Football Team in a Huddle

At a cost of nearly $4 million for a 30 second spot (not including the millions in production cost), Super Bowl advertising is typically the domain of wealthy Fortune 500 companies and global brands. But Intuit, the company behind QuickBooks, Quicken, and TurboTax, is making this elite promotional opportunity available to one US small business.

Earlier today, the company announced its Small Business Big Game campaign in partnership with Apprentice winner Bill Rancic, through which owners of businesses with less than 50 employees will be invited to tell their story in 600 words or less. During the week of September 23, fans will vote on which contestant is the “ultimate small business,” with the Top 20 advancing to the next round. The criteria are vague, but Intuit CEO Brad Smith suggests it will come down to inspiration, passion, and in some cases, need. After fans narrow the pool, Intuit’s 8,000 global employees will further narrow the list down to the top four businesses.

These final four small businesses will all be big beneficiaries, as Intuit will send its team of small business consultants to complete a business makeover, including preparing these businesses for the onslaught of attention that Small Business Big Game will generate. It’s a smart move on the part of Intuit, given the negative impact we’ve seen from small businesses being unprepared for overly-successful Groupon campaigns, “Shark’s Tank” appearances, and other mass promotions.

The grand prize winner will be named on December 1, following another round of fan voting, with the victor receiving a 30-second Super Bowl ad paid for and produced by Intuit at a total value of approximately $10 million.

By beginning today, more than six months before the big game, Intuit stands to receive its own positive press about this campaign. A similar tactic was employed by Frito-Lay last year, wherein the CPG company’s “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign rewarded multiple aspiring filmmakers with Super Bowl ad slots.

There are no limits on the companies that can participate, other than the above-mentioned employee count. The campaign would seem to be designed to favor a local, small business with a feel good story, but tech-savvy startups native to the ways of viral, social advertising could have a big advantage. And an online company with no geographic limits to the customers it can serve stands to gain the most from the global exposure.

As we’ve seen from Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades are F***ing Great,” the right combination of humor and value can take a company’s brand viral. One company will crack the code this year and as a prize will get its message in front of more than 110 million global viewers. It’s time to suit up and take the field.

  1. Intuit Inc. is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses; financial institutions, including banks and credit unions; consumers and accounting professionals.