Super Bowl: The Real-time B(r)andwagon

With the rise of social media, many marketing employees stayed at the office a few extra hours over the weekend to watch the Super Bowl. Brands such as Volkswagen established “war rooms;” small groups of communications professionals waiting to exploit opportunities via Twitter.

This comes in the wake of Oreo’s massive success last year during the Super Bowl blackout. Their “you can still dunk in the dark” marketing message took the Twitter and media spheres by storm, proving that you don’t need to spend millions to be part of the conversation – just serendipitous events to work with and a readiness to exploit them.

Many commercials over the weekend sought to make use of offline and online media by running integrated marketing campaigns. The majority, however, only went as far as to throw lacklustre hashtags at the end of their advertisements. It was those separate to the Super Bowl, and separate to the accompanying fee, that really stole the real-time marketing spotlight.

Brands such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Progressive Insurance, JCPenny, DiGiorno Pizza, Oreo (again), and even Hillary Clinton were the real MVPs of this year’s Super Bowl.

But, why? Why these select few? What makes them so different to the corporate giants that vied for our twittention during their Super Bowl slots?

Simply: they get social media.

Many companies, it seems, still do not fully understand social media. They’re adept at using it as a broadcast medium – a channel to push marketing messages – but falter in using it from a public relations perspective to comment on events in real-time. There are usually two reason for this:

1, the idea that saying something is better than saying nothing and,

2, the idea that saying something is better than saying nothing.

Unlike traditional media, real-time PR and social media isn’t something that should be pre-packaged and fastidiously calculated for an unpredictable event. Granted, the messages would be probably be on-brand but their generic nature would fall flat. After all, the real power of the Oreo tweet was in the context. It was entirely reactive; adapting to a conversation and providing a commentary on something that was happening at the time.

Although so many brands are jumping on the real-time bandwagon, many have also gone the other way. The need to say something in real-time results in tweets that are current but veer off-brand; containing little marketing purpose and lacking the intelligence needed to make an impact.

e.g. Air freshener Glade, during the Emmy awards, congratulated the cast of “Veep” with this: “The polls are in. #Optimism paid off. Congratulations to this year’s commander in comedy. #bestfeelings”

The success is in the grey area between the two; you have to be both on-brand and relevant. Although it proved difficult at this year’s #BrandBowl as a seminal moment failed to present itself, this is the job of the public relations professional: ultimately trying to balance newsworthiness against persuasive messages.

As predicted by 2013’s events, social media took the throne and reigned supreme at Super Bowl XLVIII. Perhaps it’s even proven that spending $4,000,000 on 30 seconds of TV advertising exposure isn’t really worth the price-tag – particularly if you can’t back it up elsewhere. Even on the dismount, opting to forgo coverage on the Super Bowl completely, Oreo still made a greater impact. It kept its social media crown in place by referencing its blackout glory days:

Food for thought.