Upstart startup wins a coveted Super Bowl ad spot

Already an online sensation, toymaker GoldieBlox gets a big boost with a new commercial to air during the big game.

By MSN Money staff Jan 31, 2014 2:12PM

This post is from Heesun Wee of CNBC.

CNBC on MSN MoneyFor many small-business owners, it may be akin to winning the lottery. Maybe even bigger.

Debbie Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox, Inc., poses with her new toy for girls © Laura A. Oda/MCT/ZUMA PressStart-up toymaker GoldieBlox — which creates games that expose girls to engineering and got its start from a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2012 — has won a free 30-second commercial worth millions during Sunday's Super Bowl.

The spot — usually within the reach of larger, more established brands — is believed to be the first small-business commercial to air during the big game, according to the contest's sponsor, Intuit QuickBooks.

The ad, also produced for GoldieBlox for free, is scheduled to air during the third quarter. Fox is broadcasting the game, and is earning $4 million to $4.1 million for an average 30-second spot — slightly ahead of last year's $4 million rate.

"We still can't believe we won and will appear alongside some of the biggest brands in the world," said Debbie Sterling, chief executive officer and founder of GoldieBlox (pictured).

"When we first heard about the program, we immediately knew this was a game-changing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any small business," Sterling said in a statement.

GoldieBlox more recently entered a copyright infringement fight with hip-hop group the Beastie Boys for using their '80s track "Girls" in a GoldieBlox YouTube video. The clip attracted millions of views.

Four finalists out of 15,000 entrants

Oakland, Calif.-based GoldieBlox beat 15,000 small businesses that originally applied for the Intuit "Small Business Big Game" contest. GoldieBlox was among four finalists, and videos showcasing them were featured online. The venture that earned the most viewer votes won the grand prize.

The video already online, however, is not the Super Bowl ad. Intuit declined to offer any hints about the top-secret spot that will debut Sunday.

Businesses that applied to the contest came from many sectors and backgrounds. Examples include a wood furniture maker, Chicago-based "Urban Wood Goods," and a Clare, Mich., restaurant called "Cops & Doughnuts" started by police officers. A list of the top 20 semi-finalists can be found here.

GoldieBlox's message of promoting more science education — and fewer pink kitchen toys and princess outfits — has captured fans and customers. GoldieBlox is a series of interactive books, combined with construction toys starring Goldie. Her stories encourage girls to develop concepts and skills that are fundamental to engineering.

"As a father of two daughters, their mission really strikes a chord and it's clear voters around the world felt the same way," Intuit chief Brad Smith said in a statement. Intuit offers business and financial management solutions for small businesses and other clients.

Disrupting the status quo

Winning the Super Bowl ad has been the latest in a phenomenal ride for the startup, which is run by about a dozen staffers in the San Francisco Bay area.

Sterling grew up in rural Rhode Island before making her way to Stanford University. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering and product design. Stanford's unique combination of course work later led to the, founded by inventor David Kelley — think the first Apple computer mouse and the stand-up toothpaste tube. Kelley was Sterling's mentor. In college, she had absorbed lessons about innovation, entrepreneurship and so-called design thinking, which fuses human behavior with design.

"I started GoldieBlox with the dream of inspiring the next generation of female engineers," Sterling said in an email to CNBC. "I think our big-game spot is a rallying cry for girls to think big and disrupt the status quo to reach their potential."

More from CNBC:


Jan 31, 2014 2:42PM
 Good for her, putting something out to help kids learn useful skills instead of useless junk is very commendable.
Jan 31, 2014 3:43PM

wonder who is going to file the first "Stupid" lawsuit? as usual, no excuse is needed.

Good luck Debbie.

Jan 31, 2014 5:04PM
Great exposure.  For an upstart, it is indeed like winning the lottery.  Hopefully they had time to get a good commercial together.  It's like a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Capitalism may be close to life support but it still thrives for those that can think for themselves.
Jan 31, 2014 5:08PM
Is this the first time small businesses had a competition for a free 30 second Super Bowl spot?  If so, this is an awesome idea and something I hope becomes a yearly tradition.  So, the television host will "lose" 4+ million dollars... out of what? 200+ million?  I hope this type of generosity can continue throughout all of America.

Good luck to you as well Debbie Sterling.  I hope you become a shining example for women to explore and grow into the different sciences and math careers.

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