How Brands Used the Super Bowl for Digital Marketing | LimeLight Marketing

How Brands Used the Super Bowl for Digital Marketing

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I think we can all agree on one common fact of Super Bowl advertising: it’s expensive. A 30-second commerical during the Super Bowl this year sold for an average of $5 million. That’s about $166,000 per second.  To some brands, that is pocket change. To other brands, that is a few years or more of an ad budget.

So, how can companies use the Super Bowl to market their products or services without spending an arm and a leg? Digital marketing. And, how can companies make the most of their Super Bowl commercials? Make it part of a complete digital marketing campaign.

We saw many brands driving traffic to their website with a URL or promoting a hashtag at the end of a commercial to drive social media traffic.

It’s no surprise that most big companies and some small to mid-size companies capitalized on the Super Bowl yet again in 2017. However, it was surprising and interesting how some companies went about it. Let’s dive into some of the marketing approaches that brands took to promote their companies during the biggest football game of the year.



With the help of 10-20 employees, Tide spent the Super Bowl on Twitter calling out other companies after their commercials aired. They used vines, tweets, and the hashtag #GetsItOut to execute a campaign around Tide being able to clean up the mess. It’s safe to say that their plan worked well as 3.6 million Twitter impressions were generated during the Super Bowl according to Tide spokesperson, Anne Cadido.   However, they didn’t completely ditch the commercial slot.

FOX ran a promo for the halftime talk show starring Curt Menefee and Terry Bradshaw during the second quarter of the game and everyone watching noticed something wrong: there was a huge stain on Bradshaw’s shirt. Twitter instantly freaked out and the hashtag #BradshawStain began trending.  In the next set of commercials, the reason for the stain was made clear as very embarrassed Bradshaw appeared to be frantically driving a golf cart home on the highway from the Super Bowl to wash his shirt with Tide. Fans expressed their love for the commercial all over Twitter.

Two words: Nailed it. 

Next up in the humorous category: Bai. Bai brand. This beverage company owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple Bottling Group, used a well-known actor, Christopher Walken, and a well-known music artist, Justin Timberlake, to draw viewers into their commercial. It began with a very serious Walken speaking a script that included lyrics from Timberlake’s first big hit “Bye Bye Bye” from back when he was with ‘N Sync. Next, it showed Timberlake silently staring at him in a confused manner for a few moments before the ‘N Sync hit began playing.  You couldn’t help but laugh, and fans took to Twitter with the hashtag #BaiBaiBai to show their love for the commercial.  Check it out here!


Visual Story Telling

In today’s world, consumers are not interested in the brand that constantly blasts them with promotional items. They want to be able to relate their life to a brand. This can be accomplished through visual storytelling – creating a simple, visual ad that tells a story that customers can relate to.

We saw this approach a lot in Super Bowl 51 commercials.  Google used it as they promoted their Google Home product.  It began by showing multiple people coming home to different places, and you didn’t know who it was for until 18 seconds in when the voice over began with “Ok, Google. Turn on the lights.” We saw someone asking the device to turn up the music, another using it to check the weather, and even one person who asked to translate a phrase into Spanish. The voiceover is the only part of the commercial that gave the company away until the very end.  It appealed to viewers and showed them how useful the product would be in their day-to-day life. View the commercial below.




Michelin also took this approach with their Super Bowl commercial. Everyone may use tires, but they aren’t the most interesting thing to watch a commercial about. Instead of showing off their product, Michelin showed people from all walks of life going home to the ones they love in an emotional video with soft, yet attention grabbing, music to draw viewers in.  It pulled at the heart strings and allowed all viewers to relate to the brand. The end showed the Michelin logo for a quick second.



Barbie began promoting their Super Bowl campaign during the NFL playoffs this year with a commercial that featured dads and daughters of all ethnic backgrounds playing with Barbies. It was part of the “You Can Be Anything” campaign that they have been running to promote equality for women in the workplace.  They used the hashtag #DadsWhoPlayBarbie to promote the ad on social media.  The campaign helped get the hashtag trending, and it showed how a campaign hashtag is an easy way to increase brand awareness on social media.

In our blog, How Social Media Improved in 2016, we talked about how social media marketing is now and the future of the society we live in. It’s time to link all marketing campaigns to social media because that is where most customers spend a lot of time and look to for information. You can even reach out to accounts with a high social media following to offer to send a product for them to promote on social media to increase your reach. 

