The Super Bowl represents an opportunity for brands—both official Super Bowl advertisers and those that are trying to “crash” the party—to catch the attention of millions of Americans. Viewership for the 2014 championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos peaked, according to USA Today, during the 7:30 to 8 p.m. time slot in the East, and despite the lopsided nature of the match—Seattle led 22 to 0 entering halftime—it didn’t slip dramatically in the last two quarters.
That didn’t matter as much to advertisers, who in increasing numbers adopted a pre-screen strategy for their TV commercials this year to boost the number of views and buzz leading up to the game and avoid second-half regrets if the audience trailed off. Steve Hickok, co-chair of FleishmanHillard Sports Business, predicts this is only the beginning of what he has dubbed the “Year of the Tease(r)”.
“Brands definitely want to maximize their investment and generate views and buzz before kickoff,’” Hickok says. “That strategy paid off for Anheuser-Busch, and we’ll see a lot more of it.”
The lines between paid advertising and social media efforts also continued to blur for the face-off between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos as advertisements alone are no longer considered sufficient to engage consumers. Despite a general lack of enthusiasm about the 2014 commercials, the spots still managed to attract sizable numbers of views and social comment, although it’s hard to know how much of that was enhanced by paid support by the brands themselves.
What the advertising lacked, the halftime show made up for as Pepsi spotlighted Bruno Mars, recent Grammy winner whose social buzz smothered mentions of both Bank of America’s promotion of the older U2 band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers who tried to bask in the red-hot millennial singer’s golden glow—literally.
Here are some of the biggest lessons for brands to consider as they write their 2015 playbook:
1. Anheuser-Busch’s overall sweep of the Super Bowl showcased the need for ads to tell a story we want to embrace. The “Puppy Love” commercial, with the heartstring-tugging friendship between a horse and a golden Lab puppy, dominated pre-game and game-day with more than 34 million views even before the coin toss and respectable social mentions throughout the game. Celebs had a hard time fending off the animals this year. Sorry, Scarlett.
2. A lack of authenticity and spontaneity deprived brands of a Super Bowl “Oreo moment.” @JCPenney’s #tweetingwithmittens attempt at humor appeared to be the biggest fail of the night with many viewers wondering in tweets if the JCPenney social crew was under the influence of something. The problem: The mitten strategy, which was attempting to push an Olympics fundraising effort, needed more of a set-up and then follow-through for it to resonate when the temperature at the game was well above freezing. Even Oreo decided to stay dark, perhaps recognizing the uniqueness of last year’s moment.
3. The strategy to pre-screen Super Bowl advertising turned out to be a winner, not only for the obvious reason that it prolongs the buzz and opportunity to view but also because it reduces the risk of losing eyeballs during a lopsided game like last night’s. For more than $4 million an ad, brands were determined to get more than 30 seconds in the sun. And most brands saw a lot more action pre-game than during it. Expect to see even more of that next year.
4. But not everyone forked over the big bucks. Unlike most brands that pre-screened advertising, post-game advertiser Esurance surprisingly dominated game-time buzz with a successful social media campaign pre-game and during the game that offered some lucky person $1.5 million for using #EsuranceSave30. FleishmanHillard’s Hickok expects “many more ‘sideline’ brands to try to break through the crowd with a similarly enticing call to action.” Maybe the Oreo moment this year is “pulling an Esurance.”
Photo credits: Anheuser-Busch commercial (Anheuser-Busch.com); Bruno Mars (Getty Images)