It’s not often that we see US airlines advertising during the Super Bowl. United Airlines will be the exception this year, and the airline has just unveiled the ad that it will screen. I’m not sure what exactly to make of it.
In this post:
United Airlines markets lack of change fees in new ad
United Airlines’ new ad campaign stars Kyle Chandler, and will air during this Sunday’s Super Bowl. The premise of the ad is simple, and it’s to promote how the airline doesn’t have change fees. United was the first US legacy carrier to eliminate change fees in 2020, and the company wants to promote that.
The ad encourages people to book their ticket for next year’s game in New Orleans early, without worrying about paying change fees. As Chandler says in the ad:
“This is about believing. Believing so hard that you book your flight to next year’s big game before the season even starts. Because believing that hard can change everything.”
In a press release about this ad campaign, United also shares some fascinating statistics about the new change fee policy. The airline claims that it has saved travelers more than $2 billion since eliminating these fees, as more than 10 million United customers have changed their flight without paying change fees.
More specifically, 3.6 million people switched the time of day of their flight, 1.8 million people extended their trip altogether, 1.5 million people chose to fly to or from a different airport, and 300K people changed from a domestic flight to an international one, or vice versa.
United actually has six different versions of the commercial. While they all have the same message, some are specific to certain markets, to speak to local football fans. There are versions for Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, and Kansas City.
You can see the generic version of the ad below.
Just as an additional example, below is the version for Kansas City (with the Kansas City Chiefs actually being in the Super Bowl this year).
My take on United Airlines’ Super Bowl ad
To United’s credit, the concept behind the ad is cute. The ad engages football fans, and that’s smart, since obviously they care who is going to be in the Super Bowl next year (for reasons I can’t quite figure out, especially if Taylor Swift won’t be there next year). 😉 Furthermore, I think the “man talking to camera” vibe works well with getting attention, as it’ll be a contrast to most of the over-the-top Super Bowl ads that we see.
However, I think the execution of this ad leaves a bit to be desired. Generally if you’re going to advertise, you want to either show off a competitive advantage, do something memorable that will create a positive association with your brand, or have some sort of a call to action. So in those ways, I’d argue the ad falls sort of flat.
For one, lack of change fees isn’t a competitive advantage of United. At this point, all the major US carriers have the same policies, and some are even more generous (like Southwest having no change fees on all fares, and not expiring vouchers). So this is kind of like a US airline marketing “hey, our flights are safe!” Well, that’s true with every airline.
Next, the actual call to action — booking your flight to next year’s Super Bowl — won’t be possible for several more weeks, as United only opens its schedule 11 months out. Now, the ad doesn’t say to book your ticket right now, but if someone were to say “okay, let’s book it,” it’s not actually possible yet.
Lastly, I can’t help but find the last message of the ad to be borderline deceiving:
“No fees to change your flight. Ever.”
Then there’s the fine print about how that excludes basic economy, and that only consistently applies to flights within the US, and between the US and Mexico or the Caribbean.
That’s not really how “ever” works, is it? Guys, on this blog I never have typos. Ever… except when I do. The only US airline that can claim to have no change fees ever is Southwest, as the airline has no fares that are excluded, and vouchers don’t expire.
So there’s just a certain irony to United marketing something that Southwest innovated, and something that Southwest continues to lead the industry in. It’s especially ironic when you consider that last year, United targeted Southwest with a shady Super Bowl ad.
United Airlines has unveiled its 2024 Super Bowl ad, starring Kyle Chandler. The ad promotes United’s lack of change fees, and how this allows you to book your travel for the next Super Bowl with peace of mind. While I appreciate the concept behind this, I think the message is questionable.
What do you make of United Airlines’ Super Bowl ad?