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These Brands Scored Big on Sunday Without Expensive TV Spots

Riding the wave
  • February 3, 2014, 6:16 PM EST
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Illustration by Mitch Blunt

Another year, another conversation dominated by the biggest spenders. But was it really? While official advertisers monopolized the stage during Sunday night's big game, even those shops that didn't plop down millions of dollars managed to ride the social buzz with cleverness and quick thumbs.

First let's look at the main players for context. Official advertisers during the game enjoyed an overall boost in social mentions 6.2 times above an average day, according to data from Adobe Digital Index (ADI). Among the brands that really leaped above their daily norms, RadioShack led the pack (22 times above average), spurred by its self-deprecating salute to the 1980s. Anheuser-Busch (19 times above average), CarMax (18 times above average), Axe (13 times above average) and Oikos (12 times above average) all saw dramatic spikes in mentions, too.

The giants that are always getting big numbers, and that got the biggest numbers Sunday, include Coke, Ford and Chevy. Each were mentioned in excess of 150,000 times during the course of the day, according to ADI.

Among the brands looking for traction and engagement but not wanting to shell out $4 million for it, JCPenney audaciously (or desperately) tried to steal a sliver of viral spotlight from the big guys, while others like Spotify looked to engage followers on a more personal level or entertain their existing audience by recording events through a unique, brand-specific lens. Here are some efforts that stood out on this noisiest of nights:

JCPenney was the most-mentioned brand that wasn't an official broadcast advertiser. It racked up 118,201 social mentions—a whopping 25 times its 30-day average. Typo-laden tweets from @JCPenney (e.g., "Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???") mystified the Twittersphere while generating over 40,000 retweets. The retailer eventually revealed that the garbled messages resulted from #TweetingWithMittens—specifically, a pair of Team USA mittens available at JCPenney.

Oscar Mayer
Anticipating the annual deluge of car commercials, Oscar Mayer readied a creative campaign for its Wienermobile, based around two 45-second spots posted to YouTube (here and here) and promoted via Twitter and Facebook. The second spot premiered on Sunday, helping to promote a #Tweet2Lease sweepstakes offering consumers a chance to get behind the wheel of the Wienermobile for a day. Oscar Mayer's social media team proceeded to tweet playful reactions to the televised car commercials throughout the game—"You'll only see one car today that truly cuts the mustard. ‪#Tweet2Lease the 2014 ‪@Wienermobile"—positioning the Wienermobile as a superior option to Jaguar, Audi, et al.

The result? Per Tom Bick, Oscar Mayer's senior director of integrated marketing and advertising, nearly 1,100 people tweeted about Oscar Mayer, representing a 436 percent gain in exposure.

Spotify reached out to individual consumers in need: namely, people who wanted to know the name of a song playing in a commercial. Spotify's service-oriented social feed featured game-specific playlists and lots of love for relatively unsung artists like Ane Brun whose song was featured in Chevy's spot.

GrubHub, DiGiorno and the J. Paul Getty Museum
Viewing parties are a perfect target for food brands, so it was little surprise to see GrubHub and rising social media darling DiGiorno perform well. GrubHub launched a simple "Pizza Punt" game that offered a $5 discount to participants. DiGiorno's all-caps irreverence built well on previous real-time success. Its tweet of the night—"YO, THIS GAME IS LIKE A DIGIORNO PIZZA BECAUSE IT WAS DONE AFTER TWENTY MINUTES #SuperBowI #SuperSmack #DiGiorNOYOUDIDNT"—earned over 16,000 retweets, a major success for an account with only 60,000 followers.

If Progressive and Oreo deserve applause for sitting out the big game instead of making forced or obligatory attempts at real-time relevance, then so do myriad smaller brands that didn't contribute to the noise just for the sake of checking a box.

Still, opportunities for tangential relevance are always present for a clever marketing team. The J. Paul Getty Museum, presumably not the first entity that pops to mind on the day of the big game, had some fun with Stephen Colbert's "Superb Owl" hashtag (a play on the name of Sunday's game), treating its followers to an esoteric selection of owl-related artwork throughout the day. "A key objective of the Museum's presence on Twitter is to make art part of people's everyday lives," said Maria Gilbert, senior editor for the Getty.

While not an approach likely to wind up on Buzzfeed, it was a good example of connecting with an existing audience rather than chasing after the day's shiniest object.