Arrow builds Super Bowl image campaign from Legos and paper airplanes

Publication: The Denver Post

A company that sells electronic parts used in lights, robots and spaceships, tackles TV’s biggest sporting event.

When massive Arrow Electronics hired a small River North production firm to make a commercial, Colorado’s largest public company never mentioned Super Bowl 50.

The five-person Elevation Digital Media found out only three weeks ago that its 30-second spot featuring Legos and a paper airplane will air during Sunday’s game.

“We were only thinking we’re making videos to go on their website,” said Chris Lewis, Elevation’s co-founder and creative director. “But we thought let’s treat each (video) for Arrow like it could be a Super Bowl ad. Arrow never said anything about this going on television.”
Arrow, ranked No. 131 in Fortune 500’s list of top U.S. firms by revenue, has never had a Super Bowl TV commercial. But the company, which sells and distributes small electronic parts used to help airplanes fly and spaceships take off, has been investing in recognition, be it ads or new ventures, like partnering with local incubator Innovation Pavilion to help startups.

“Arrow is one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of,” said Hugo Meyer, Arrow’s global brand director who worked directly with Elevation on the video project. “We’re working to change that.”

Arrow’s first Super Bowl commercial comes after nearly three years of TV ads during major sports events, starting with the NCAA Final Four games in 2013 and more recently, “Sunday Night Football” and “Monday Night Football.”

“We find that those events, those sporting events, the audience is made up of a lot of key decision-makers over many of our customer sets,” Arrow’s vice president of global communication, John Hourigan, said. “We find it very useful to get our message across to an audience that is representative across customers, suppliers, current employees and potential employees.”

In Sunday’s 30-second spot, which will be seen only in the Denver market, a contraption made entirely of Lego components folds a piece of paper into an airplane and launches it into white space. Arrow’s slogan “Five Years Out” fades in then fades out.

“We wanted to do something that gets people’s attention without being too literal,” Meyer said. “We could have shown planes and different things, but this was just a really fun way of expressing one of our focuses.”

Other than a smidge of guidance to show its innovation, Arrow just let Elevation run.

“The problem with Arrow is they wouldn’t tell us about their business,” Lewis said. “We’d ask them ‘Tell us what you want,’ and they said, ‘It’s better we don’t. We want to hear your interpretation.’ ”

Arrow hired Elevation last year to create 10 videos to familiarize customers and potential customers with industries Arrow operates in, from lighting and security to transportation and aerospace (most are at

By July, Elevation was ready to tackle aerospace. Brainstorming began. Arrow doesn’t build airplanes. And it doesn’t house rocket ships.

“What they have is all these little components. And without those, these things don’t get built,” Lewis said to his team.

That led to Lego, the idea of a paper airplane maker and launcher, and hunting down Arthur Sacek, one of the best Lego builders in the world. He lives in Brazil.

“I’m anticipating this person is going to hang out with us for the entire month of July. He says, ‘Can you just book me for seven days in Colorado? I’m going to finish the project in five. And I’d love for the other two days, if you would take me around the great state of Colorado. That would be enough,’ ” Lewis said.

Sacek finished the Lego contraption, dubbed “Arthur Jr.,” in four days. The video was filmed on the fifth.

“I took him hiking in Boulder and then for a milkshake. He’d never had one before. And to the Viewhouse downtown,” Lewis said.

Little was changed. The one input Arrow offered: “Can we use some red Legos?” Meyer said.

On the day Sacek headed home, Lewis brought up the issue of payment.

“He said, ‘My wife gave a list of some things she wants from Walmart.’ So we spent the afternoon at Walmart on a shopping spree,” Lewis said.

And although Sacek never asked for money, Lewis said they sent him a check anyway.

Arrow also bought 30-second spots in New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Reno, Nev. Those markets will see the SAM car ad, featuring Sam Schmidt, a former Indy racer who was left quadriplegic by a 2000 crash. Arrow built a car he controls with his mouth.

The company, which posted $5.7 billion in third-quarter sales and reports year-end results Thursday, doesn’t need the Super Bowl, said Brian Alexander, managing director at Raymond James Financial.

But, he said, Arrow’s hometown team, the Broncos, is in the Super Bowl and “perhaps this is more about the employee base and recruiting than it is about driving more customers and more business.”

Arrow employs 1,700 people in metro Denver and 17,000 globally.

While the campaign’s goal is to reach existing and potential customers, suppliers and employees, focusing on innovation has expanded the audience.

“When we did the Innovator’s Club and other spots, we had unsolicited e-mails from teachers across the nation asking, ‘Is it OK for me to use your commercials in our classroom?’ ” Hourigan said. “In terms of potential audience sets, you can throw teacher in there too.”

Arrow Super Bowl ad by the numbers:

500 — Sheets of paper to make paper airplanes

4,000+ — Number of Lego pieces

4 — Days to construct

5 — Hours of filming

2,000 — Dollars worth of Lego pieces

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