6 Super Bowl Marketing Lessons

It’s one of the biggest days of the year and it has been called a de facto American national holiday – Super Bowl Sunday. As the most watched sporting event in the world, advertisers clamor for the opportunity to establish awareness for their brand and to tout their wares in front of millions of sports fans. With an estimated reported cost of between $3.7 and $4 million for a :30 ad placement, marketers view this precious time as an investment, and, as such, often take a more diligent approach to assure they make a lasting impression. But why all of this hyper-attention and coordination just for the Super Bowl – shouldn’t it be extended to all marketing efforts, regardless of budget throughout the year? With that in mind, here are my top six Super Bowl lessons to use throughout the year regardless of the size, scope, or budget associated with your own marketing effort.

  1. Planning and collaboration. With over 110 million people tuning in to watch the game and upwards of $4 million dollars spent for that :30 ad, the pressure to deliver the goods is intense. Upper management and employees are watching with pride and anticipation and the added scrutiny often encourages us to be our best. To do so requires intense planning and collaboration internally between departments and functions, as well as externally between brands, agencies, and partners. However, whether your budget is $5,000, $500,000, $5 million, or $50 million, use planning and collaboration to make the most of every opportunity, program, and dollar.
  2. Integration and orchestration. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of better planning and collaboration, but it’s always great to see how nearly every Super Bowl effort attempts to marry old plus new media to create bigger and better results and experiences. Ads are often released prior to the Super Bowl via communication departments and public relations firms anxious to increase awareness and visibility for brands’ big Super Bowl efforts. Social media outlets like YouTube and others are leveraged to showcase and preview ad efforts and to create buzz prior to game day. Marketing materials and communications – including print ads, email, text, and display – work in coordination to drive awareness and action up to, during, and post game day. Super Bowl ads are deconstructed, rated, and ranked by advertising experts and consumers for days, weeks, and even years later, and if you’re lucky you may be among the most memorable. The expert integration and orchestration of offline and online marketing is at its best when it comes to the Super Bowl, resulting in millions of views, hundreds of articles, and a lingering buzz that highlights just how powerful orchestrating a multi-channel marketing effort can be. Apply this lesson to each and every marketing program and you will be sure to see a measureable impact and improvement in the results.
  3. Creativity. There is nothing like having the world watching to get the creative juices flowing. For creative departments at ad agencies, having a :30 ad on Super Bowl Sunday is the ultimate prize and recognition that you have arrived and are being trusted to deliver. Concepts are reviewed, tested, and scrutinized to maximize impact and to achieve the ultimate goal – to be remembered! Ads from Super Bowl Sunday have been ranked and reviewed by experts as well as consumers for their creativity, impact, and staying power. While the scrutiny is intense, the process reminds us just how important it is to stand out and set a standard. For those who do succeed the rewards are handsome.
  4. Consumer involvement. Great Super Bowl efforts connect with the viewer. At some level we can identify with them – be it the subject, situation, or circumstance. They often use humor to break through the clutter and increasingly involve the consumer at some level. Whether they are voting for the ending of choice, contributing content, showcasing their story, or encouraging the viewing public to vote or take action after airing, great ads involve the viewer. Over the last decade we as an industry have moved from a campaign-focused to a consumer-focused mentality, and marketing will increasingly reflect that sea of change. Super Bowl ads from Coca-Cola, Toyota, Hyundai, Pepsi, Doritos, Pizza Hut, Audi, Lincoln, and Budweiser all included consumer involvement at some level, signaling the end of campaigns featuring celebrities in favor of everyday consumers who are not only in control but the featured star in these big budget efforts. For marketers, this shift highlights the importance of the consumer being front-and-center in all that we do and a renewed focus on being relatable and real.
  5. Timing/immediacy. As we saw from the blackout during the Super Bowl, the real-time web offers marketers an incredible opportunity to act and respond to the unexpected. Oreo’s reaction – “You can still dunk in the dark” – moved from concept to posting in five minutes and was retweeted more than 13,000 times. Reacting and adapting marketing plans and programs in real time is today’s reality and an area that marketers must strengthen in order to optimize success in today’s connected and always-on world.
  6. Measurement. There is perhaps no single marketing effort measured more closely than a Super Bowl effort. Aside from the enormous reach offered via TV exposure, reports on YouTube views, site traffic, clicks, submissions, leads, conversions, and sales are often touted by advertisers and experts for week, if not months following the game. The best programs highlight the consumer journey and do so by looking at the performance of each channel and its hand-off to the next throughout the marketing funnel. For marketers, the Super Bowl reminds us to not only set goals and objectives, but to create a measurement framework that allows us to track our success in everything we do.

While sports can often teach us a lot of life lessons including the importance of leadership, teamwork, and sportsmanship, the Super Bowl advertising ecosystem offers many lessons as well. The intensity of Super Bowl marketing requires brands to be hyper-disciplined, and to carefully plan, coordinate, integrate, and orchestrate messaging to drive success. Leveraging creativity and the real-time web to break through the clutter and involve the consumer to form a lasting connection is what we all are constantly striving toward. Use these lessons well as you look across your own organization and efforts and I’m sure you too will succeed.

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