For most small businesses, ponying up millions of dollars for a Super Bowl ad is a pipe dream.
But business software maker Intuit wants to make that dream a reality and is offering the chance to score a 30-second ad -- for free -- during the most watched event of the year.
Intuit's contest, which kicked off Wednesday, is open to any U.S.-based business with 50 or fewer full-time employees. For a chance at the prize, a business owner or employee must submit a story about their company to www.smallbusinessbiggame.com by Sept. 22.
The top 20 will be selected by an online vote, and then Intuit's(INTU) 8,000 employees will vote to pick four finalists. A new online vote in December will determine the grand-prize winner. Intuit will pick up the cost for a 30-second commercial, which will air during the third quarter of Super Bowl 2014.
"We think small businesses are the unsung heroes of the economy, and this contest is a way to shine a light on them," said Heather McLellan, director of Intuit's small business division. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a bigger platform than the Super Bowl, which typically breaks viewership records.
Nearly 109 million people watched the Super Bowl last year, only slightly below the previous year's record-setting 111 million viewers.
The price of Super Bowl ads, too, has reached record levels. The cost for a 30-second spot hit a record high last year of at least $4 million.
"We think this is an opportunity of a lifetime for one small business," said McLellan.