The 6 key plays you need in your comms playbook for the big game

It's not too late to get in the game.

NRG Stadium in Houston, the site of Super Bowl LI. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, by User eschipul on Flickr - From Flickr; description page is (was) here, CC BY-SA 2.0)
NRG Stadium in Houston, the site of Super Bowl LI. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, by User eschipul on Flickr - From Flickr; description page is (was) here, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Your favorite football team may not make the Super Bowl this year, but your favorite brands will be there with a playbook to score a communications victory.

There are tremendous remote and on-site communications opportunities to elevate brand awareness, stimulate trial, and prompt loyalty and ambassadorship through audience engagement well beyond the sports world. The opportunity is even more plentiful before, during, and after Super Bowl week, especially if there are "firsts" or powerful data points to share with fans through media and influencer coverage.

In years of supporting Super Bowl activities for clients, Burson-Marsteller’s Fan Experience team has learned a few things on how to prepare a game plan to break through the clutter of one of the world’s most anticipated and covered events. While the big game is unique, this approach has proven successful for other major entertainment events, including Hollywood spectacles and big-league all-star games.

It’s never too late to get in the game
?While communications planning for the big game is underway, there’s still time to establish a successful program, even days prior to the game. The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are a season unto itself, a window when media outlets and influencers discuss the activities of NFL partners, advertisers, and brands that have a compelling story to tell. This includes product reveals, social media campaigns, CSR initiatives,  fan engagement activities, and breakthrough news that directly or indirectly affects the fan experience. The more surprising the information the greater the traction.

The earned media universe goes beyond sports
?It permeates business, technology, consumer, lifestyle, and entertainment outlets. The right brand message will resonate broadly—and globally. Plus, there are great regional media opportunities where the right hook—such as a celebrated former player—can connect fans and your brand to the big game.

Share unexpected content before the game?
Brands that share thought-provoking, discussion-generating content before the game can turn a moment in time into an extended storytelling campaign. Identifying quality assets is critical in order to stand out, including new data, a celebrity ambassador to deliver messages, or behind-the-scenes access to an unprecedented experience.

The ‘wow factor’
To stand out, you must bring your "A game"—build a program with sizzle and something out of the ordinary. Conventional thinking such as relying on brand legacy will not result in traction. Even a substantial product or brand announcement, no matter how breakthrough it may be, will not lead to success without strategies specific to and relevant within the sports landscape.

Success is in the stars?
The Super Bowl environment often transcends the game itself. Star athletes and celebrities who can carry a brand message and have a connection to football, the brand’s hometown, or the host city can contribute mightily to communications victory. It is important to realize that a brand executive, even a prominent CEO, is not compelling enough to secure media, but pairing an executive with a celebrity can be very effective.

Each big game thematic is distinct
?Houston will have a radically different vibe than Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. Coverage will spotlight different unofficial themes, community stories, and regional topics. Where possible, brands should build compelling stories to form a credible relationship with the game, the city, or the venue, providing media and influencers with a strong reason to consider speaking with company spokespeople.

Finally, it is critical to put a plan in place that covers nearly every media and online influencer bucket imaginable. Media that normally would never cover football, or sports for that matter, want to be in the game and produce relevant content connected to their regular subject matter.

Jason Teitler is the founder of Burson-Marsteller’s sports and entertainment marketing specialty, Fan Experience.

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