Super Bowl XLVI Advertisers On How To Make The Game Social

Agency and brand execs discuss the importance of social media to this once-a-year ad buy, and how brands are integrating social media into creative ideas. Also, a rundown of social media tie-ins for Super Bowl XLVI.

Super Bowl XLVI Advertisers On How To Make The Game Social
Jun Ji/Shutterstock

There are a dwindling number of advertisers these days shelling out for Super Bowl commercials and leaving it at that. With recent stats showing that a huge percentage of Americans will be interacting with another device while watching the game, and that nearly half of the Super Bowl audience will share ads via social media after the game, more of those brands who deem it worthwhile to spend $3.5 million on a 30-second slot in the game (and up to a few million making a spot) are looking to extend creative engagement into social media.


For more brands, that’s meant releasing their Super Bowl spots before the game to spur conversation before and after the big event. But, beyond spot previews and beyond re-posting their ads, how are marketers using social media to extend the experience? We asked a few of the creative and brand execs who have undertaken major Super Bowl campaigns how they’re thinking about the social side of game day.

Brands like Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, and Audi are leveraging Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in new ways this year, building multi-layered campaigns to continue the conversation beyond the big game. Advertisers who pay for a Super Bowl spot alone are “leaving a ton of money on the table,” says Lucy Farey-Jones, Partner and Head of Strategy for Audi’s agency Venables Bell & Partners (the agency also publishes a Super Bowl social media study showing game-day media habits–see below). “If you’re going to spend those millions you should really make it work for you.” And making the most of a Super Bowl campaign goes back to tailoring engagement for where consumers are.

Although a brand may have strong followings across their social media platforms, Farey-Jones warns against mass-blasting a single spot. “One of the mistakes marketers make is they put the same content out on each channel,” she says. “The biggest rule of thumb is to try and develop content that’s appropriate for each media–ideally you’re using Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook for what they’re best for.”

Chevy is doing just that and then some by sponsoring the “Road to the #SuperBowl”–a collaborative custom site from the NFL and Twitter that allows users to browse tweets from players, analysts, and fans–and also with the launch of their “Chevy Game Time App,” which quizzes users with game-related trivia for the chance to win Chevy cars and other prizes. “There’s going to be 110 million or more people watching the Super Bowl but not everyone is interested in the game itself,” says Joakim Borgstrom, creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the agency behind the app. “Our challenge was how can we own the conversation around the Super Bowl and engage that mass audience in a significant way?” And as Chevy’s director of advertising Kevin Mayer explains, it was a matter of putting two and two together. “We know about 53% of the people who watch the Super Bowl tend to go for a party or for the ads themselves. And the other stat that really made us think was about 80% of people these days watch TV with a [tablet] or phone in their lap,” he says. “So the intersection of these two points was really the insight to creating an app like this.”

As a Super Bowl ad veteran, Coke’s goal this year was to outdo its previous commercials but in the digital and social media space. “We absolutely had to step up our game and join the conversation where it was happening,” says Pio Schunker, Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing Platforms and Content for Coca-Cola, North America. “We needed to join it in a way that was unique to Coke and at the same time in a way that wouldn’t impose on the conversation but would actually enhance it.”


Agency Wieden + Kennedy hatched the idea of Coke’s iconic polar bears watching the Super Bowl and reacting to the gridiron action in real time. Schunker is hoping the bears will supplement social media conversations during game time by serving as a proxy for fans looking to rub a touchdown in a friend’s face or express frustration at a botched play. “We’re imagining people will have one or two interactions with the polar bears, love it, take a snackable piece of content from the video stream and then forward it on to their friends in their social networks,” he says. “More than anything we’re looking for the degree of engagement people have and the degree of brand affinity they have as a result.”

Venables Bell & Partners’ Super Bowl survey

Audi has also become a Super Bowl staple and this year, the luxury brand’s ad is taking a bite out of the vampire craze while sparking conversation on Twitter with #SoLongVampires. The marketer engineered a Facebook contest whereby fans could “unlock” the vampire-themed Super Bowl spot. “The best stories are simple ones and culturally relevant,” says Farey-Jones. “One thing we’ve learned over the years is you don’t want to get too tricksy. People aren’t looking to do a massive amount of work, so you want to be engaging but not asking for an over-commitment because, hey, there’s a game on!”

Here’s a rundown of some of the social media initiatives tied to Super Sunday.

Coca-Cola Polar Bowl
Coke’s research says 60% of Super Bowl viewers will have a device in their hands along with their Buffalo wings, so the brand aimed to make the most of the return of its iconic polar bears with a multi-platform campaign to complement the two spots that will appear in the game.
The bears, each wearing a scarf to indicate team allegiance, will appear to watch and react to the game (and the ads) in real time at and will tweet their “thoughts” using the hashtag #GameDayPolarBears. Taking a page from its monster Old Spice “Responses” campaign, agency Wieden + Kennedy created the interactive campaign which will allow fans to send messages and photos to the bears. A W+K team will orchestrate the bear’s responses to fan feedback via Twitter and Facebook.


Chevy “Road To The #Super Bowl”
Chevy, the NFL, and Twitter collaborated on “Road to the #Superbowl,” which lets viewers browse tweets from players on playoff teams and to browse through tweets with a #superbowl hashtag.

Chevy “Game Time” Super Bowl App
Chevrolet will have a user-generated spot in the game but also created this mobile/social media app which allows viewers to win prizes via Facebook- and Twitter-integrated challenges. A total of 20 cars will be given away as well as other prizes ranging from pizzas to NFL gift certificates and Droid Razr phones.

Pepsi “The King’s Court” Shazam/Sound Off Tie-In
Pepsi has two spots in Super Bowl XLVI, including a music-driven effort starring X Factor winner Melanie Amaro and Elton John. Viewers will be able to download a free video of Amaro’s performance of Otis Redding’s “Respect” by using the Shazam app to capture audio from the ad. Pepsi will also host an NFL-themed version of Sound Off, the social platform it created around X Factor. A partnership with Get Glue will also allow fans to check into the game for the chance to win prizes.


The Super Bowl Host Committee Social Media Command Center
Reflecting the growing importance of social media in the game context, the Super Bowl itself is formalizing its social efforts with a 2,800-square-foot command center to handle all fan conversations around the event. A team of data, tech, and social experts, led by agency Raidious, will monitor all social media on topics ranging from where to park to where to go after the game. The social team will monitor Twitter hashtags #SuperBowl, #social46, and #SuperBowl2012 (among others, presumably) and fans can also access the Super Bowl Host Committee’s Facebook page to post a question.

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.