How to Make Super Bowl Marketing Magic Last All Year Long

super bowl marketing
By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Whether a company can ever recoup the astronomical cost of running an ad during the Super Bowl has been a topic of debate for years. Many uphold the Super Bowl as one of the last remaining opportunities to engage with a mass audience. This point is valid, given people’s ever-shrinking, highly personalized online universe.

But debate hardly seems necessary anymore. There are more ways than ever to measure the return on any marketing investment, from traditional ad buys to sponsored Instagram posts from influencers. Companies can rely on traditional metrics like viewership and reach, but they can also monitor social channels to track online reach and engagement, shifts in brand sentiment, visits to landing pages, likes/follows on social media, email sign-ups, coupon redemptions…you name it!

The impact of a Super Bowl ad (or any other type of marketing) is measurable in real-time, provided you’ve selected KPIs in advance and laid the groundwork to capture the necessary data.

So whether a Super Bowl ad is “worth it” to any specific company depends on their goals, their audience, and the depth of their pockets. But you don’t have to buy a Super Bowl ad to get a boost from gridiron fever.

Here are some ways that smart companies have capitalized on the Super Bowl without placing an ad.

Donating the advertising budget to charity

There are plenty of things you could do with that Super Bowl ad money. One of my favorites was Pepsi’s decision to sit out the 2010 Super Bowl and fund the “Pepsi Refresh Project” to micro-fund charity initiatives instead.

The ultimate effectiveness of the campaign was another much-debated topic, but if we assume that the company was seeking buzz and a boost in brand sentiment rather than soft drink sales, the scales tip towards success.

Giving employees the day off

Employees act as your brand advocates all year long, so why not reward them with an extra day off? Kraft Heinz is doing just that, giving 42,000 employees the day after Super Bowl Sunday off. While they haven’t expressly stated how much the extra time off will cost the company, the day is one during which employees tend to call in sick anyway, so they’re not really losing much in the way of productivity.

Live tweeting (but watch yourself)

Devoting an employee’s time to watching the game and responding to tweets live won’t run you anywhere near the $6 million a Super Bowl ad costs (unless you hire Beyonce to do your tweeting). If you want some inspiration, check out some of last year’s best brand tweets from Super Bowl 50. Just don’t get snippy or rush to tweet something questionable that, upon reflection, you realize was racist, sexist, insensitive, or otherwise inappropriate. You don’t want to make the “lamest brand tweets” list, either.

Beyond the Super Bowl

But the opportunities don’t end after four quarters. These approaches can work the whole year round. You could chat up your brand audience during the Oscars, the Grammy Awards, the series finale of a long-running TV show, the National College Football Playoff Championship game—practically anything, provided your audience tunes in.

Or you could create our own occasion to engage. Create a flash mob, host an event, set up an interactive touchscreen kiosk or produce some performance art in the park. There’s no shortage of possibilities for creating meaningful brand experiences.

Here’s how to get the most from your experiential marketing:

Know your audience

Ideally, you’ve done some primary research, perhaps involving social listening (if not, check out Jason Falls and the Conversation Research Institute), so you understand what your audience truly cares about. But even if you can’t afford a formal research study, you can survey customers, review customer service tickets, look over your social media exchanges.

If you come up short internally, look at secondary research on your target audiences to give you a sense of what’s important to them, which social channels they prefer, and what kinds of topics they enjoy discussing online.

Know your goals

As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Before you spend any money on a brand experience, think about where you’re going.

Why do you want to create a brand experience in the first place? What are you hoping to achieve? Greater brand awareness? Improved brand sentiment? Rich data on consumer preferences, beliefs, or attitudes? Landing page visits? Sales? Set out clear, measurable goals, then choose the KPIs you’ll use to gauge success.

Plan, plan, plan (and plan some more)

No one wants to wind up on a list of marketing fails, so whatever you do, make sure you’ve thought through every aspect of your brand experience. If you host an event, make sure the date you choose isn’t a religious holiday or observance, and follow event planning best practices to ensure your event goes smoothly.

If you decide to conduct a flash mob or other spontaneous-seeming interaction, remember that it’s only supposed to look spontaneous. You should have planned your appearance in the public park, shopping mall, university campus (or wherever) well in advance, obtained any necessary permits, and considered the time of day and the foot traffic at that time. You should also talk to a lawyer beforehand.

For any brand experiences involving technology, like kiosks, touch screens, or even QR codes if you’re feeling retro, test your tech repeatedly under different conditions to make sure it holds up. For example, if your wildest dreams come true and your landing page gets unprecedented traffic, will it crash? Test it beforehand and find out.

Does your QR code link to the right place or does it go to a XXX website? (Don’t laugh, that’s happened…to Heinz!) If your display includes any slang, check with someone “in the know” or at least check Urban Dictionary to make sure your seemingly innocuous tagline doesn’t mean something inappropriate, a’la “Netflix and Chill.”

Any business can score points during the Super Bowl, but don’t wait for Super Bowl 52 to try out real-time engagement with your audience: start now!

kerry gorgone

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also Director of Product Strategy, Training, at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. Find Kerry on Twitter.

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