The Super Bowl is a time for marketers to stand out, broadcasting their messages to the largest television viewing audience of the year. It's why companies were willing to spend $4.5 million for a 30-second slot of airtime this past weekend.
SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA), however, was a no show this time around. After captivating Super Bowl watchers with back-to-back years of controversial ads, SodaStream sat the big game out.
It's surprising in the context of where SodaStream is at the moment. After a year of plunging sales in the U.S. and slowing growth everywhere else, SodaStream decided late last year to reposition its product. Instead of marketing its countertop appliance as a soda maker, SodaStream decided in October that it would promote SodaStream machines as makers of sparkling water.
The old "your home soda factory" mantra would be replaced by "water made exciting." It wouldn't nix its century-old moniker, but it would place more emphasis on stream than on soda in a redesigned logo. Given the daunting task of an image makeover, it's a surprise that SodaStream didn't stretch its Super Bowl advertising streak to three years in a row. If it wants the new message to get out, shouldn't it be telling the largest viewing audience possible?
Well, SodaStream doesn't see it that way. It has decided to focus on digital campaigns and social media to get its point across. Burned by having to replace banned ads that took shots at the two cola giants, CEO Daniel Birnbaum now says that he wouldn't recommend springing for costly Super Bowl spots.
"I don't think it's right in this day and age for a brand that is so revolutionary as SodaStream to go scream on the tube," Birnbaum told Fortune Live days before the Super Bowl. "Because we have a truth to tell we don't have to invest in mass market media in the old way."
Birnbaum points to third-party studies showing that SodaStream owners consume three more glasses of water a day than non-owners. The hope here is that nutritionists and health advocates do the heavy lifting in promoting wider adoption of SodaStream.
The good old days are gone
Scarlett Johansson's stint as brand ambassador at SodaStream has gone dormant. Birnbaum explains that there is no active project with Johansson, and last year's Super Bowl ad featuring a sultry Johansson has been removed from the company's YouTube channel.
The prior year's ad is still on YouTube, as well as the banned ad from 2013 that has amassed more than 5 million views after getting yanked from the Super Bowl.
One can argue that Birnbaum is simply sipping on sour carbonated grapes. Business is lousy lately. The stock plunged 59% last year. Revenues in the Americas during SodaStream's third quarter plummeted 41% since the prior year period.
Springing for a Super Bowl spot shouldn't get in the way of a successful social-media strategy. In fact, more than half of last weekend's ads promoted hashtags to keep the buzz going in cyberspace. The real excuse falls somewhere between the need to shave costs and the brand makeover strategy that may not be ready for primetime just yet.
Either way, it was odd to watch a Super Bowl without a SodaStream ad controversy. It's no fun when there's a cease fire in the cola wars.