How Brands Can Score Big with the Super Bowl

by Sharp | February 24, 2016

This post comes from the mind of Social Media intern Tatiana Rocha. Tatiana joins our team from Hunter College where she studies Media Studies

The Super Bowl is one of the most deeply ingrained cultural pastimes for many Americans. The ritual of sitting in front of a flat screen, watching two great football teams and showing off game-day cooking skills has made it on most famous unofficial national holiday.

After a night of anticipated ‘dabbing’, and show that left people wondering if Coldplay’s front man Chris Martin was this years ‘left shark’, the Denver Broncos won with a lead of 24–10 to against the Carolina Panthers.

But like many of us know, besides football, the Super Bowl has become a moment for brands to show off their most creative ads of the year. In fact, the Super Bowl draws an audience of more than just football fans for that very reason. It is an ideal time for ads to shine as consumers are actually paying attention and fascinated to see who and what is going to be in these commercials.

We took a look at this year’s standout ads and what made them work. Here are 5 best practices we took away from Super Bowl 50:

1. Expand Your Ads Beyond Television:

No longer are brands waiting to reveal their ad on the day of the game. Over the last few years, social media has allowed advertisers opt to reveal teaser content or their entire ad days/weeks before the big game in hopes to build up suspense and excitement for game day.This year was no different as brands like Pokémon, Amazon, Hyundai, and Walt Disney Pictures ‘Jungle Book’ joined in on the ‘pregame’ ad releases.

According to, 50 brands and 84 ad teasers have amassed more than 404.5 million digital views going into Super Bowl Sunday. 184 million views cam from Facebook this year and about 117.1 million of the remaining 220.5 million on YouTube were organic, or unpaid.

And it ended up paying off. Although the Denver Broncos technically won the physical Super Bowl, in the marketing world Pokémon’s ad was one of the big winners with almost 20 million views on YouTube. Runners up were Hyundai’s ‘First Date’ and Heinz’s ‘Weiner Stampede’, which came in next with generating the most organic digital activity, beginning well before the Big Game.

As the digital age causes consumer culture to become less patient, revealing ads prior to the event is only increasing interest. People are looking forward to what they will see, even if its only 15 seconds worth of material, especially if there is a connection between the brand and consumer.

2. Not All Engagements Are Meaningful:

Sunday night proved that although certain social engagement between consumers and brands may create buzz, it does not always mean it is worthwhile and effective.

The #Esurancesweepstakes may have dominated the Twitter conversation on Sunday evening but money giveaways don’t often equate with actual costumer revenue or ongoing brand interactions on social media for the brand, as interest in prizing can overshadow the actual interest in the product.

The internet reacts to Red Lobster’s tweet

Red Lobster was the epitomized example of the most missed opportunity. As Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ trended on Twitter, and fans anticipated a response to the unsolicited Red Lobster reference, the restaurant chain responded with a tweet that left many wondering what went wrong.

3. Influencer Marketing Reaches New Heights:

As ad placements become more expensive, each moment, person and experience counts. Companies are looking beyond television to enhance their image and are using innovative ways to amplify their presence digitally and socially.

This year we saw our fair share of celebrities. Companies like Budweiser and Amazon used Hollywood mega-stars like Amy Schumer, Seth Rogan, Alec Baldwin and Missy Elliot in their commercials. In return, celebrities amplified company’s presence. For example, Alec Baldwin and Missy Elliot tweeted gifs and ad teasers of Amazon’s first Super Bowl commercial that they starred in.

Squarespace moved beyond the commercial and came up with a creative and fresh way to keep the conversation around the Super Bowl while advertising their company.

Key and Peel Host Squarespace’s #RealTalk

Squarespace live-streamed a three-hour comedic commentary of the Big Game, hosted by comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele who acted as two aspiring Atlanta sportscasters ‘Lee and Morris’. The only catch was that neither the comedians nor the platform could trademark anything related to the ‘Big Game’. The resulting commentary was both funny for football fans and uniquely relatable to non-sports fans.

This new form of Super Bowl entertainment made Key and Peele the most searched commentators for Super Bowl 50. This campaign was a great example of how to engage celebrity influencers, in unexpected ways, that go beyond performances in an ad spot.

4. Odd Ball Humor to Break the Internet:

Super Bowl 50 was all about the odd, and somewhat nightmarish commercials that left an imprint on audiences forever. No longer will hot men and adorable dogs suffice, but rather Mountains Dew’s spokes creature #Puppymonkeybaby and Doritos Baby are the new tactic that left the Internet astonished.

#puppymonkeybaby reaction meme

Yes #puppymonkeybaby left many scared and wondering what they just encountered, but it brilliantly spoke to the social media generation. Quickly, the Internet took the disturbing creature and created comedic content. Now there are memes, t-shirts, and gifs that will keep the animal-human hybrid alive, even though we may not want it to.

These commercials were not groundbreaking but they made an impression. Any impression, good or bad, is what sometimes ends up being the creative driver behind Super Bowl spots.

5. Emergence of New Platform Marketing:

According to Instagram representatives, 38 million people engaged with the app’s Super Bowl-related content 155 million times on Sunday.

While on Snapchat, Gatorade took advantage of sponsored lenses and asked fans to virtually Snapchat themselves and friends getting Gatorade baths.

Facebook and Twitter might still dominate the attention on social ads for the Super Bowl, Instagram and Snapchat are paving unique ways for advertisers to take advantage of their features to create memorable relationships with consumers.

For more insights from Sharp Communications follow along on Twitter @Sharp_Think.


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