4 ways engagement was Super Bowl’s marketing MVP

As PR and marketing pros seek to break through the noise and capture as much of the spotlight as they, social media interaction is crucial.

For many brand managers, Super Bowl LIV represented the opportunity to grab the attention of millions.

For social media managers, the big game represented a multitude of opportunities to change the conversation by racking up engagement through retweets, replies and hashtags. Several teams sat through the event in command centers, carefully watching and listening for opportunities:

These interactions become even more important as Super Bowl marketing partners release their ads before the big game, removing the element of surprise in exchange for potential headlines and brand buzz.

Here are four themes from Super Bowl LIV social media marketing efforts that can help you harness engagement in more effective and meaningful ways this year and beyond:

1. Engagement can elevate lukewarm marketing efforts.

Kraft Heinz captured headlines and social media conversation when it killed off Mr. Peanut before the big game, but many said the mascot’s funeral and reincarnated “Baby Nut” fell flat:

The ad spot didn’t reach the impressive views that other ads netted, gaining roughly 657,000 on Planters’ official YouTube page and 2.1 million through its tweet of the ad.

However, Planters’ social media team continued to engage with brand managers and consumers throughout the big game and offered a Periscope stream in which viewers could direct “Baby Nut” on its first several hours in the world:

The combination of the interactive baby mascot and partnered tweets with other brand managers helped Kraft Heinz retain a large share of the conversation online.

In a similar vein, Avocados From Mexico breathed life into an ad that was quickly buried in conversations and content, despite an appearance from Molly Ringwald:

Though the commercial failed to excite for many consumers, the company’s social media team took to live-tweeting responses to the remainder of the Super Bowl ads and the halftime show, attracting more attention than the original spot:

Interaction can also help turn consumers’ opinions to your favor. State Farm’s Super Bowl spot took a spin on an older campaign:

The commercial received mixed results from viewers, but many applauded the social media team’s efforts to speak with its fans and critics:

These efforts showcase ways you can spot and take advantage of opportunities for online conversation, examples of social listening skills coupled with the work involved to truly interact with social media users.

Engagement isn’t a “one and done” deal. Don’t expect your followers to be active in talking about your organization if you’re not actively showing an interest in what they think and have to say.

2. Engagement offers ‘out of the box’ opportunities.

Unless you’re an official partner of the National Football League or have the budget for an expensive 30-second spot during the big game, PR and marketing pros can’t even use the term “Super Bowl” or include official hashtags without facing consequences.

That doesn’t mean everyone else has to sit on the sidelines, however. Brand managers embracing social media listening and quickly responding can rack up wins without busting the budget.

Squarespace’s spot featured Winona Ryder connecting with her small-town Minnesota roots (and building a website):

Squarespace’s efforts featured several Winona, Minnesota landmarks as well as a photobook with proceeds benefiting the American Indian College Fund, but much of that was cut out of the official ad that ran during the big game. Sensing an opportunity, Shopify jumped in with a boosted Twitter thread promoting several shops whose websites are hosted on the e-commerce platform:

Shake Shack also drummed up several retweets and “likes” with its halftime performance joke:

3. Engagement makes your mission and purpose more meaningful.

WeatherTech dedicated its Super Bowl spot to the University of Wisconsin Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine, which saved its chief executive’s dog, Scout:

The company placed a donation link on its website, which it also shared in tweets:

Procter & Gamble’s Olay Super Bowl spot received mix reactions for how it promoted gender equality:

However, many applauded the Olay social media team’s efforts to match donations with each retweet and hashtag mention it received:

Whether a sustainability initiative or a corporate social responsibility campaign, inviting people to get involved in your purpose-focused campaigns and initiatives, can help them change the world for the better—and boost your reputation as you lead the way.

Make sure the focus is on the initiative, though, and not your organization’s products and services—lest you come across like Michelob Ultra did:

Here’s what contributor Amanda Zaluckyj wrote in AGDaily about the beer’s ad:

This is the absolute epitome of virtue signalling. People can go to the store, pick up a pricey 6-pack of organic beer, and enjoy knowing it that it’s helping some general sustainability goal. Woohoo!

But this is literally the most pathetic attempt to “help” anyone. Let’s do some simple math. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre. Michelob is willing to support the transition of 6 square feet for every 6-pack sold. That means they have to sell 7,260 packs of beer to pay for one acre to transition to organic production.

4. Not all engagement is created equal.

Especially as PR and marketing pros continue to debate what metrics matter and how to prove that your efforts have boosted your brand (as well as your bottom line), realize that not all engagement is created equal.

This means a passive “like” shouldn’t compare to a consumer tweeting a glowing review or picture with your product. It also means that “manufactured engagement” won’t necessarily increase anything other than your social media team’s workload.

Reese’s Super Bowl ad used several clichés to poke fun at those who didn’t know about its Take 5 candy bar—a commercial that received lukewarm response:

Following the commercial, a social media profile for Ed N. Butts popped up. These creations can often happen following a viral event or particularly weird Super Bowl ad, but this account seemed odd after the lack of online conversation or interest in Reese’s ad.

It became clear that the account was an engagement tactic after Reese’s social media team replied and retweeted each of Butts’ “insights”:

Brand managers have amused followers and grabbed attention by manufacturing fights with competitors or through spontaneous, playful banter while newsjacking a Twitter trend. However, Reese’s strategy came off, at best, ill-targeted—and at worst, cringe-inducing.



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