How Digital Marketing is Changing the Big Game Playbook
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These days, good Super Bowl marketing is about more than the ad you run during the big game. Digital marketing’s rise emphasizes creative, omnichannel efforts that leverage emotional resonance and new storytelling mediums to drive business impact. Four key evolutions are changing the ways brands tackle this football tentpole:
- New Definitions of “Super Bowl Campaigns” leave brand marketers to ask: how do I run a Super Bowl campaign that’s more than just the ad?
- New Experiments in Cutting Edge Tech driving powerful new creative dimensions to the consumer experience at and around The Big Game
- New Challengers joining the ranks of advertisers as digital levels the playing field of who can afford to make magic out of a Super Bowl moment
- New Platforms Driving Importance of Social in the ever-evolving Big Game media and content mix.
1. New Definitions of Super Bowl Campaigns
Last year, for the first time since 1983, Anheuser-Busch decided to sit its iconic beer brand Budweiser out of the Super Bowl ad inventory, instead donating the money it would have spent on the ad to support coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts. Stagwell global communications agency Allison+Partners supported the media effort, a strong case study in how you can lead the Super Bowl discourse without appearing in the game. Headlines called the brand a “winner” for the purposeful pivot, and the effort went on to win several effectiveness awards.
While not every brand will find a pivot that works as well, digital marketing is pushing many to consider alternative ways to get Super Bowl ad value without the ad investment. Stunts tied to the game are one approach, but simpler digital activations and content that link brand identity to the underlying currents of sports fandom and entertainment can be winning strategies. See 72andSunny and Tillamook County Creamery’s experiment this year with a shoppable music video released to commemorate National Cheddar Day and the Super Bowl sharing a date on February 13.
2. New Challengers
The Big Game is a whopper investment. The sticker price for spots this year broke records, hitting as high as $7M for some ad inventory. While securing a prime-time spot can wreak ruin on marketing budgets, newer faces have taken to the field in recent years, as digital marketing tools level the playing field for the type and scale of brands that can derive halo value from the Big Game. D.T.C. and e-commerce are flooding the annual roster, with cheeky online retailers like Vroom and other digital natives like DoorDash using it as a platform to scale beyond niche beginnings. Expect the roster to continue diversifying each year, bringing newer, challenger brands to the fore while pushing legacy staples to re-evaluate whether a multi-million dollar spot is the best avenue to drive sustained marketing impact.
3. New Experiments in Cutting Edge Tech
While S.B. viewers will undoubtedly be distracted by digital platforms during the game, the audience remains comparatively rapt in attention during ad breaks, giving brands a solid audience for testing splashy, transformative technology. In recent years, the N.F.L. has run the play on this in partnership with Stagwell creative agency 72andSunny, first by pulling off the game’s first-ever live ad integration transitioning from pre-recorded spot footage to an on-the-field activation. The following year they upped the ante and, well, raised the dead, using holographics, 3D projections, and more to resurrect legendary football coach Vince Lombardi for a resonant message about resilience. This year, Meta is using the Super Bowl as an opportunity to engage consumers on the metaverse technology already available to them via mixed-reality.
As a tactic for driving social conversation the day and week after the Big Game, activations that wield emerging technology to do new, exciting, and yet-untested feats of creativity can be powerful for brands at the Big Game. Aligning experimentation with your product suite, the frontiers of new technology your brand is eager to own, and consumers’ stated interest in the tech will be essential for brands moving forward.
4. New Platforms Driving the Importance of Social
Today’s marketers know this well: it’s no longer about making the right 2-3 assets for a campaign, you need thousands of assets that can cut across social platforms, search, banner, paid, earned, out of Home, and more to amplify your brand’s big game message. At the same time, S.B. advertising is no longer about the crowning jewel of the main campaign film: a dizzying array of shorter cuts, social-specific content, and other branded assets must be prepared to swarm digital channels and amplify the brand’s key messaging.
Social only continues to rise as an essential part of this mix. Close to half of Super Bowl viewers plan to interact on social media during the game, per The Harris Poll/Haven, suggesting advertisers could benefit significantly from the extended post-game conversation on content that makes waves during the game. Marketers should think holistically about the type and mix of content and media needed to drive results.
The Bottom Line
The playbook for what drives value for brands at The Big Game is evolving with new digital tools and alternatives to significant ad investment. This will continue to attract more brands to consider how they can capitalize on the marketing potential of the Big Game while emerging technology will start to reshape the nature of the advertising activations we see each year. Marketers: as you enjoy the excitement of Super Bowl LVI, search for and identify ways brands are making the most out of new formats for social and digital content. Challenge your teams to think beyond the Super Bowl ad to the marketing magic possible when the moment is met with a modern approach to brand marketing.
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