Super Bowl contest scores big with small business owners

Intuit bought a Super Bowl ad for the first time this year - but not for itself.

Client: Intuit Small Business Group (Mountain View, California)
Agency: Access Communications (San Francisco)
Campaign: Intuit Small Business Big Game
Duration: July 31, 2013–February 2, 2014
Budget: $500,000

Intuit bought a Super Bowl ad for the first time this year – but not for itself. The spot focused solely on small toy company GoldieBlox, which won the grand prize in a contest that was integral to the Small Business Big Game campaign that Intuit and its AOR Access Communications kicked off last summer.

"Small businesses are the unsung heroes of our economy," says Heather McLellan, Intuit’s director of corporate communications, "so we wanted to put them on a world stage." 

The team engaged small businesses online and offline during the eight months leading up to the 2014 Super Bowl. A website was launched,, which served as the campaign’s hub for information.

"We wanted to shine a spotlight on small businesses and let them tell their stories," says agency EVP Matt Afflixio. "Out of the gate we had 15,000 stories to tell."

Key small business and football influencers, including former football coach Jimmy Johnson and Bill Rancic, entrepreneur and season one winner of The Apprentice, helped spread the word and drive participation.  

Intuit president and CEO Brad Smith, McLellan, and Rancic announced the campaign and gave interviews to media in New York on July 31. 

A video in which Johnson announced the campaign was posted to Intuit’s YouTube page and the campaign’s website. The site housed contest elements and resources for small businesses, including a Small Business Big Game playbook that entrants could download. Entrants also got product coupons and were eligible to win prizes, such as $1,000 grants.

In the initial two rounds – August to October 2013 – entrants submitted information about their business, as well as videos about what makes their companies unique. The content was featured on the website and entrants were asked to share details on their social channels.

Messaging was also driven on Intuit’s Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages.

Rancic and Johnson conducted media interviews and promoted the campaign online. Rancic filmed five videos, including one covering a cash mob event at a small business in Chicago, where he spent more than $16,000 to support the business and raise awareness of the campaign. 

In October, all 8,000 Intuit employees voted to decide the four finalists. The general public voted in November to determine the grand prize winner, which was revealed at a press conference in New York on January 31. The other three company finalists won professionally produced, nationally distributed broadcast and print ads paid for by Intuit.

McLellan reports about 22,000 indirect product conversions tied to campaign participation – well above the 14,000 goal. The contest drew more than 15,000 entrants and about 2.5 million public votes were cast for the finalists. The team reports that all four finalists experienced significant increases in sales, website traffic, and social media followers.

McLellan says the campaign drove record coverage for a single Intuit small business campaign, with more than 4,000 stories placed in outlets including AP, The New York Times, and Good Morning America

The campaign’s website received 3 million unique visitors.

Positive sentiment about Intuit among small businesses on Facebook and Twitter increased from 40% to 60% prior to the campaign to 90% to 94% during the effort. The cash mob video garnered more than 215,000 views.

McLellan says Intuit plans to continue to spotlight small businesses on world stages.

PRWEEK’S VIEW: This was a smart campaign. It clearly demonstrated Intuit’s commitment to its customers, which is ultimately more valuable and enduring than a Super Bowl ad touting the brand. Sentiment results certainly indicate a halo effect. Reach and engagement were both outstanding, and sustaining engagement for so long was impressive. Intuit’s commitment to continuing to put small businesses in front of big audiences has made a genuine connection.

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