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Stoops creates perfect moment for UK's Super Bowl ad

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The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers had just finished the first half of Super Bowl XLVII. Viewers in Lexington were still glued to their televisions in hopes of seeing the best commercial of the night as they waited for Beyonce's halftime performance.

The screen then turned dark. With a bell ringing and sirens wailing, Kentucky fans heard the familiar voice of Mark Stoops. It took a moment to register, but they eventually realized what they were watching. Social media outlets began to buzz with excitement and disbelief about the fact that a UK football Super Bowl commercial had just aired.

Jason Schlafer was not surprised. He had been involved in every step of the decision to purchase the advertisement after all. In fact, 2013 wasn't even the first time he had been a part of such conversations.

"We consider having a Super Bowl ad every year," UK's senior associate athletics director of corporate and university relations said. "But we were just waiting for the right year and right situation to do it because it's a different investment."

The reason it was a different investment is not that UK's marketing department would completely alter its budget by airing it - the 30-second local spot came at a cost of approximately $10,000 through a media buyer. Instead, the decision was between the "impact" of a local Super Bowl ad and the "frequency" of the hundreds of other spots that $10,000 can buy.

Ultimately, the prestige of being associated with the biggest event in American sports and the excitement that Stoops' arrival has infused into the program made the opportunity too attractive to pass up. Around 10 days before Super Bowl Sunday, Schlafer and UK pulled the trigger. A week and a half, however, is a very short time period to put such a spot, particularly one of the caliber that such an investment demands.

"It was important to us to create a spot that was produced at the level of a Super Bowl ad so that you weren't watching the game on a large HD TV with HD sound and it was this noticeable locally produced-looking thing," Schlafer said.

Assistant athletics director of marketing and licensing Nathan Schwake was tasked with leading the creative process. Partnering with Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions - the Lexington-based company with which UK works on most of its advertisements - Schlafer and Schwake had another decision to make: serious or funny.

Some of the most memorable ads in Super Bowl history are remembered for their humor - think "Terry Tate Office Linebacker" - but that wasn't the way to go.

"We were looking for something hard," Schlafer said. "As we turn the page on a new football era, we have yet to see the results on the field. But all the other indications are that this is hard-nosed football program into the future. We wanted something that mirrored that."

Using audio clips from Stoops' introductory press conference with some of his words displayed in front of a digital version of Commonwealth Stadium, the ad came together between Tuesday and Friday of Super Bowl week. Once the decision was made to purchase the spot, Schlafer knew it would be executed well.

"Nathan Schwake drove the creative on this and he's super talented in taking a brand statement and giving the direction to turn it into a visual," Schlafer said. "So I wasn't surprised in how well it turned out, I wasn't surprised that it could be pulled off, but I was certainly impressed with the pressure to perform how well everyone did perform."

Once there was a finished product on Friday, UK's social media team conceived plans to share it so that an audience well beyond Lexington's city limits would get to see it. At the same time, they closely guarded the secret. Schlafer wanted it to be a surprise so that reaction would be spontaneous.

"We intentionally did not communicate that it was going to happen until after it happened so that we could gauge that," Schlafer said. "No one was anticipating it and then they saw it and I couldn't have been more pleased with the feedback we got initially."

Beyond monitoring Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - where the video surpassed 16,000 views by Monday afternoon - UK had a more concrete way to measure the advertisement's impact.

During the final seconds of the spot, "UKFOOTBALLTIX.COM" appeared on the screen. The URL was created specifically for the ad and routed to a page where they could purchase and renew 2013 season tickets. Heavy traffic on the page overwhelmed the ticketing software at times and several fans committed purchasing new season tickets and several more renewed for next season.

It's clear why UK waited until now to make a Super Bowl commercial.

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