Pre-Super Bowl engagement with fans rewrites the playbook

The 2012 National Football League championship game is often referred to as the social media Super Bowl because of how active fans were during the game on various platforms.

The 2012 National Football League championship game is often referred to as the social media Super Bowl because of how active fans were during the game on various platforms. This year, marketers and PR professionals have wisely taken the opportunity to leverage social in new ways to engage consumers and get them involved before the big game.

Ford's Lincoln brand, which launched a campaign in December to introduce itself to new consumers and refresh the company's image, is kicking off its first Super Bowl commercial with a social media twist. The luxury automaker is basing its ad on five crowd-sourced tweets about fans' craziest road trip experiences that will be selected by comedian Jimmy Fallon.

Toyota is similarly trying to involve fans before the game by asking them to post a photo of themselves on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #wishgranted for the chance to be featured in the company's commercial.

Pizza Hut is also using a similar method, as the fast-food chain is asking its consumers to submit funny or creative videos of them yelling a quarterback's famous words "Hut, hut, hut." The brand will then select five to 10 user-generated videos to feature in its commercial during the big game.

The concept of incorporating social media into traditional advertising is clever, especially when it comes to reaching younger audiences. It is also a way for companies to connect with fans who may not watch the Super Bowl, and it fixes the problem some advertisers ran into in 2012, when they ruined the buzz prior to the game by running the full commercial online ahead of time.

But while pre-game engagement is smart and may cut through the marketing noise, brands risk only connecting with Millennials or digitally savvy technophiles, which is why the content it creates, on and offline needs to have intriguing elements for those fans who don't involve themselves in the initiatives.

One brand that demonstrated a very clever mix of social and traditional media in its Super Bowl plans was Mars Chocolate North America's M&M's brand, which launched its Better With M campaign in January in anticipation of its 30-second spot. The initiative, which includes consumer promotions and social media activities, also has a cause-marketing effort behind it to help fund homes for Habitat for Humanity. Through its integrated program, Mars is able to reach a wide range of audiences and build brand buzz before debuting its game-day commercial. l

Lindsay Stein is the consumer marketing reporter for PRWeek. She can be contacted at lindsay.stein@prweek.com.

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