This article has been contributed by Devin Partida.
Many people confess that they mainly watch the Super Bowl to catch the commercials. Brand managers realize the potential to reach massive audiences with ads that air during the game, and they come up with increasingly creative and memorable ways to connect with people.
Here are 10 lessons you can learn from what we know so far about ads associated with the 2021 Super Bowl.
1. Look for Opportunities Beyond TV Commercials
Before social media and internet advertising, TV commercials were the main way of reaching the public during the Super Bowl. However, they’re costly, and many brand managers deem them outside of their budgets. There were only seven brands confirmed to have booked Super Bowl TV commercials as of early January 2021.
However, you don’t necessarily need a TV spot. Chipotle found that TikTok had the recipe for success in 2020. It partnered with Justin Bieber and social media influencers to launch a TikTok challenge that encouraged people to create content set to Bieber’s song “Yummy.” The campaign reached more than 95 million individuals.
Image source: tubefilter.com
Consider which segments of the audience you want to target. Then, think about what platforms they might engage with during the Big Game.
Lacking the resources for a TV ad does not necessarily mean you’re automatically limited. It requires thinking creatively about how you can make the biggest, longest-lasting impacts with your available budget.
2. Run a Series of Ads Rather Than One Spot
The time-restricted nature is a downside of Super Bowl ads. For example, people tune into the commercials during the Big Game because they expect the advertisers to air them only during the event and not afterward. Although that causes an exclusivity aspect, it could limit the overall duration of the campaign.
Ford opted out of running an ad during the Big Game this year. It’ll instead show a series of ads to promote its Bronco Sport vehicles.
One debuted during a football game, and the brand introduced another during “Good Morning America.” There’s a third ad arriving in February. The automobile maker also confirmed it would focus on streaming video when showing this content. Ford will spotlight different vehicle aspects in these ads, too. One features the Bronco’s origin story, and another tells viewers about its terrain modes.
Take inspiration from that approach and consider how you could capture the public’s attention for longer by showing several advertisements on a staggered schedule. This method helps you appeal to more people and display the content on various platforms.
3. Strike the Right Tone
Super Bowl advertisers perpetually try to achieve the right balance that makes people remember their content. That often means using humor or a bit of shock value. However, due to recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and violence at the United States’ Capitol, advertisers must take exceptional care to avoid offense or tone-deafness.
Advertising expert Stuart Elliott considered this year’s Super Bowl the riskiest for marketers. He explained, “The Super Bowl is going to require a real gut check for marketers in terms of whether they’ll be able to walk the tightrope between striking the right tone and misfiring by alienating people with the wrong approach.”
Some people welcome funny ads that make them momentarily forget about everything that’s causing them stress. However, others might complain that marketers are trying to act like everything’s okay when so much uncertainty exists.
As you evaluate what type of content to go with and which platforms to use, scrutinize whether people could get the wrong idea. You could also briefly acknowledge the difficulties by saying something such as, “We know this year has been hard…”
4. Explore How to Engage Younger Audience Members
Brands often use the days surrounding the Super Bowl to help them gain traction with additional audience segments. Antacid brand TUMS is doing that to highlight that heartburn is not only a problem for older people. It won’t run a Big Game ad this year but will launch a Twitter-based bingo game on February 1 to connect with younger people ahead of the Super Bowl.
Whenever someone tags the brand in a tweet or mentions a “TUMS-worthy moment,” those actions fill in their bingo cards. Participants can win up to $55,000 in prizes.
This Sunday, the BIGGER Game is on – #TUMSBingoSweepstakes! With plays like a Coach Tantrum or Commentator Strategy, the feed is your field to win a piece of $55,000. Grab your card and follow us during the BIGGER Big Game as we call plays LIVE! https://t.co/StKxghGevx pic.twitter.com/RsH2u1JwYB
— TUMS (@TUMSOfficial) February 6, 2021
TUMS representatives know younger people often see content on second screens or engage with it on social media. This effort is an example of the company’s aim to display content to people wherever they are. The alternative is making them seek out the material — which may never happen.
Think about how different content types or platforms could resonate with younger people more than others. Moreover, consider how those generations prefer to engage with content and what will most likely keep them interested.
5. Cater to How People Celebrate Highly Anticipated Events
Social distancing and rules barring large gatherings will inevitably make Super Bowl parties different this year. However, that doesn’t mean people won’t still have celebrations. Data shows that consumers plan to spend an average of $74.55 on their Big Game parties, and 73% will tune into the event. Brand managers should ponder how they could become a part of people’s festivities — during and outside of Super Bowl celebrations.
Thanks to advancements in edge computing, brands and retailers are well-placed to provide consumers with relevant content that could drive their purchases. For example, data from connected sensors could anticipate what customers may want based on what they bought before. Customers might then get on-the-spot discounts, strengthening their belief that they can’t pass up the available deals.
In-store promotions could also encourage people to buy things they might otherwise overlook. Pepsi will roll out specialized displays and beverage cans to promote this year’s halftime show. Target, Dollar General and 7-11 are among the retailers receiving those items. Additionally, Super Bowl-specific packages include QR codes that take people to a dedicated web portal with extra content about the halftime show.
It’s probably too late for your brand to create packaging for the 2021 Super Bowl. However, you can still publish content that helps people get excited about events in these strange times. Think about suggesting a playlist of songs or giving them ideas about how to showcase their passions through apparel choices.
