Social Media Gains Yardage In Bowl XLIV Marketing

In keeping with tradition,  an ad slot in next month’s Super Bowl XLIV won’t come cheap ($3 million will buy 30 seconds), but brands willing and able to drop that kind of cash seem determined to get more yardage out of their buy—largely through digital, search, mobile and social media efforts.

Virally extending the life of a half-minute spot is not a new idea for the big game. But Jon Kaplan, financial services industry director at Google, observed that this year the trend is toward “integration” and a new “level of sophistication”—both for first-time advertisers and for veteran brands returning with digital strategies more elaborate than last year. “If you’re going to spend $3 million on a Super Bowl spot,” he said, “you want to have some ‘wow’ factor that keeps it living on.”

For instance, PepsiCo snack foods division Frito-Lay will reprise Doritos Crash the Super Bowl (now in its fourth incarnation). The contest selects and airs the most popular consumer-generated ads. But this time, it’ll allow contestants to post and share video submissions via Facebook, Digg and Twitter, and alert friends which ads they voted for.

“When you consider the thousands and thousands of views the videos get—and how many times they’re shared—it’s a pretty viral piece,” said Frito-Lay rep Chris Kuechenmeister, who explained that the contest enhancements stemmed from company marketers noticing that consumers were already sharing the videos through social-networking channels. In a related strategy, Papa John’s will be using mobile banner ads and SMS text messaging to launch its new, Super XL IV pizza. (The Roman numerals stand for “extra large” and “four-toppings.”)

Meanwhile, first-time advertisers like Boost Mobile are seeding popular online video sites such as YouTube with 15-second teaser versions of its Super Bowl ad. The goal is “to create excitement even before the [TV] spot airs,” said Caralene Robinson, brand marketing and communications director for the Sprint Prepaid Group.

Search is also boosting the reach of traditional ads for brands like Diamond Foods (advertising both Emerald Nuts and Pop-Secret popcorn in a single spot this year) by driving consumers to a microsite that hosts not only the Super Bowl spot but also a game and links to the brands’ individual sites.
More and more, companies are recognizing the ability of Google and YouTube to increase and extend brand awareness after the game ads run. Following Denny’s 2009 Super Bowl spot that advertised a free breakfast offer, Google searches for “Denny’s” rose by 4,100 percent. And after Doritos’ 2009 spot, YouTube search queries were up even more—by 4,300 percent. Kaplan said that these figures are prompting brands to consider “how to use YouTube to promote your videos, [and] how to use Google when people will be searching for your brand.”

According to Papa John’s vp-digital marketing Jim Ensign, marketers have clearly evolved from viewing the big game as merely an ad platform to seeing it as an anchor for a variety of audience-participation initiatives driven by the social Web. “It used to be that consumers would just go to the [advertiser’s] site to see what spots are there, but now they’re [logging onto Facebook and Twitter and talking],” he said. “They’re not just observing; they’re participating in the marketing.”

Even inaugural advertisers, like online vacation rental home management site HomeAway, are recognizing social media’s benefits. “Part of what [made us advertise in the Super Bowl in the first place is] all the social media and online [buzz] that happens after the game is over,” said global brand marketing director Matt Cohen, who added that the most watched sports event is “a catalyst for a lot of the [brand chatter and consumer] activity that follows.”