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Hashtag Hail Mary: Social Media Blitzes The Super Bowl

Advertising is always big business at the Super Bowl. Now companies like GM are working with Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, and Androids to make it even bigger.

Hashtag Hail Mary: Social Media Blitzes The Super Bowl

On February 5, hundreds of thousands of fans will pack Indianapolis and more than 100 million eyeballs will be glued to Super Bowl XLVI  on television. The Super Bowl isn’t just big business for professional sports; it’s a make-or-break day for advertisers, restaurants, bars, and broadcasters. This year, the Super Bowl will also be big business for social media and mobile app developers.

Chevrolet/General Motors is taking advantage of the Super Bowl to launch an ambitious smartphone and social media crossover app. The Chevy Game Time app, which launched yesterday, allows users to win new cars and other prizes by answering trivia questions in a process that is fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter. During yesterday’s playoff games, a 30-second Chevy spot featuring Tim Allen promoted the newly launched app. Apart from new cars–a total of 20 cars will be given away–more than 6,000 other prizes will be offered, ranging from free pizzas to $50 NFL gift certificates to Droid Razr phones.

For Chevy, the big challenge is guaranteeing that users will be glued to their iPhones during commercial breaks and gaps in play. Viewers, after all, are (one would think) more interested in watching the game, talking to their friends and family, and checking out commercials than fiddling with their phones. But then, the two-screen era is upon us. Chevy’s hope is that the application will help build relationships with their users and help enhance demographic information. This is believed to be the first time any advertiser has tried a smartphone/social media hybrid project for a sporting event.

Chevy is also sponsoring an official collaborative project between the NFL and Twitter called Road to the #Superbowl. “Road,” which is currently in soft launch, lets users browse tweets from players on playoff teams and allows users to browse through tweets with a #superbowl hashtag. The exponential growth of Twitter means that sports events are huge traffic generators news for the microblogging site; according to Twitter, more than 1.5 million users mentioned Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow’s famous pass during this year’s playoff game against the Steelers.

Meanwhile, the NFL has been quietly using a fantasy football, social media hybrid to interact with fans. The NFL’s Fantasy Playoff Challenge, launched several weeks ago, invited users to play in a fantasy football league for prizes including a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The interactive game integrated many elements of social media to attract users.

The NFL Players’ Association, which represents individual pro football players in the media, has a separate social media presence from the NFL. Conduit, an Israeli firm with several prominent sports clients including soccer teams Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Chelsea, launched a series of player-branded apps and toolbars. The apps were announced shortly before the new year by developer Target Entertainment; each app will be dedicated to an individual player. Veterans Takeo Spikes and LeSean McCoy were first up to have custom apps developed for them. The most interesting aspect of the smartphone apps is that they rely heavily on social picture-sharing functionality; a “LiveAlbum” feature allows users to share pictures of themselves watching games or other sports events.

The Super Bowl host city, Indianapolis, is relying on social media and apps to retain football-hungry tourists even after February 5. The Super Bowl Host Committee will be releasing an iPhone and Android-ready travel guide app in the coming days, while Mashable reports that the Host Committee opened a 2800-square-foot “social media command center” staffed by a team who will assist users on Twitter and Facebook. Beyond standard analytics and PR work, the Host Committee will be using social media to help users find parking spots and tourist info in real time.

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here or find him on Twitter and Google+.

[Image: Flickr user Ron Diel]