It used to be very simple for Super Bowl advertisers. Plunk down a hefty sum with a network, engage the best of the best on the creative side and wait, or hope, for the ad to jumpstart sales for the millions of eyeballs tuning in to the game. Talking puppets, capturing “Big Brother,” Clydesdales playing football, and the annual Bud Bowl promotions were always the rage, and were watched over and over again in talk shows following the game. You knew the final score, and more importantly for a brand, you saw your wins in advertising trades and in consumer brand confidence. Then you moved on to whatever came next with your brand.
These days, that playbook is as old as watching a Wishbone offense. Today it is all about the second screen, the advance sneak peeks, the social media and the call to action that matters almost as much or even more than the commercial spot that still costs millions to run in the game. The consumer of today wants more, and the Super Bowl has to deliver more than ever before. “Reactions on Facebook, twitter, and other forms of social media will tell who was effective on a network broadcast more than when a spot runs or how long it was,” said Mike McCarthy, the award winning former head of MSG Networks now co-chair of Manhattan Place Entertainment, a highly respected production house that builds campaigns for brands and properties alike. “As recent as five years ago it was still about the buzz in the ad, now broadcasters have to help deliver a second screen promotion around the broadcast as well, and that type of activation is what will really determine success to a spot.”
The battle for that success also starts well in advance of the big game these days. Like Christmas campaigns in August and stores opening on Thanksgiving, early adoption and long term engagement for brands is just as important as what rolls out in the game. “Brands are issuing teasers, pre-game day, on YouTube which will provide them an avenue to tracking unique viewers,” said Eric Smallwood, SVP of Front Row Analytics which will be monitoring engagement around Super Bowl. It will also not end at the final gun or when The Lombardi Trophy is raised high Sunday night. The engagement will continue on. “While during the game, the brands can track the buzz of their ads on USA Today Ad Meter, Twitter and Zeebox, the final tally will still come Monday with viewers reactions in USA Today, most morning shows and social media buzz. That is where the reaction to these multifaceted campaigns will finally come to a head.”
And what about the brands themselves? While year in, year out stalwarts like beer and cars still find their spot in the Super Bowl landscape, McCarthy added that newer categories not just bring the dollars, but find ways to engage with consumers on all levels better than the traditional brands in many cases. “We always could look to strong consumer brands to deliver their message during broadcasts, but today it is the domain server companies, the electronics and mobile companies like Samsung, the computer brands like Apple that will really engage, use the second screen and social media and resonate with a consumer that is not interested in just sitting back and watching. He or she can’t play in the game, but he will find a way to be active and engaged in the broadcast, and those engaging brands can win the battle whereas years ago, the larger the brand the better the chance for success. It is a different business now, not just in the Super Bowl but for all broadcasters, and it will continue to change.”
On Sunday, we will tune in for the Ravens and 49ers with the hopes of watching a football game, but we will really be watching a new game of expanded consumer involvement, one which was really unfathomable only a few years ago, and one which with the help of the brands, technology and social media, may be even more engaging than the result on the field. It is a game plan for business success that is more complex than almost any playbook, with stakes just as high for those companies investing in Super Bowl as for those players on the field.
While there will be a winner from Baltimore or San Francisco, others with multifaceted campaigns can also pull some impressive W’s, not just on Sunday but for months to come.