February 4, 2016 Rachel Poor


This Sunday, Americans will gather round the flat panel TV for our great national tradition: scarfing down nachos and wings, and enjoying a “cold one” while watching Super Bowl ads. As the Broncos and Panthers fight for Super Bowl dominance, brands are battling off of the field to win the unofficial Ad Bowl. But for most, delivering the perfect 30-second TV spot is no longer enough; the real battle takes place off air and online as consumers flood social media, to review, share and weigh-in on their faves and fails. In fact, last year’s Super Bowl commercials were shared online 9 million times, a 73 percent increase over 2014, according to Unruly’s latest white paper The Science of Sharing 2015.”

With more than half of all viewers watching Super Bowl ads online rather than on TV, brands know they don’t need a huge ad buy to make a splash on Super Bowl Sunday. In fact, some of the most memorable brand moments were on the second screen. Who can forget, in 2013, Oreo’s perfectly timed “Dunk in the Dark” tweet during the Superdome power outage? It turned into social media gold and the standard by which all Super Bowl advertising success is now measured.

Brands looking to score a social media touchdown on Sunday will likely follow some of these best practices:

  1. Start a conversation. Unlike ads that talk at consumers, social media is all about talking with consumers. Last year Always scored a huge hit with its stereotype crushing #LikeAGirl campaign. The brand sparked a passionate conversation about what it means to do something “like a girl” that extended far beyond the Super Bowl. That ongoing social media conversation and subsequent follow-up ads were so effective that it’s easy to forget Always was actually selling a product.
  2. Crowdsource content. More and more brands aren’t waiting until Super Bowl Sunday to reach consumers. While most are posting commercials on YouTube a week before the big game, some brands are starting months (even a year) ahead and crowdsourcing content. Doritos is famous for crowdsourcing its annual Super Bowl ad with its “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, first started a decade ago in 2006. Last year post-Super Bowl, Doritos announced the “Legion of the Bold“, an ongoing competition crowdsourcing everything from billboards to Halloween costumes.
  3. Join the conversation. We’ve entered a critical point in the post-viral era where social media feeds are crowded with so much digital clutter that standing out is a huge challenge. Rather than forcing your content on consumers, join an existing conversation. Brands are beginning to talk to each other on social media, too. Last year Doritos tweeted a tongue-in-cheek picture of a “Doritos Angel in Training” to Victoria’s Secret, sparking a clever conversation between the two brands.
  4. Create an ad ambush. Arguably the Ad Bowl winner of 2014 didn’t even exist. Newcastle Brown Ale’s marketing budget for the entire year is less than half of what the Super Bowl commands for a piece of the day’s action. So instead, the beer maker created a two-minute online video featuring Anna Kendrick delivering an irreverent rant. This approach was not only attention grabbing, but totally on-brand with their “No Bullocks” platform. The right mix of tapping an influencer’s network combined with earned and owned media made this non-commercial one of the most talked about in 2014.

With 265 million Facebook posts, likes and comments and over 28 million tweets, last year’s game was the most “social” Super Bowl to date. However, my money is on #SB50 blowing those benchmarks out of the water and I’m looking forward to seeing which brands come out victorious in the #SB50 Ad Bowl.


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