Intuit to Give One Small Business a Free Super Bowl Ad

Financial-software firm Intuit launches a contest it's calling 'Small Business Big Game,' and the winning entrepreneur will score air time during the Super Bowl.

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By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Super Bowl may be the biggest football game of the year, but it's also when some of the biggest brands put on their best shows. This year, small businesses have the chance to be on that same stage as the big boys.

Intuit, the financial software company based in Mountain View, Calif., has launched a contest, "Small Business Big Game," in which small businesses can enter to win a free 30-second Super Bowl commercial. The winning business will also receive help producing and shooting the ad, which will air Feb. 2 in the third quarter of the game.

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Super Bowl advertising is generally beyond the budgets of most small companies. A 30-second ad typically cost upwards of $3 million. It happens. Venture-backed online vacation rental marketplace HomeAway bought ads in 2010 and 2011. It has since gone public. For those that have the budget, it's generally considered worth it. This year, 108.7 million TV viewers tuned in to watch the Baltimore Ravens battle the San Francisco 49ers, according to information and measurement company Nielsen.

The 30-second spot is costing Intuit "multiple" millions of dollars, according to Heather McLellan, spokeswoman for Intuit. The company declined to disclose the exact amount it's paying Fox Network for the air time but said that the entire project would cost Intuit approximately $25 million.

Related: Super-Bowl Commercials Through a Marketer's Eyes

"The ad will be all about the small business, about their story, about their passion," says McLellan. At the very end of the ad, Intuit's logo will be displayed. McLellan says that Intuit will also very likely "tease" the small-business ad to come.

The business that wins will be provided production assistance from a professional advertising agency, paid for by Intuit. "It is going to be a commercial that is on the same plane as a GM or a Volkswagen or an Anheuser Busch, so when you watch it, it is not going to look like a cable-access show," says celebrity entrepreneur Bill Rancic, a spokesman for the contest. "It's going to rival some of the other ads that you are going to see during the game."

Related: The Art of Positioning Your Brand and Why You Can't Afford to Screw It Up

To get your small business in the running, enter at by Sept. 22. The initial application is limited to 600 characters, which is only a bit more than four tweets. Then contestants are asked to rally friends, family and customers to vote for them on social media. The 50,000 companies with the highest number of votes will move to the second round, when they'll be asked to submit a video and four optional text or photo submissions that answer questions about their businesses. The contest is open only to U.S. businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees. Entrants do not have to be Intuit customers.

Once the pool has been narrowed to 20, based on social media votes and an internal review board, Intuit's 8,000 employees globally will vote on their favorites. Four finalists will be chosen by November. Each of the four finalists will win a national, professionally produced TV ad, but only one will air during the Super Bowl. The public will vote for its favorite of the final four.

Every business that enters the contest will receive a discount on a year-long subscription to Intuit's popular tax software, QuickBooks. Throughout the contest, Intuit will give out 25 $1,000 grants, which the selected small-business owners can use for anything they choose.

Related: Are Color Trends Important in Product Design?

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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