Can a $22 million Super Bowl ad campaign bring pandemic-weary tourists back to California?

The California Tourism Board is betting big on this year’s Super Bowl.

Just before kickoff, during NBC’s pre-game show on Sunday, Feb. 13, Visit California plans to air a 30-second commercial celebrating the Golden State in all its glory. If you stream the show online, it will appear as an extended 60-second spot.

“Live sporting events are powerful for this type of media” because of the intensity with which people watch them, said Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California. “People are very tuned into the pre-game just before kick-off, and maybe they’ve had a few less beers. The second half of the game could be a risky proposition” for a advertiser.

The ads will continue to air until mid-May on NBC, including during the Winter Olympics. The pregame spot cost $2.2 million. The cost of the entire ad campaign? $22.1 million.

It’s the first time the state has advertised ahead of football’s flagship event, which attracts around 100 million viewers each year and serves as a testing ground for all sorts of experimental advertising, from the gimmicky to the gimmicky. weird.

This year, California will be well represented at the game: Super Bowl LVI will be held at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and will feature the local team the Rams, who beat the 49ers in a tense game last weekend , against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Because Los Angeles was hosting the Super Bowl, we get such a glowing effect from it, and it made so much sense to use that as a platform to kick off this campaign,” Beteta said.

The ad, dubbed “Am I Dreaming?”, aims to evoke a sense of excitement over California’s cultural cachet and world-class scenery.

It follows a young woman soaring over and through some of the state’s iconic features – Highway 1, the snow-capped Sierra Mountains, the Hollywood Sign, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, to name a few. to name a few – while Queen’s catchy ballad “Don’t Stop Me Now” plays in the background. Actors Mario Lopez and Anthony Anderson have cameos. At one point, a giant rendition of the stop San Francisco Giants short Brandon Crawford nearly makes a diving catch of the woman as she floats over the Golden Gate Bridge.

As the third year of the coronavirus pandemic approaches, the state continues to struggle with a cratering tourism economy that, in the decade to 2020, represented the most robust of any state in the country. But in 2020, spending by tourists fell to $65 billion from a 10-year high of $145 billion the previous year, costing the state nearly 50% of its $1.2 million jobs in leisure and hospitality. The state does not expect a recovery to pre-pandemic spending levels until 2024.

There has been an increase in regional road trips throughout California over the past two years. But the state has struggled to win back international travelers and business conventions in the state’s main coastal cities that were major drivers of visitor spending.

“It’s the difference between going back to pre-pandemic levels,” Beteta said.

When it kicks off on Sunday, all eyes will be on California.

“We were lucky with LA hosting, we were lucky with a California team in the game, but the Super Bowl is a solid environment,” Beteta said. “You’re looking for those kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

Gregory Thomas is the Lifestyle and Outdoors Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @GregRThomas


Correction
: An earlier version of this story misrepresented the total cost of Visit California’s ad campaign. It’s $22.1 million.

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