How Walmart and P&G Are Trying to Reach Female Fans With Super Bowl Social Effort

'Game Day Traditions' stars Mama McCourty

In years past, Nielsen has estimated that 46 percent of people who watch the Super Bowl are female. And women also do most of the tweeting about the ads. Yet, despite spots like last year's "Like a Girl" from Always, the Big Game still feels pretty male oriented (the "apex of manvertising," as The Washington Post recently put it). Maybe that's because brands haven't figured out the right way to reach those women viewers.

And maybe the right way isn't a Super Bowl ad at all.

Walmart and Procter & Gamble have teamed up to make a play for female NFL fans with a two-part effort that's all social and mom-centric. Shortly before Christmas, the brands launched a Web video called "Game Day Traditions" starring Mama McCourty, the consummate football mom.

Throughout this month, the brands have built on that original effort by encouraging social influencers to post their own Super Bowl party hosting tips using the #GameDayTraditions hashtag. Thus far, participants (mostly moms, by the looks of it) have shared everything from cleaning tips to recipes for seven-layer dip. The social push continues to the end of this week.

Harnessing the power of mommy bloggers has been a favored marketing tactic for several years, but what makes this effort notable isn't just that it's getting women to buzz about the Super Bowl, it's harnessed an army of ordinary moms to rally around a video starring pro football's most famous mom. It's a far cry from the usual 30-second spot for Anheuser-Busch, but is it effective?

Casting the NFL's Favorite Mom

The centerpiece of the Walmart/P&G effort is a video produced by SheSpeaks, a media platform for female influencers that reaches 100 million consumers. The three-and-a-half-minute effort stars Mama McCourty, who knows a thing or two about Sunday football gatherings. McCourty's twin sons, Devin and Jason, both play in the NFL.

"Mama McCourty has a lot of game-day traditions because she has two kids in the NFL," said SheSpeaks CEO Aliza Freud. "So we organized a conversation with her and then figured out how to weave these products into the story."

The story goes like this: Mama McCourty comes to visit the home of entertainment reporter Keri Keith Lumm, and the pair proceed to prepare for a house full of company by cleaning up, talking about food, setting the table and so on. At strategic junctures, P&G products make appearances out of a Walmart shopping bag—Tide and Downy for laundering football jerseys, Bounty towels and a Swiffer mop for cleaning up a dropped chicken wing.

P&G is following a well-traveled path to reach consumers, according to David Murdico, creative director for L.A.-based digital marketing firm Supercool Creative. "Influencer videos are very popular and successful right now because advertisers can tap into highly targeted and loyal audiences that trust the influencers," he said.

Is the approach successful?

Needless to say, an influencer video is a lot cheaper than a Super Bowl spot.

But such videos have their challenges, too. In the case of "Game Day Traditions," these include forcing a disparate lineup of dry goods into a storyline about a football party. According to Freud, SheSpeaks sought "to find common ground with the products and come off as authentic." At times, though, authenticity seems like a bit of a stretch—such as when the women decide to put on their "game face," heading to the bathroom to daub on Covergirl mascara while the mac and cheese is baking in the kitchen.

"It felt like a product placement pitch—how did the storyline go from grocery shopping to putting on mascara?" said veteran marketer Petur Workman, vp at Phoenix Media Group. Workman said he believes the influencer-video concept itself is solid. "You can cover a lot of brands, target more specifically and get more bang for the buck," he said.

But it's still a delicate task to cloak what's essentially a commercial with the look and feel of a helpful-hints video. "You need to have more of an Oprah approach, a feeling for the customer," Workman said. "You're not going to fool NFL watchers."

Murdico agrees. "This video has a great concept as they wrap Mama McCourty's unique story around how she gets ready for a Super Bowl party," he said. "But there's either too much product placement or too few tips on throwing the party."

Whatever its shortcomings, the video has notched over 176,000 views, and #GameDayTraditions is racking up a steady stream of tweets. It's also worth pointing out that even the best marketing effort won't reach those who simply dread the Super Bowl and have no intention of throwing a football party. As blogger Nina Malkin has advised her readers, "Should you get the brilliant idea to tell your beau to invite his boys over to your apartment for a Super Bowl frolic—resist! You'll find yourself babysitting a bunch of very loud, very large toddlers."

Perhaps the task gets easier when Mama McCourty comes over.

For more Super Bowl 50 news, check out Adweek's Super Bowl Ad Tracker, an up-to-date list of the brands running Super Bowl spots and the agencies involved in creating them.

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