Every marketing professional knows that the Super Bowl is the time to play your trump card. The size and diversity of the audience have made the football game just as important for the brands jockeying for air time as it is for the players jockeying on the field. It is the time to show off your boldest and most iconic work.
But the way people watch television, including the biggest football game of the year, has changed markedly over the past five years. The arrival of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has revolutionized how marketers craft and present the ads that so often go on to become pop culture touchstones. Even the way that the National Football League manages the game’s presence has transformed.
Here’s a look at what social media has done to alter the landscape of Super Bowl advertising. And as you kick back with your game day snacks on Sunday, think about how these new social strategies can be applied to marketing your business every day of the year.
YouTube Makes the Game Moot
The growing popularity of YouTube marked a shift in how people began interacting with Super Bowl ads. Before YouTube was the primary source for online video content, if you missed the game, you missed the ads. That took you out of all the ensuing watercooler conversations about the funniest or most controversial clips.
Once using YouTube became more common, though, it would be a matter of hours after the final play before all of the most amusing ads made it onto the network. Even if they weren’t the official videos posted by brands, it became much easier to be in the know about all the top ads without actually watching the game. The ads started to take on a bigger presence separate from the football.
The ease of distribution on YouTube also opened up a new outlet for the brands that used controversial spots as a source of buzz. If the network wouldn’t air a potentially scandalous or insulting ad, everybody would be all the more likely to hunt for it on YouTube.
The network knows what a powerful position it holds in spreading the pop culture zeitgeist of the Super Bowl ads. In 2009, YouTube launched the Ad Blitz program, a hub where people can watch all of the top ads aired during the game. It has playlists of the major spots from each of the subsequent years still available to watch.
Strategies Shift Toward Social
Around the time YouTube took off, brands began to look at ways to incorporate social media into their Super Bowl plans. Dorito’s was one of the first to realize the potential for crowd-sourcing in getting fans involved ahead of game day. It launched its “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign for fan-made ads seven years ago, and it’s still going strong. Another big shift for brands came in 2011, when Audi blazoned the screen with a Twitter hashtag at the end of its spot, claiming it was the first company to do so. Analytics companies also began paying more attention to the ads that got the most buzz on networks, which created more good press for companies with popular campaigns.
The NFL also started taking social more seriously as other brands strengthened ties with networks. In 2010, the league promoted #SB44 as the official hashtag for tweets about the game. It even launched a special website that year to collect posts on Twitter and Flickr marked with the tag. Last year, the league launched a social media command center to help people who went to see the game in person. The team fielded questions on Twitter about everything from parking to tickets. It was one of the early signs of how big data and careful monitoring of social channels could be used for better customer service.
All these shifts in behavior — crowd-sourcing, hashtags, and a curated social media experience — are trends that have become commonplace today. And you won’t just find them on Super Bowl Sunday, but in the day-to-day activities of any company with a good social strategy.
The Trend for 2013
The buzz started building for this year’s big marketing spots well in advance of Sunday’s game. Brands have realized that to generate the excitement needed for long-term results on social networks, they need to rely on more than just tweets and status updates on game day. More and more brands are going the interactive route to create that response, giving fans a chance to have a say in the ads that appear during the Super Bowl.
For example, Coca-Cola’s campaign involves a long-form story of three teams racing across the desert to win a bottle of the soda. Fans can vote for their favorite team, while shares and likes of their vote can sabotage opposing teams.
Audi also went for the crowdsourcing option, with several options for viewers to select as the ending for a single young teenager heading to prom alone. By getting people invested in the spot, especially by offering an upbeat message of confidence, Audi generated lots of Twitter enthusiasm. A search for the campaign’s #BraveryWins hashtag yields lots of admiring tweets from casual viewers and marketing pros alike.
This approach of getting viewers and fans involved ahead of the Super Bowl is proving a successful way for brands to get good word of mouth. Especially as YouTube has given the once fleeting Super Bowl commercial newfound longevity, brands can build enough of a campaign around the game to make it an even bigger marketing event. That can help justify some of the extravagant costs of securing Super Bowl airtime.
The sea changes in how brands are approaching the advertising event of the year should have an impact on your company’s agenda. The bar will only get pushed higher as social media marketing becomes more tightly integrated with our business, communication, and pop culture. Make sure your brand is ready with a plan.