Nancy Kerr runs the kind of business that never would have put "air a Super Bowl spot" on its list of priorities--or in its budget.
Her Independence, Missouri-based mobile wedding officiant service, KC Weddings 2 Go, aims to help couples get hitched however and wherever they wish in the U.S. She wants brides to be able to sport cowboy boots or baseball cleats on their big day. She wants couples to tie the knot on a beach or a boat--or at a Renaissance festival, decked out in medieval armor. She wants Nascar fans to say their vows right beside the speedway, while their friends tailgate in the background.
"It's their day, and their way," says Kerr, an ordained and licensed officiant who goes by "Pastor Nancy." If twosomes want to dress like zombies or say "I do" on top of Mount Rushmore, Kerr will make it happen.
It's the kind of business you probably never would have found out about unless you happened to be a wedding guest--or watched the Super Bowl last Sunday. In certain regions, Super Bowl fans saw commercials featuring KC Weddings 2 Go, as well as two other similarly quirky local businesses: Smash Therapy, a Texas company that lets people blow off steam by smashing objects to smithereens, and Get Your Goat Rentals, an Atlanta business that rents goats that will eat the bothersome brush on your property.
None of these businesses paid for the spots. They were the work of Procter & Gamble's dandruff shampoo brand Head & Shoulders. What does dandruff shampoo have to do with wacky weddings, object smashing, or goats? Here's the short version: Dandruff shampoo has a stigma. You know what else has a stigma? "Headstrong" people. So P&G wanted to feature idiosyncratic companies with leaders who've successfully proven naysayers wrong, says John Brownlee, brand director for Procter & Gamble Hair Care. Like dandruff, the term "headstrong" was to be flipped on its head. See what they did there?
The company declined to specify the cost of the ads, which were only presented to audiences in certain regions, but it was surely less than paying for national ads, which this year ran $5.25 million for a single 30-second spot.
The real question is, what can a Super Bowl spot do for a tiny, local business?
Kerr says that in the few days since the big game, KC Weddings 2 Go has received 20 to 30 calls per day, up from the 10 or so she usually gets. Three-quarters of those calls have converted into a booking. Then, the city of Independence declared February 3 "Pastor Nancy Day." The mayor even gave her the keys to the city and threw a party in her honor.
Both Smash Therapy and Get Your Goat Rentals report jumps in interest since the Super Bowl spots aired. It's too early to assess how much of a revenue boost they'll deliver, but so far the business owners say the reception is promising. "I've already seen that traffic to my website has increased and my phone has been blowing up," says Smash Therapy's Jennifer Morales, an ex-boxer who suffered from anger, aggression, and depression before finding the satisfying outlet of demolition.
Over at Get Your Goat Rentals, founder Michael Swanson says, "We've gotten so many calls since Sunday night, we haven't caught up yet." All told, the founder says he received 157 calls in the four hours after the ad aired. Monthly traffic to the GYGR website reached 13,465 page views, a 198 percent increase over the 30 days prior. Plus, four bookings have been confirmed since Sunday, a big number in such a short period, adds Swanson.
The spots themselves are charming, albeit undeniably weird.
In one spot, Get Your Goat Rentals' Swanson is shown amid several of his goats in a livestock trailer, as the narrator explains how his skeptical wife, Kristin, thought that goats-to-go was a "crazy" idea. She gave him three months to make it work, Swanson told Inc. Now, the 200-goats-strong business has been thriving for five years and, as the ad says, "his wife is eating her words, while his goats are eating everything else."
In the KC Weddings 2 Go commercial, Kerr, who considers herself as headstrong as they come, is marrying a couple surrounded by taxidermied animals. "You may now mount the bride," she jokes. Having been in the wedding industry for 35 years, she says she has needed to overcome great odds, including reinventing herself and her business many times.
To be sure, Head & Shoulders isn't the first brand to feature small businesses in its Super Bowl commercials. Financial software brand Intuit has run its Small Business Big Game competition twice, producing national Super Bowl ads for a winning small business. After Intuit whittled competitors down to a short list, the public then chose which company would get to run an ad on the day of the big game.
The first contest, in 2014, was won by GoldieBlox, a San Francisco toy company whose products aim to empower girls by challenging gender stereotypes. In 2016, Malta, New York-based Death Wish Coffee beat out competition from 15,000 applicants. The company brands itself as the strongest coffee in the world, boasting 728 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce serving.
The trend of featuring small-business owners may well continue, as the ads hit home with viewers. The Head & Shoulders spots have collectively amassed more than 600,000 views on YouTube. Mentions on social media also ballooned, with actress Sofia Vergara even tweeting her support.
While the commercials were one-offs for Super Bowl Sunday, Brownlee says Head & Shoulders is considering keeping in touch with the companies in case future collaborations present themselves. So more may be in store for the new stars.