Barbie reached out to popular bloggers and celebrities to make sponsored posts of their daughters playing Barbies with their fathers and using the campaign hashtag. I mean, how sweet is this photo of blogger Sarah Fortune‘s daughter playing Barbies with her dad? Barbie knew how to get viewers all in their feels (including us).



Live Video

We have seen live video take over social media this year, but we haven’t seen live video used in the form of a commercial until last Sunday during the 3rd quarter of a game that 113.7 million people were watching. Then, the possible future of commercials happened right before our eyes. Snickers did a live Super Bowl commercial – yes, they filmed it live during the game and it was awesome. The set was an old, Western frontier town and a voice-over announced the current score of the game. Viewers were like “wait, what? How did they know that? CONSPIRACY!” then the town came crashing down as the line “you ruin live Super Bowl commercials when you’re hungry” appeared on the screen with a Snickers bar. That answered our main question by telling us it was a live commercial, but there are still many questions to how Snickers pulled it off. It would not be surprising if other companies followed their lead and created live commercials for Super Bowl 52 next year.  We’ll have to watch (impatiently) and see.


Snapchat Lenses

Last year, Gatorade purchased a Sponsored Lens from Snapchat that consisted of a giant container of orange Gatorade virtually dumping on user’s heads. It broke records with over 165 million views, making the merely $750,000 cost worth it. They used the same one this year but made one fun change. The 2017 version of the Lens allowed users to choose what color of Gatorade they wanted to virtually dump. The results are not finalized as I write this blog, but it is estimated that the views and uses were just as good if not better.

Check out the 2016 Snapchat Case Study on Gatorade’s Sponsored Lens!

Pepsi owns Gatorade, so it was not a competitive move when they released a Sponsored Lens along with Gatorade’s that was Pepsi branded. Instead, it was a genius way to promote one of the company’s post popular product lines. The Pepsi-themed Lens allowed users to appear on a virtual jumbotron with Lady Gaga’s music playing. This not only promoted Pepsi as a whole, but it promoted the Pepsi Halftime Show featuring Lady Gaga.


Political Stances

84 Lumber, a company that provides materials for construction projects, decided to use their Super Bowl slot to take a political stance. They aren’t the only ones who took this approach, but they sure made an impact (whether it was good or bad is based in the eye of the beholder.) Their ad told the emotional story of a family immigrating to America with no sign of their brand until the very end. The last five seconds of the 1:30 long commercial asked people to “see the conclusion” and a lot of people did just that.

It appears as if 84 Lumbar’s website was not optimized to handle the number of visitors that it received almost instantly. crashed seconds after the commercial aired and people instantly went to Twitter for answers on how to complete the journey elsewhere. Luckily, their social media manager didn’t take the night off to enjoy the game. They instantly replied to all who mentioned @84LumberNews on Twitter with a link to their YouTube channel that hosted the rest of the video. However, that wasn’t the end of the chaos that the ad caused. Learn more about the after effects in this USA Today interview with 84 Lumber’s CEO who claims that the ad had nothing to do with her personal political views.


Brand Collaboration 

Earlier this year, Tostitos, M.A.D.D., and Uber teamed up to encourage people not to drive under the influence. They created a “breathalyzer bag” of Tostitos chips that customers could blow into after drinking to make sure they were below the legal blood alcohol level to drive. It was an unreliable yet humorous way to bring attention to a very serious issue of drunk driving after the Super Bowl. The bags are black with a blue circle on the front. When someone blows into one, the circle either turns green to indicate they are safe to drive or red to indicate they are not safe to drive. Let’s be honest, if you have to blow into a bag of chips to see if you should drive or not then just don’t drive. The brands involved in this collab must have thought the same thing because they added a serious twist to the campaign. Every special addition “breathalyzer bag” had an Uber discount code for buyers to use after the Super Bowl.  They encouraged people to purchase Tostitos for their Super Bowl party, then use the discount code to take an Uber home if they had been drinking.



It is hard to pick just a few companies to recap with countless brands using the Super Bowl to advertise, but these are some of our favorite examples. The Super Bowl is the most-watched football game of the year by a long shot, and companies are truly missing out if they don’t create a marketing campaign to get in on the social conversation. Did we leave out one of your favorite Super Bowl 51 marketing campaigns? Leave a comment below and let us know.



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