Essential tips for SMBs on how to benefit from Super Bowl obsession by using social media

Super Bowl garners a lot of attention in the USA, not only as a sports event (even though it’s the third most watched singular game worldwide) but also as a marketing phenomenon. Companies prepare special campaigns, where they spend a massive amount of money. Smaller businesses, however, can also benefit from the “Super Bowl effect, ” especially if they use social media wisely. Here are some smart tips on how to leverage social media for your brand before and during the most important (American) football game, which this year falls on February 1st.

Pros & cons of  Super Bowl marketing

Every year, everyone and their grandma follows the Super Bowl. Last year’s game was watched by a record 111.5 million Americans. Many watchers used social media to communicate during the Big Game (It’s unofficial nickname). Super Bowl commercials were commented on by social media users, with some of them being inspired by social media events. The popularity of hashtags related to the Super Bowl is quite the indicator of the event’s popularity. As you can see on our chart, based on data from RiteTag, it’s already growing this year.

Super Bowl

#superbowl trending on Twitter: Dec 2014 – Jan 2015

One example of a start-up that benefited from a Super Bowl ad is the toy company Goldie Blox, which gained a national following after their commercial aired during Super Bowl XLVIII. You probably don’t have $4 million for a 30-second airtime, many medium-sized companies don’t. Goldie Blox didn’t have it either, but they won a contest organized by Intuit for the spot. Of course, it was an exception, but even without an ad airing during Super Bowl, you can bring attention to your brand or product using social media. They’re not as expensive as advertising through traditional media and can boost your brand awareness even more effectively.

The biggest drawback against using the Super Bowl in your social media marketing is that, well… it’s the Super Bowl. Social media will be cluttered, everyone will be posting, tweeting,  and commenting on the game. And let’s not forget that you should have a long-term marketing strategy. A one-off action during the Super Bowl, even the most brilliant, likely won’t have long lasting effects on your brand.

How to prepare your social media for Super Bowl?

    1. First of all, think and take an informed decision if you really want to try. You can’t be dubious about it. As one wise-man once said: do or do not; there is no try. If it fits your marketing strategy, and you have a smart concept, it’s worth a shot.
    2. Think on how the Super Bowl fits your strategy – what elements related to the Big Game (e.g.  sport, fun, games) fit your brand. If you would like to attack a bigger player, it’s good to know challenger strategies, described by Adam Morgan in his great book Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders. Some of the challenger strategies (see the list presented here) like The Enlightened Zagger or The Irreverent Maverick might be a good choice in such a situation. Newcastle Brown Ale’s 2014 campaign, based on a fake Super Bowl campaign and parody of Dorito’s contest ad, is an example of putting such a strategy into practice:
    3. Start buzzing well in advance. The biggest brands tend to start their campaign early on, much sooner than smaller ones. In 2011, of all Super Bowl ads, only half a dozen were revealed online before the Big Game, two years later over 30 and it worked. They were watched over 300 million times on YouTube before Super Bowl. Although the day of the game is the peak, people are still interested in the Super Bowl beforehand, as our analysis based on data from Google Trends for 2014 shows. That’s why we’ve given you this guide two weeks before the game.

      Google search for term related to Super Bowl in 2014

      Google search for term related to Super Bowl in 2014

    4. Gather your forces. you should have a person or people who will be able to act immediately on the big day. It could be you personally, your staff, a freelancer, or an agency. They need to have skills to prepare both written and visual content and be experienced in copy-writing & designing.
    5. Plan your content. The best real-time marketing is usually prepared earlier (see our posts about April Fool’s Day,  RTM during 2014 FIFA World Cup and especially Luiz Suarez’s biting). In the case of the Super Bowl – there are only two teams: one wins, the other loses – it’s easy to make graphic content earlier with either team winning and posting the right one. Also, there are elements featured in every football game – runs, tackles, fumbles. Prepare some generic content that is relevant to them that’s easy to change according to what really happens. Planning ahead is important.
    6. Decide on a budget for post promotion. Given the declining organic reach lately, post promoting is now almost a must in the case of Facebook campaigns, especially on such a hectic a day. It should help on Twitter as well, so don’t write it off either.

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What to do & how to communicate on the day of the Super Bowl

  1. Act on time. Don’t over-think or you’ll lose it. However, still think a bit before you post. Don’t act too hasty. Do you know why an Oreo tweet went so viral (5000 retweets, 8345 favorites) in 2013? Because before they posted it, they waited for until an organiser confirmed that the blackout isn’t something serious and no one got hurt. Oreo didn’t make the mistake some brands did – they knew this tweet wouldn’t be perceived as cynical, but witty and funny.
    SuperBowl oreo
  2.  Watch the game carefully. We know it sounds obvious, but it’s true. Take game related updates into consideration. Someone loses the ball, something spectacular happens – tweet, post, keep updating your followers. Let them know you follow what happens on the field. News hijacking might garner lots of attention, if you do it well. Last year we wrote about news hijacking during FIFA World Cup, check out our analysis. Be sure to take a look at what others have done for some ideas. One good example of tweeting updates relevant to the game comes from Digiorno Pizza’s activity during last years Super Bowl.
    superbowl digiorno
  3. Remember, that the game isn’t everything worth your attention during the Super Bowl. Don’t forget about the Half-time Show, during which the most popular music acts perform. This year it’ll be Katy Perry with special guest Lenny Kravitz. This duo can also be used in your Super Bowl updates. You can use witty puns from song titles in your updates, for example.
  4. Monitor social media, especially trending hashtags on Twitter. Using the right hashtags gives you more exposure and chances for viral promotion of your content. On the other hand, don’t use too many hashtags in tweets. As our research shows, two is enough per one tweet.
  5. Don’t spam. It’s another point that seems too obvious, but is very important. Don’t tweet about everything, pick just the most important events and the best content.
  6. If you see an opportunity – engage into brand-to-brand interaction. It’s a great way to boost brand awareness in social media, to have fun with followers and other social media users. Last year we had some interactions between JCPenney and some other brands during Super Bowl which started from quite an unexpected tweet from JCPenney, which brought some consternation. In the end, it was one of the most entertaining conversations of the night. Read more here.
    Snickers engaging into brand-to-brand interaction during Super Bowl

    So are you going to enter the social media marketing Super Bowl game?   

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