Sex will be seriously sidelined at the upcoming Super Bowl.
That, at least, is the decision of the game's traditionally raciest advertiser, GoDaddy, which on Thursday will announce plans to air two spots during the Feb. 2, 2014, game, but without so much as a jiggle, wiggle or double-entendre giggle.
Even Danica Patrick, who will also return for the eighth consecutive year, will no longer be relegated to the role of sex kitten. Both of GoDaddy's Super Bowl spots will be humor-laden with a new brand message - but drop all sexual suggestiveness.
"We have to move on to the next phase," says Barb Rechterman, chief marketing officer. "We polarized some. I understand that. But I'm not ashamed of our past. Now we need to take this brand to a new level."
Yes, this is the same company that last year aired a 30-second Super Bowl spot solely focused on supermodel Bar Refaeli planting a lengthy French kiss on a flummoxed nerd.
Rebranding a company that's invested many millions on its current brand is a huge risk. For GoDaddy, under new leadership, a strategic decision has been made that standing out in a social-media age requires more than a rehash of the sexual teases of Super Bowls past.
The company is eager to move beyond the branding of its name and focus, instead, on convincing small-business owners that its domain naming and website-hosting services can help them.
"We are the world's largest Web hosting provider, and nobody knows that," says Rechterman. "We need to change the messaging."
Patrick, who has starred in more Super Bowl spots than anyone, says she's ready for the change. "I love what's going on at GoDaddy," she says.
But not everyone approves. "Why would anyone want to change what is working and what has been so memorable?" asks Laura Ries, a brand consultant. "Should Aflac dump the duck? Should Corona move to a lemon instead of a lime?"
GoDaddy has lots to show for its decade of Super Bowl efforts. When it aired its first Super Bowl spot in 2005, GoDaddy was a $100 million company, Today, it's a $1.3 billion company. Two years ago, GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons told USA TODAY that his $70 million in Super Bowl ads were directly responsible for much of the additional $1 billion in business.
Which leaves Ries perplexed. "After 10 years of bad boob jokes, brands do need to evolve," says Ries. "But now they are totally walking away from what built the brand. That usually backfires. Just ask J.C. Penney."