Leverage Digital Channels During the Game

Super Bowl Ads: Get In on the Action Without Spending $5 Million


So you want in on the highest viewed sporting event in the world: the Super Bowl. All of those eyeballs come with hefty price tags for media spots — some brands cough up as much as $5.5 million for a 30-second ad slot. Plus, in 2016, a whopping 114 million viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the eagerly anticipated matchup — with 17.7% admitting that the commercials were the main attraction. But what do you do when you don’t have that kind of cash laying around?

While spending over $5 million for ad space makes sense for some brands, the multi-million dollar price tag for a half-minute commercial slot is still way out of reach for most marketing budgets. Plus, it is a lot of cash to invest in a single initiative.

So, we got to thinking. Working in digital, we know that there are plenty of ways to get in on the action if it makes sense for the goals of your brand. And, to prove that you don’t need to invest millions to benefit from the Super Bowl hype (in fact 72% of US marketing agencies agree that digital marketing is just as effective as TV), we thought we would highlight digital campaigns and activations that were successful in doing just that.

1. Become Part of The Conversation

The Super Bowl is a big deal with or without the advertisers. Pundits are speculating, fans are debating, and the two teams are preparing.

To get your brand involved in the action, you can partner up with the obvious and most relevant voices to become part of the existing conversation.

Tiffany & Co set a good example with this strategy when they partnered with the NFL Foundation to auction off their “bedazzled” footballs. We know what you might be thinking: Why did Tiffany & Co run a campaign during the Super Bowl? Well, if you consider that 80% of women plan to tune in to watch this year, their motives become much more clear.

2. Fun Stunts

The Super Bowl is a good excuse for getting creative and whimsical with your marketing.

By pulling a Football-themed publicity stunt — whether during the game or on social media — you could get a slice of the attention.

Doritos for example, bought tickets for a group of fans and created a large Dorito-shaped section in the stadium. Then, they tweeted about it and reaped the retweets.

3. User Generated Content

Sporting events are a great way to unite diverse groups of people. Similarly, they provide the right platform for you to reach out and connect with your existing audience.

By encouraging your fans and followers to send in their own content, you can host giveaways and contests while nurturing the fun side of your brand.

A good example of user generated content revolving around the Super Bowl, is Pizza Hut’s “Hut. Hut. Hut.” campaign. The campaign invited Pizza hut lovers to send in creative videos of themselves saying “Hut, Hut, Hut”. The play on words was smart, but the creativity of the public drove home the real comedic value.

4. Real-time Engagement

The power of social media is not just embodied by reach, it’s embodied by speed — the same speed that allows brands to engage with events as they unfold.

The famous Oreo Moment was born in this way. When a power outage forced play to pause, Oreo’s marketing team rapidly threw together a tongue-in-cheek image insisting that, “You can still dunk in the dark”. The tweet got over 14,000 retweets, while the Facebook post received over 20,000 likes.

Live video is also an extremely effective way to interact with events, news, and audiences in real time. Plus, with video content alone projected to account for 74% of all web traffic in 2017, getting on Facebook Live and doing an interactive Super Bowl build-up show could be just the ticket.

5. Sponsored Social Expression

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to social media marketing. In fact, you’d do well to jump on existing bandwagons.

By integrating your brand into accepted paradigms on social media, your message can foray into the limelight in a relatively organic fashion. Gatorade’s Bath Snapchat Filter is one good example of this tactic in action.

However, be sure to avoid coming across as too corporate — particularly when dealing with the casual users of Snapchat. No Football fan wants to hear uber-professional messages when they’re in the zone, so keep it casual, and the engagement will come.

6. Product Launches

Launching a new product to coincide with the Super Bowl is another sound marketing strategy. With nerves kicking in and excitement filling the air, impulse buying is as rife as ever.

Johnsonville Sausage for example, launched a sausage-themed reality tv show just before the 2016 game, hoping that viewers would buy their product for their big game parties. Their show wasn’t exclusively digital, but it was shared on social media, where it gained most of its traction.

7. Super Bowl Dependent Deals

Incentive-based marketing campaigns are nothing new, and they too work well leading up to big events like the Super Bowl.

But instead of simply asking for retweets in return for a free tickets, give your campaign a twist of relevancy, by making the incentives based upon the outcome of the Super Bowl itself.

For example: Papa John’s promised its members free pizza if the Super Bowl went into overtime. This allowed them to attract membership sign ups before kick off, and keep people engaged throughout the game with real-time social media posts as the fixture unfolded.  

Score a Digital Touchdown

There’s no doubting the value of a Super Bowl television commercial. With the right creative team crafting your ad, the $5.5 million investment could indeed be worth every penny.

However, all is not lost for the vast majority of brands that don’t have such a budget at their disposal. As we’ve highlighted above, there are numerous ways to capitalize on the popularity of the Super Bowl by working digitally — and strategically.

While we love the Super Bowl, we love flexing our creative muscles on any and all campaigns even more. Have a need for a campaign? We’re here to help.