For many small business owners, it may be akin to winning the lottery. Maybe even bigger.
Start-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.
"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; 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. The list of 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 start-up, 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 d.school 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."