they were prime advertising targets for baby items and household products.

Since we are an image-driven society, the goal of the advertiser is to create a favorable mental picture of a product that will stick in the mind of consumers. Sunday's most successful advertisers will make a positive connection with their product.

Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development who is well versed on visual literacy, said unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear.

Anheuser-Busch, with its Clydesdale horses, is a good example. For years, the company's most effective advertising and marketing campaign has been led by the Clydesdale horses, which symbolize power and tradition. The hook is having you believe that their beer is also a traditional part of American history.

It's been a winning strategy. After one Super Bowl game, Anheuser-Busch saw a 600-percent increase on their website.

Patriotism is a very important ideal to the majority of Americans, which is why the United States military spent $598 million on advertising a decade ago to increase "brand identity" and meet their annual recruitment goals.

So, as you settle in to watch the big game this Sunday, be aware that billions of dollars were spent by marketers who want you to remember their message. The hope is that your brain will retain that short sales pitch long after the game on the field ends and that last garbage container filled with your empty can and beverage bottles is collected for recycling.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]