Like players, marketers try to avoid fumbles on Super Bowl Sunday

Many brands will be ready to make their mark using real-time marketing next Sunday during the Super Bowl, but PR executives say that the winning companies will be those that enter the game carefully.

Many brands will be ready to make their mark using real-time marketing next Sunday during the Super Bowl, but PR executives say that the winning companies will be those that enter the game carefully.

Last year, Oreo set the bar for in-the-moment social media marketing when it created and shared a piece of content during Super Bowl XLVII. When a power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome delayed the game, the Mondelez International brand tweeted an image of an Oreo cookie with the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” The post was retweeted more than 15,000 times, and within a day, Oreo gained about 8,000 Twitter followers.

When more than 100 million people watch the Seattle Seahawks face the Denver Broncos on February 2, brands will compete for a piece of the spotlight that Oreo won last year.

“Tons of brands will try to match [what Oreo did]. A couple will do it really well, a thousand will get ignored, and about 25 will give us chills and do it badly,” says Josh Lohrius, executive creative director at Olson Engage. “What we have counseled our clients for the Super Bowl, or at any time, is to only do it if it works and makes sense.”

While Oreo's Super Bowl blackout post appeared to be completely off the cuff, the brand had planned ahead to be able to respond to events as they unfolded. Oreo and digital marketing agency 360i set up a social media command center armed by brand and agency executives who could react to events in 10 minutes or less, so they were ready to seize the marketing opportunity when the lights went out. The Super Bowl effort also followed a 100-day campaign, Daily Twist, in which Oreo shared an image each day related to current events, such as the Mars rover landing, gay pride landmarks, and Apple's iPhone 5 launch.

“Last year, the blackout provided something unexpected, and the winners were the ones who had the right foundation and were most prepared,” says Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i US. “There is a lot of buzz around the big game, and if you're not an advertiser, the barrier to breaking through is much more challenging.”

Kimberly Fontes, senior communications manager for North America at Mondelez, said in an email that the company's brands “have no specific plans” for real-time engagement at the Super Bowl this year. She did not answer a question about whether Oreo is planning to set up a social media command center again.

“As always, the brands are engaged across social media channels and listen and engage with fans on an ongoing basis,” Fontes added.

Brands to watch in real time during Super Bowl XLVIII

Millions of Americans are deciding whether to root for the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos next Sunday, but many brands have already picked a team. Here's a quick roundup of companies that endorse players in the big game – or are affiliated with them for reasons beyond their control – to keep an eye on during Super Bowl XLVIII.

DENVER BRONCOS
Papa John's/Buick: Legendary Denver quarterback Peyton Manning stars prominently in ads from these two companies. With his legacy on the line, and facing Seattle's intimidating defensive backfield, keep an eye on how these companies respond to his performance.

Old Spice: The increasingly irreverent advertiser features Denver wide receiver Wes Welker in ads where lizards eat his legs and where he showers through the second half of a game – you read those correctly – while enjoying the scent of his deodorant. Welker has dropped key passes in past Super Bowls while playing for New England.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Duracell: Fullback Derrick Coleman is inspiring to fans not only because he made a Super Bowl-caliber team after going undrafted in 2012, but also because he's deaf. He's gained acclaim in recent weeks after starring in a Duracell ad and responding to a hearing-impaired young fan with an inspiring letter of his own.

Skittles: When star Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was playing Pop Warner football as a kid, his mother gave him Skittles as “power pellets.” It clearly worked. Years later, Lynch is one of the most popular running backs in the NFL, known for bruising defenders as they move in for the tackle. Fans have rewarded him – and his teammates – by tossing Skittles onto the field after touchdown runs.

Beats by Dre: Beats by Dre defined perfect timing last Sunday when it launched an ad starring Richard Sherman on the same day he beat out fellow Beats pitchman Colin Kaepernick to go to the Super Bowl. Even more serendipitous for the brand was Sherman's Internet-breaking post-game rant to sideline reporter Erin Andrews, which drew accusations of thuggery, shock, and soul-searching about the Seattle cornerback. As the media microscope on Sherman intensifies next week, he's pushed Manning aside as the star of Super Bowl XLVIII – something that was unthinkable a week ago.
-Frank Washkuch

Heineken USA's Newcastle Brown Ale is not advertising during the Super Bowl [Anheuser-Busch is the exclusive beer advertiser of the game], but it is crafting a real-time marketing strategy as part of its efforts, says Tara Rush-Tripp, senior director of corporate communications at Heineken. For the first time during the Super Bowl, the brand will convene members of its marketing, corporate relations, agency, and legal teams to be able to create, gain legal approval for, and share reactionary content on its digital channels.

“Social media has been really important to the ‘No Bollocks' campaign,” adds Rush-Tripp, referring to Newcastle's program that launched in 2012. “For the Super Bowl this year, we are going into it knowing the key messages and what we would want to accomplish. Things happen in real time that we can't anticipate, but we will be together and prepared.”

Companies should not participate in real-time marketing if they have not done “a lot of editorial planning” or if their brand voice is not relevant to the event, says Rachel Caggiano, EVP and North America head of content at Ogilvy Public Relations. She points to the Tumblr blog “Real-Time Marketing Sucks,” which is full of poor examples such as Clorox's tweets during the Golden Globes or AT&T's September 11 anniversary post.

“It makes a really good case for times when brands should have just let it go. Most of them are when the brands are trying too hard, not being relevant to their customers, or taking a sacred topic and using it for marketing purposes,” she explains.

While consumers in general may be unfamiliar with the term “real-time marketing,” they respond to authentic brand engagement, says Linda Perry-Lube, chief digital officer at RF|Binder.

“Consumers care that the brand is genuinely entering into a conversation happening anyway,” she says. “Inserting yourself into conversations awkwardly – we wouldn't recommend that. Maybe sports are not the right place for some brands, or some can operate in the periphery, such as talking about what recipes to make beforehand.”

Mondelez's Ritz Crackers, for example, teamed up with four New York restaurants to share recipes for game day, including a Ritz pastrami and corned beef mini sandwich based on Carnegie Deli's signature dish.

Hyundai Motor America, a Super Bowl advertiser for the seventh time, is exploring real-time communications opportunities to go along with its two 30-second spots. For example, because one of its commercials is for the Hyundai Genesis, it might be relevant to talk about the vehicle's all-wheel drive feature in terms of the winter weather in New York, says VP of marketing Steve Shannon. This is the first time the Super Bowl will be played outside in a cold-weather city.

“Real-time marketing is equal parts art and science, planning and spontaneity,” Shannon says. “The pressure is on.”

The automaker created a calendar of PR and marketing activities starting this week and extending days past the Super Bowl. In a similar vein, starting conversations with consumers should not end when a team wins the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Caggiano adds.

“The cost of entry is a ton of interaction with customers and constituents. It's not just about posting something and hoping it goes viral,” she says. “There is a lot of community management that's required, a lot of engagement and interaction in a very human way.”

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