What Does It Take to Win the Super Bowl on Social Media?

With each year, the real-time marketing bar rises higher

Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Advertisers once again are bringing out all the digital bells and whistles for the Super Bowl, the biggest marketing event of the year.

But after last year's Samsung-powered selfie with Ellen DeGeneres at the Academy Awards, JCPenney's mitten stunt last year and Oreo's hit "You Can Still Dunk in the Dark" tweet during 2013's Big Game, the stakes are higher than ever for brands hoping to cut through the noise at next month's event.

Already, marketers are trying to up the ante by staffing social media command centers and crafting posts to be sent out across their social accounts leading up to the game.

All that is unlikely to give brands a head start, however, according to Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i.

"The success that has happened with all Super Bowl advertising [comes from] being unexpected," she pointed out. "The challenge for brands today is to figure out their way of doing so, but copycats—by definition—are expected." To Hofstetter's point, Oreo sat out the 2014 game completely after its success at the 2013 game.

While social efforts like those of Samsung and Oreo may appear as though they are created instantaneously, Victor Pineiro, vp of social media at Big Spaceship, noted that social strategists often map out potential Super Bowl moments long before kickoff.

"Once that's decided on, [the brand] brings in the entire inner agency team, and we all treat it like a campaign," he said. "That's based off of a [structure] a lot more like a traditional campaign."

To execute real-time social pushes, command centers—where brands brainstorm about social posts with their agencies to try to win the most mindshare during the telecast—have become de rigueur.

One marketer particularly bullish about this approach is Anheuser-Busch, which will set up four social media outposts across the country during the Super Bowl after having tested a similar arrangement last year.

"Having a war room is one of the basic things to be able to do real-time marketing at such an event," said Lucas Herscovici, A-B's vp of consumer connections.

Meanwhile, Nissan, which last advertised during the Super Bowl in 1997, will return to the event this year with two "listening rooms" for monitoring what consumers are saying about the company.

"The most important thing is that we want the messaging that is out there to be very authentic and very organic," said Fred Diaz, svp of U.S. sales and marketing and operations at Nissan North America.

Command centers don't work for all marketers, though.

After setting up its social monitoring post last year, Toyota this year is switching up its strategy by pushing out content prior to the event.

As Florence Drakton, manager of Toyota's social media strategy and operations, explained, "Instead of being on standby during the game in hopes that there are moments of interest that warrant engagement, our goal is to create one from the outset."

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.