Brands Are Testing Expanded Chatbot Services for Super Bowl Weekend

AI suits up for this year's Big Game

Tonight’s Super Bowl will be the first time to feature a new kind of digital player: chatbots.

While nowhere near as flashy (or as expensive) as multimillion dollar ads, brands and media companies have begun experimenting with integrating automated assistants into overall messaging for the Big Game.

And while chatbots aren’t going to upstage the Super Bowl or the always hit-or-miss halftime show, their presence points to yet another gap in the field of advertising that marketers are now beginning to run with.

This weekend, theScore created a trivia game within its Facebook Messenger chatbot to let users test their Super Bowl knowledge. The mobile sports news website is hoping to build engagement through more than a dozen questions ranging from serious sports stats to pop culture politics, such as if Lady Gaga will say anything political.

When the game’s over, the chatbot will send the results to everyone who participated and friends at Super Bowl parties can compare their scores. Riaz Lalani, theScore’s VP of Product, said the goal is to experiment with building social engagement within the game, rather than merely pushing updates about the game itself. (He said the “Super Bowl Challenge” should only take users about a minute to complete.)

“Imagine you’re in a social setting at a Super Bowl party, it’s likely there is some sort of pool or squares or game around it,” he told Adweek. “We thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if we just created a game that would be easy for people to leverage in that setting?”

While it’s theScore’s first quiz, it’s not the first time it’s built something specific for an event. For the 2016 Summer Olympics, theScore’s bot provided updates on countries’ teams and medal counts, which Lalani said became a “catalyst” for engagement with the bot.

When Facebook first launched its Bot Shop in April, theScore was one of the first to debut a bot on the platform, according to Lalani. He wouldn’t reveal how many people have used the bot since then, but said it now sends more than 2 million messages every day, with users on average opening the bot at least 5 times a week.

Brands are also gearing up for the game. On Monday, Kia announced it would debut is Super Bowl spot via its Messenger chatbot, NiroBot. The bot—which debuted last fall to promote Niro’s 2017 crossover—sends users the a video of the ad starring Melissa McCarthy trying to save the earth from the disasters of climate change.

While NiroBot’s Super Bowl stunt seems pretty minor, it’s main features are meant to serve as a customer service tool and to help potential buyers learn about vehicles, gain technical knowledge, or schedule a test drive.

IPG Mediabrands, who created the bot, wrote in a blog post that, “Choosing the NiroBot as the place to launch its anticipated Super Bowl spot is a good way for Kia to draw attention to this new chatbot and send more customers on the discovery journey to learn more about its Niro model.”

Domino’s is also upping its chatbot skills for the Super Bowl. “Dom,” the pizza bot, debuted last summer, but now it will let customers create full orders directly within the chatbot rather than making them create a profile first online. Other restaurant brands are also calling the football-bot play, such as TGI Fridays, which is offering an appetizer for a penny to everyone that sends the brand a football emoji.