Game-Planning for a Successful Super Bowl

super bowl marketing - lombardi trophyThe Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon, with people from all over the world tuning in to watch the game, the halftime show and the ads; perhaps not in that order. And, regardless of the current issues the NFL is facing both on-and-off the field, this year’s event figures to once again deliver a mass audience devoted to delivering as much, if not more, social chatter about the ads rather than what transpires on the gridiron.

It used to be that the game-winning formula for Super Bowl marketers was simple: Run New Ad + Hire Spokesperson + Host Party = Success!

However, as the Super Bowl has gotten more cluttered from a commercial standpoint (more than 30 brands will be running commercials this year) the stakes for those who participate have grown, even while their chances of breaking through have diminished. Translation: Advertising in the Super Bowl is not without its risks. In fact, for some, it’s a huge gamble as the commitment (ad buy, production and promotion) can drain a significant portion of an annual marketing budget.

So, as the cost of the traditional point of entry – the broadcast ad – has skyrocketed to $5 million for a 30 second spot, brands have realized they need to generate maximum value for this investment.

Here are six key principles to position a brand for success on this Super Bowl Sunday and beyond…

1. Are you not entertained (preferably with humor)?
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 73% of Super Bowl viewers see the commercials as entertainment. So, be entertaining – whether that means humor, star power, sizzle, Americana or some combination of each. Per Ace Metrix, typical TV ads utilize humor approximately 20% of the time, while historically a humorous tone has been present in more than 50% of Super Bowl commercials – and early previews show this year’s ads are trending even higher from a humor standpoint.

2. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but…
Celebrity sightings, a long-time tradition in Super Bowl advertising, need to be authentic and speak to the audience – and today should extend beyond the TVC. Yes, A-, B-, and even C-list celebs can help an ad get noticed, but stars for the sake of star power in a 30 second spot aren’t necessarily worth the fees, so think about how they can be incorporated into digital extensions, how the brand can leverage the talent’s social channels and if there is an opportunity to activate them for traditional earned media.

3. Surround sound marketing.
Have pre-game, in-game and post-game plans that are integrated across marketing disciplines, and incorporate social listening to capitalize on any unforeseen opportunities. In the era of multi-screen viewing, a successful Super Bowl campaign requires an omni-channel and nimble strategy. At this point, consumers expect brands to have expansive, multi-platform campaigns around the Super Bowl, so the fear of “overwhelming” your target is less of a risk than being overshadowed by another brand’s campaign.

4. Mobile, mobile, mobile… HIKE.
Mobile optimized content and strategic digital advertising, which provides an opportunity at scale to personalize and target, will be what successful brands activate on Super Bowl Sunday. Social media ads matter, in spite of the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the globe watch it live on television.

5. Update your playbook.
Influencer marketing will be the newest play in the Super Bowl marketer’s game plan. We’ve already seen one brand follow up the announcement of their campaign via Instagram with the engagement of several leading influencers for further amplification. And, no doubt there will be more to come from this discipline as ads and promotions are unveiled.

6. Play through the final whistle.
When the game is over, the architects behind successful campaigns don’t head to Disney World like the stars of the game do. Rather, they begin to leverage the awareness the Super Bowl has provided their brands by deploying sustainment tactics that will extend the reach, if not maintain the momentum, over the coming weeks.

Whatever a brand’s goal(s), be it create awareness, generating buzz or driving business (or, most likely, all three), the Super Bowl continues to be a very effective marketing platform because of the incredible audience it delivers, not just on game day but also in the buildup and aftermath of this unofficial American holiday.

Just as winning the coin toss has little to do with who lifts the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the game, winning the Ad Meter doesn’t necessarily mean meeting your business goals, so companies should have a full game plan to maximize their spend.

About Shawn McBride

Shawn McBride, EVP of Sports at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment, and head of Ketchum Sponsorshop, has more than 15 years’ experience building brands through sports marketing and PR programming, including supporting several NFL sponsors and working on leading Super Bowl campaigns throughout his career.

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