Seattle may have dominated Super Bowl XLVIII, but which brands emerged victorious last night?
Overall, as The New York Times points out, marketers took a “warm and fuzzy” approach with their television commercials this year, with even perennial limit-tester GoDaddy opting for a relatively low-key spot. Why? MarketWatch speculates that after a year of twerking and sexting, the “public sleaze silo is spilling over” which led to more “innuendo than smut.”
On Twitter, things weren’t so tame, with both companies and individuals pushing the envelope a bit more. No surprise there, given how much activity brands were competing with. According to Twitter there were 24.9 million game-related tweets sent during the telecast, with the peak moment (Percy Harvin’s second-half kickoff return) sparking 381,000 tweets per minute.
The brands that managed to break through all this noise, both on air and online, did so by carefully courting controversy, using smart humor, tugging on heartstrings, and, in one case, simply relying on the universal dream to become rich.
Here are some of the biggest winners of the night:
Why: Budweiser was a winner even before the game began. Its adorable “Puppy Love” spot, a follow-up to the successful 2013 “Brotherhood” ad, had racked up more than 25 million views on YouTube alone before kickoff, and is already past 30 million. The company also had a win with its Bud Light ad featuring everything from a llama to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Why: Esurance scored huge on Twitter with a simple premise: it bought the first ad after the game (which was 30% cheaper, the percentage it says it saves consumers on average) and said it would give away that $1.5 million to someone who used the hashtag #EsuranceSave30.
Not surprisingly, the tag quickly took over Twitter.
— Esurance (@esurance) February 3, 2014
Why: AdAge writer Ken Wheaton says RadioShack “won the Super Bowl” with its spot “The Phone Call.” The ad, which featured a host of 80s icons—from Mary Lou Retton to Alf—was powerful not just because it was funny, but because it effectively conveyed a brand message. After dismantling an “old” RadioShack store, the stars replaced it with a “new” one, making it explicitly clear that the retailer wants to be thought of differently.
Winner: JC Penney
Why: In the first half of the game JC Penney raised eyebrows with tweets such as: “Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???” The garbled message sparked speculation that the account had been hacked, or that someone had drunk a few too many beers while watching. Turns out the brand was just “tweeting with mittens” and getting ready for the Olympics.
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— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
Winners: Cheerios and Coca-Cola
Why: Often brands do everything they can to shy away from controversy, which often leads to bland, inauthentic creative. Cheerios and Coca-Cola both avoided this pitfall by airing ads that were heartwarming and (very mildly) edgy—with the cereal presenting an interracial couple and the soda featuring “America the Beautiful” sung in multiple languages. Both campaigns inspired some backlash and hashtags, but also spirited defenses.
Why: Digiday picked DiGiorno Pizza as its best real-time marketer of the Super Bowl. Why? Because the brand brilliantly tweeted throughout the game in the voice of a trash-talking, DiGiorno-loving, wiseguy. The messages were great not only because they were funny, but because they also showcased why the brand is better than other pizza options.
Why: Honda didn’t necessarily have the best ad of the night, nor did it completely dominate the social media conversation, but it was one of the few brands that managed to score on air and online while also conveying its core message. The TV spot featuring Bruce Willis cutely highlighted the importance of hugging (and the automaker’s commitment to safety), and started a #HugFest on Twitter. That was followed-up with a series of online videos from Willis congratulating the Seahawks and allowing viewers to send virtual hugs.
Why: Neither Google nor its subsidiary YouTube aired commercials during the game, but both emerged as big winners. AdGooRoo points out that advertisers spent millions last year on paid search ads leading up to the Super Bowl, with even more expected this year. As of the end of January the teaser ads posted to YouTube had already racked up 44 million views, twice as much as in 2013, and hundreds of million more views are expected to the platform’s AdBlitz hub this week.
Why: Sometimes the most effective marketing strategy is to not try to match, or top, your past successes. Last year during the Super Bowl, Oreo emerged as the social media winner with its perfectly timed tweet during the power outage. This year the brand wisely decided to rest on its laurels and leave the tweet-topping to others.
Winner: Hillary Clinton
Why: One of the biggest marketing wins of the night came from a savvy political brand, not a company. Hillary Clinton had the “best tweet of the Super Bowl,” according to SB Nation, with a little dig at FOX (and presumably its sister network FOX News). The quip has already garnered more than 54,000 retweets as well as plenty of buzz from the media.
It’s so much more fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed & sacked! #SuperBowl
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 3, 2014
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