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Steve Jobs inspired Best Buy to switch from celebrities to inventors for Super Bowl ad

The numerous tributes to late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs after he died last October prompted big-box retailer Best Buy to change its Super Bowl advertising strategy from using celebrities to spotlighting inventors instead, according to a new report.

The Richfield, Minn., company attempted to capitalize on the star appeals of popstar Justin Bieber and rocker Ozzy Osbourne with a television commercial during last year's Super Bowl. This year, however, the company will change its tack and highlight Silicon Valley innovators like Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom and cameraphone pioneer Philippe Kahn, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

Best Buy's marketing chief Drew Panayiotou told the publication that Jobs' legacy was the reason for the change. After Jobs passed away last October, people around the world flocked to Apple retail stores to mourn him and pay tribute to his legacy. Most recently, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned Jobs as an example of American ingenuity during the State of the Union address last month.

Panayiotou said the tributes made him realize that technology inventors like Jobs are today's stars. The executive then decided to forgo celebrity power and switch to a feature on inventors for Best Buy's 2012 Super Bowl ad.

He admitted that the move was risky, and the company's bet is a particularly high-stakes one given how much it cost. A 30-second commercial during this year's football championship reportedly cost a record $3.5 million on average. The retailer could also find its commercial eclipsed by spots promoting Budweiser beer and M&M candy, both of which will air during the same first-quarter break.

“Big brands like to hire celebrities,” Panayiotou told Bloomberg in an interview. “We looked at everyone from George Clooney to Stephen Colbert. We believe the inventors are more than enough. I give those 125 million viewers a lot of credit. I think they’ll appreciate the story.”

Panayiotou did admit that Kahn and Systrom don't have the same kind of popularity as Jobs had. “They may not be at the same level as Steve Jobs, but they created some amazing stuff,” he said.

Best Buy executive vice president Mike Vitelli revealed that the commercial isn't meant to be funny. “It’s a statement that these people are inventing technology and what we’re inventing is a way to bring that technology to you and make it easy for you.”

This isn't the first time that Best Buy has drawn inspiration from Apple's image to help promote itself. Last November, the retailer ran ads highlighting its stores as places to buy Apple products. According to one analyst, Apple devices were some of the strongest-selling products for Best Buy during last year's holiday shopping season.

Best Buy is also working to make its brick-and-mortar stores more like Apple's own retail outlets, which have been held up as examples of retail done right. For instance, the company is striving to improve its customer service and de-clutter stores to resemble Apple's minimalist displays.