6. Consider How to Keep People’s Minds on Your Brand
Sports fanatics will have their eyes glued to their TVs during the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean they can’t think of your brand at the same time. Rocket Mortgage is bringing back its Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes this year to entice viewers.
People could win $50,000 whenever the score changes. Plus, two lucky individuals will win $500,000 to put toward dream homes. Participants receive emails before the Super Bowl telling them which squares they have. If the last digit of each team’s score matches one of them, they’re in the running for the money. Plus, every person who signs up for the game automatically goes into a drawing to win one of the $500,000 prizes.
Rocket Mortgage will announce winners on its Twitter and Facebook feeds and a website made specifically for the contest. This example shows how brands can enjoy top-of-mind positions, even as people watch the gameplay. Whenever a team scores, people taking part will excitedly check their squares to see if they match.
Think about how your brand could do something similar to ensure that people think of it often. Succeeding might be as simple as posting frequent and relevant social media content that makes people smile or otherwise have positive emotions.
7. Highlight Safety While Encouraging People to Stay Home
Now is a great time to think about publishing content or running campaigns that encourage people to stay safe during the Super Bowl and beyond. For example, Lyft is running a campaign in New Mexico that lets people have free rides through February 8. After entering a promotion code, people get a complimentary $20 credit. The approach aims to curb drunk driving.
Brands are also thinking about safety by deciding not to sponsor in-person Super Bowl gatherings. They don’t want those gatherings to become COVID-19 super spreader events.
Budweiser has another idea for spotlighting safety. It will put a percentage of the money ordinarily invested in a Super Bowl ad toward educating people about vaccines. The beer brand also created a short film about essential workers who received their vaccinations, showing that they can spark brand awareness without a Super Bowl ad.
From a content marketing standpoint, call attention to the benefits of staying home this year to stop the COVID-19 spread. For example, if someone watches the game in their abode during an intimate gathering instead of among a crowd, they have easy access to a bathroom and no long lines to deal with when getting their snack and drink refills. Help people realize that staying home has some perks they didn’t immediately consider, whether on game night or otherwise.
8. Shed Light on Crucial Societal Issues
Big events like the Super Bowl can lead to increases in human trafficking. That’s why Airbnb teamed up with several partners to launch a campaign that helps people understand more about that crime.
The effort features 30-second educational videos from several football players, including Benjamin Watson and Nick Foles. Airbnb will also distribute materials to accommodation hosts to help them recognize and report suspected cases of human trafficking. Additionally, people can attend Airbnb’s online workshop to learn more about the topic.
Some brand representatives view the Super Bowl as a fantastic time to help the public become more aware of the problems existing in their communities. However, it can help brands gain momentum all year. If you take a similar approach, think about how you could help people feel empowered to fight back against the issue rather than helpless.
Offering content in numerous formats could also increase your reach and engagement levels. For example, while a statistic-filled infographic could resonate with people who love data, others might respond to blog posts from people who are personally affected by whatever issue you choose to cover.
9. Shift Resource Allocations to Drive Sales
Avocados From Mexico is one brand that broke with a tradition it started in 2015, by not running a Super Bowl ad this year. However, that doesn’t mean the company is slowing down its promotional efforts. Ivonne Kinser, the brand’s head of marketing and e-commerce, recently explained the strategy in a detailed interview with MediaPost.
She acknowledged that the topic of football has always combined nicely with avocados because of how people love to accompany their game-time snacking with guacamole. Kinser also brought up how the brand will have in-store promotions featuring Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews. Although Avocados From Mexico does not sell avocados directly to consumers, it gives them ideas of how to use them and streamlines the buying process.
For example, a key part of the company’s digital approach was to optimize Walmart.com’s avocado page. That page’s visibility increased by 212% in six months. The company also guides people from its website to various retailers that sell avocados after giving them recipe inspiration.
This business knows football fans love its product, but it doesn’t focus only on the Super Bowl to get results. Assess whether your company could do the same by diversifying its resource allocations. One possibility is to tie into the Super Bowl in a minor way by giving social media users a sneak peek of a more extensive campaign during the game. However, this tip makes sense to consider at any time of the year.
10. Stick With What Works While Venturing Into New Territory
Pringles introduced its audience to the flavor-stacking phenomenon during its 2018 Super Bowl debut. Back then, there were a massive 318,000 options for eating different flavors together to create a new one. For example, a person could recreate the flavors of nachos or chicken wings with specific kinds of chips.
When Pringles returns to televisions during Super Bowl 2021, it will once again show viewers the great things that can happen when they eat flavors together. It’s even better that the chips have a slightly curved shape that helps people hold several at once.
However, the brand will showcase something new, too. The ad will kick off a campaign where Julius Pringle, the chips’ iconic mascot, will have a new look. The fresh appearance features him with more-expressive eyebrows and a wider range of emotions.
Think of how you might do the same by blending a mix of the old and new when coming up with content for a campaign. That approach brings familiarity while getting people excited for what’s ahead.
Apply These Strategies When Making 2021 Plans
Even with the 2021 Super Bowl yet to air, you can still get valuable takeaways from news about the campaigns brands will run. These 10 tips should get you thinking in impactful ways that could spark new ideas for effective campaigns this year. Although the suggestions here focus on Super Bowl-specific advertising lessons, you can easily adapt them for use later in the year.
About the author: Devin Partida is a business tech and innovation writer. Previously, her work has been featured on The Boss Magazine, Talent Culture and Techopedia, among other publications. To read more from Devin, you can find her at ReHack.com, where she is the Editor-in-Chief.