Brands Giving PR a Seat At The Super Bowl Table

Erin Healy

Most of us here at PAN are diehard Patriots fans (save for the brave lone Seahawks supporter) and will be tuning in for the big game on Sunday. We’re certainly not alone – in fact, according

 to the National Retail Federation’s Super Bowl Spending Survey, a mere 184 million viewers are expected to watch.


As New England and Seattle go head-to-head for the Lombardi Trophy, so too will brands from across the country as they compete for consumers’ attention – whether they have invested in a media buy for the game or not. A reported 41 percent of viewers look forward to the break between downs, saying that commercials are the most important part of Super Bowl Sunday.

As with any successful integrated campaign, a strategic launch plan employing paid, earned and owned channels is critical to success. With each passing year, advertisers are using new tactics in an attempt to dominate the conversation and garner social engagement. That said, some overall effective methods have risen to the top:It used to be that the creative would be kept under lock and key until the big game, but increasingly, advertisers are looking for ways to get the most mileage out of this moment in time. A desire to generate buzz for and engagement with the creative in the weeks leading up gives PR practitioners an important seat at the Super Bowl table.

  1. Crowdsourcing creative: From Lincoln’s Steer the Script campaign, where Jimmy Fallon asked fans to share road trip stories that would be used in the commercial, to Dorito’s annual Crash the Super Bowl contest, brands are involving consumers in the creative process and creating lots of buzz on social media along the way.
  2. Pique interest: Whether teasing a celebrity’s involvement, a call-to-action or a funny premise, advertisers can drum up excitement around a spot – without giving it all away.
  3. Pre-game release: While I personally miss the excitement of seeing commercials for the first time during the game, brands can dominate the conversation early on by releasing full spots beforehand. One such success story – Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” was the most shared ad from last year’s game, with more than 1.14 million shares before kick off.
  4. Post-game show: Of course, the end goal is to keep people talking, even after the winning team is headed to Disney World. Giving people the chance to win $1.5 million dollars on Twitter is one way… Esurance scored billions of impressions and engagement in the millions with its #EsuranceSave30 sweepstakes.

This year, a mix of newcomers and veterans has invested in the nearly $4.5 million per 30-second spot media buy. Interestingly, many have chosen to wait until the week prior to the Super Bowl to launch – later than in recent years. This could possibly be one reason that research firms have noted that online searches and views for this year's crop of commercials are down significantly. Among those that have kicked off, Nationwide teased a spot with Mindy Kaling, Skittles piqued interest with a cliffhanger and Budweiser debuted the full “Lost Puppy” creative it will air on Sunday. In a retro move, Nissan will not reveal any footage until the game.

PR practitioners have also been drafted to help brands make a splash, without the big dollars associated with a Super Bowl affiliation – whether through true campaigns or more guerilla tactics. One great example leading into this weekend is Volvo – while they’re not an advertiser this year, many of their competitors are. With “The Greatest Interception Ever,” the company is asking fans to use #VolvoContest to nominate someone deserving of a new car. The catch? They’re asking that fans do this during other car brands’ commercials. Not only does this give Volvo share of voice during the game (and take away from competitors’), the campaign is positioned to come off as less self-serving than a commercial.

Others will set up “war rooms” and look for their Oreo moment: capitalizing on what’s happening during the game and creating content at a moment’s notice. Last year, Coors Light urged J.C. Penney to tweet responsibly and Newcastle trolled with #IfWeMadeIt.

While 65 percent of consumers are at least somewhat likely to interact with brands on social media during the game, there will be steep competition for brands looking to strike gold. There isn’t a formula to guarantee content will rise to the top, but here are some thought starters:

  1. Read up on FTC guidelines, identify the level of risk you’re willing to assume and get all decision makers in the room
  2. Identify a checklist for appropriate real time content and also think about attributes of the brand that would make sense to drum up or tie to the game – then look for natural ways to do so throughout
  3. Look at trending topics and consumers’ tweets with which you can connectedly engage – but don’t force it or interject where you don’t belong
  4. Listen, listen and listen some more before you post

As I cheer on the Patriots (and celebrate #DeflateGate hopefully being behind us), I’ll be looking out for brand wins and misses on TV, and on my second screen(s). While nobody likes a Monday morning quarterback, I’m probably equally excited to rehash the events the next day.

What about you – what’s your favorite part of Super Bowl mania?


PAN Recommended Content:

Topics: Services

influencer marketing

Subscribe to our newsletter