United, Frontier to Battle Over Ad Spotlight at Super Bowl

Feb. 1, 2006
Denver's two largest airlines are shelling out big bucks to win over local consumers as competition for passengers heats up.

The Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers won't be the only ones competing for the spotlight on Super Bowl Sunday.

Denver's two largest airlines are shelling out big bucks to win over local consumers as competition for passengers heats up.

United Airlines and Frontier Airlines both will air television ads specifically in the Denver market during Super Bowl XL on ABC, although neither carrier will say how much it paid.

Some companies have purchased local advertising packages that include commercials during the game for an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 per 30-second spot, said Steve Sander, a principal of Pure Brand Communications, a Denver advertising and marketing company. That's about three times the rate for ads during regular-season Broncos games, he said.

National 30-second spots during the Super Bowl reportedly are going for about $2.5 million, up a bit from last year.

United, Denver's largest carrier, will run a Super Bowl TV ad for the first time in more than a decade. Set to a variation of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the 60-second advertisement focuses on business travelers.

"It shows that we understand them both professionally and personally," said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.

The ad, which took seven months to shoot and will debut just before halftime, uses puppetry and stop-motion photography, in which each frame is shot individually. It will air in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., where United has large hubs.

Urbanski said United typically uses huge media events to launch new brand campaigns, noting that the carrier's advertising budget is the same this year as it was in 2005.

Denver-based Frontier will continue a recent campaign involving one of the "talking" animals that adorn the carrier's planes. In the ads, Flip the dolphin tries to elicit consumer support to get Frontier to change his daily route to Mexico instead of Chicago. Frontier plans to air four separate ads during the Super Bowl, culminating with a spot in which the company "decides" whether to send Flip to Mexico.

Frontier, which typically advertises locally during the Super Bowl, said reaching such a large audience is worth every penny.

"It's obviously a pure numbers game. How many eyeballs are going to see our ad?" said Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas. "We're pulling in more viewers, and that's what's critical to us."

Newcomer Southwest Airlines also will have a presence: It's the "official" airline of the National Football League and will have ads throughout Detroit's Ford Field.

Southwest, though, decided against running TV ads during the game, saying they are a bit too pricey for a no-frills airline. "We have pesky little fuel costs to manage," said Southwest spokeswoman Paula Berg.

Denver's airline industry has become more competitive since Southwest's arrival earlier this month. The carrier launched service Jan. 3 from Denver to three cities.

Since then, United, Frontier and Southwest all have blanketed Denver with an array of advertisements.


Comparing the ads

* Denver-based Frontier Airlines and Denver's largest carrier, United Airlines, will both advertise during the game on Super Bowl Sunday. Southwest Airlines, new to the Denver market, won't be running ads, but is an official sponsor of the game.

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