PR Lessons Learned From Super Bowl 50


We might be the last people on earth (besides Colorado fans) to still be thinking about this year’s Super Bowl. But with the important of mixed media advertising and the life of commercials extending beyond the television screen, most of the campaigns featured in the Super Bowl are still just getting started.

While the Super Bowl is undoubtedly still one of the best ways to reach a large audience with paid advertising, there is a lot to be learned from other aspects of Super Bowl marketing. Let’s just take a look at a few:

  1. The Manning Effect. Peyton Manning is arguably a stronger brand than the Denver Broncos. And while Budweiser had a strong showing with their two media spots, a large part of their success in this Super Bowl came from the unplanned shout out from Manning in his post-game interview. Other charismatic athletes have similar strong personas, like Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman from the Seahawks, or quarterbacks Tom Brady and Cam Newton. Some athletes have been successful enough in building up their own brands that they have transcended the sport, like Jesse Palmer of the New York Giants, who went on to star on The Bachelor, and now contributes to Good Morning America. The lesson we can take from all of this is that NFL teams must have a separate brand from their star players to be successful. Think the Seahawks “12th Man” philosophy, or the Dallas Cowboys who, despite having only three post season appearances in the last 10 years, are still the most valuable NFL team. This applies across industries – your brand must be more than a celebrity endorsement or highly visible CEO to be successful in the long run.
  2. Social Still Matters. An ad campaign is only as good as it’s social media parts, it seems. While paid ads had the opportunity to reach about 111 million viewers (the third largest audience in history), social media campaigns had the opportunity to further boost this viewership by millions. Most brand commercials had earned over 1 millions views on YouTube before the Super Bowl even started. That doesn’t mean that every social effort is a success. Take Mountain Dew’s #puppymonkeybaby hashtag, which went viral during the game – but about half of the attention was negative. Esurance, on the other had, elected to not advertise during the game, but utilized the less expensive before and after game slots and went on to generate the most buzz of any brand during the game. The best PR lesson we took from the social mentions of Super Bowl 50 was this: small brands can play with the big boys if they do it right. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer coopted the “Bud Light Party” campaign to release their own photo of Seth Rogen. This resulted in a lot of buzz for the brand, being shared almost 4,000 times without the company spending a dime on advertising. This is just one example of how digital PR can win the day, especially for small businesses with a small budget.
  3. Replicate Success. It’s not new advice, but it’s good advice: when you find a winner, stick with it. For the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the NFL did just that, choosing stars from some of the most successful shows of the past Beyonce and Bruno Mars to perform with headliner Coldplay. The show also paid homage to some of the greatest acts in Super Bowl history. The show generated several thousands tweets about the artists, and increased sales for all three performers immediately following the game. Other brands taking advantage of past success include Doritos, who once again used their user-generated “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, which earned them the most social mentions prior to the game.

While the huge fanfare of the Super Bowl is definitely not for every brand, the spectacle does offer an interesting opportunity to learn from some of the best marketers in the world. Applying those lessons to your own business can help generate a taste of that massive success.

What was your favorite takeaway from the Super Bowl?

About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.
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