The Super Bowl’s marketing evolution: beyond the spot

160over90 EVP Sam Stark explains how brands can embrace life outside of Super Bowl advertising to gain more than a little attention. As originally published on Shots.

The Super Bowl is when marketers get to geek out as an industry. It’s the one time of year when we can talk about ads across all our social channels without appearing overly invested in our work.

Who will take risks, tug at our heart strings or fall flat and look out of touch?

This is because it’s still a great opportunity for brands to connect to a massive audience, with over 100 million viewers tuning in to watch the game. The ways those connections are being made, however, has shifted away from directly advertising within the game to, instead, embracing and maximising the marketing opportunities around it in creative new ways.

There’s no brain surgery happening here. In even the best economic conditions, spending up to $7 million on a 30-second spot can be difficult to justify. Anheuser-Busch is a prime example of a brand that has successfully adapted to the changing landscape of Super Bowl marketing. In addition to being a long-time advertiser during the game, the brand has doubled down on its efforts to create buzz outside of it through pre-game events, music festivals, tailgates, and social media campaigns. The Anheuser-Busch hotel, Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest, and SBLVII pregame tailgate are just a few examples of the brand’s innovative marketing initiatives.

Social media, too, has played a significant role in pre-game marketing. For example, M&M’s recent social media campaign, which hinted at retiring its mascots, was a clever move that generated significant attention around the brand’s upcoming commercial. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has also gotten in on the action, unveiling a 44-foot cactus fitted with animated LED lights that is sure to be a major feature on social media feeds leading up to the game.

Given the concerns brands are having with Twitter this year, TikToK is also having its big game moment. FedEx, for example, invited six musicians who found audiences on the platform to perform live on the app during the halftime shows of the wild-card and playoff games, instead of running an ad during the game.

Experiential marketing has also proven to be impactful in creating lasting memories for brands. The USAA Salute to Service Lounge is a great example. It provides military personnel, veterans and their families with a unique Super Bowl experience, including entertainment and interactions with NFL players, coaches, and legends. The experience was kicked off with a Super Bowl trip and ticket giveaway on social media, featuring NFL players who will be on-site.

Another noteworthy experience that focused on creating unique memories is the Courtyard by Marriott Sleepover, a season-long social media contest that offers a VIP Super Bowl weekend, complete with a night in a suite outfitted as a Courtyard by Marriott hotel room and surprise appearances by NFL talent.

Influencer marketing continues its ascent as well, as brands collaborate with creators to reach younger audiences and create unique content for their own channels. You can expect dozens of brands to have creators on the ground sharing content at their Super Bowl experiences and at Radio Row.

Trends, such as sports betting and social contests, are also making the Super Bowl more interesting. Molson Coors has teamed up with DraftKings to let consumers guess the contents of its Super Bowl commercial for a chance to win a share of a $500,000 cash pool. Planter Peanuts are back with a social contest, also for cash, that encourages fans to post their best roasts across four different platforms.

While the Super Bowl remains a major opportunity for brands to reach a large audience, there is every reason to believe this shift towards embracing the marketing opportunities around the game will continue. By leveraging tech trends and social media, by creating experiences and collaborating with creators, game day brand buzz can go wider and deeper, often in a cost-effective way.