How Brands Won the Super Bowl Without Going Bankrupt

What do Clydesdales, flying pigs, and Liam Neeson have in common? Easy – they’re the stars of three successful Super Bowl commercials aired in recent years. Watch them. They’ll make you feel all the feels.

Super Bowl ads are what marketers live for. But these days, claiming a slot for your commercial costs a pretty penny. And by pretty penny I mean all the pennies. This year, CBS has asked brands to pay nearly $5 million for 30-seconds of airtime, which amounts to roughly $160,000 per second. It makes sense. When else can marketers connect with millions of consumers who are more excited about commercials than they are football?


To combat the high cost, brands have shifted their strategies to focus more on social experience rather than a multimillion-dollar blitz on television. Here, a few examples of smart and affordable activations that don’t cost an arm and a leg and everything else.

Newsjack. Remember the power outage during Super Bowl XLVII? The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was consumed in darkness for 34 minutes, causing havoc and frustration for everyone involved. Meanwhile, Oreo reacted with a timely and pithy Twitter ad featuring the caption “Power out? No problem” and a photo that read “you can still dunk in the dark.” Clever, eh?  The Tweet received 15,000 retweets and 20,000 likes, 790 comments, and 6,600 shares on Facebook. Based on these impressive stats, it seems as though Oreo’s quick reaction to a newsworthy event was more effective than their multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercial, proof that money doesn’t always buy success!


Crowdsource. Doritos became the king of crowdsourcing when they released their “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign. People love getting involved in things. It’s human nature. In fact, 74% of Super Bowl viewers say they appreciate it when brands ask them to take part in the creation of their Super Bowl ads (Crowdtap, 2014-2015).


Take risks. Gardiner Furniture store of Baltimore made waves when they promised customers free furniture if the Baltimore Ravens returned a kick for a touchdown during Super Bowl XLV11. Well, it happened. And people went nuts. As promised, the furniture store gave away nearly $600,000 in products and took out a $12,000 insurance policy, but the social buzz and publicity they received since then has been phenomenal. #winning


Party host. Watching the Super Bowl at home with your cat is pretty meh. But you know what’s not meh? Watching it at a brand-sponsored party with all your rowdy friends while chowing down on Buffalo wings, nachos, pizza, and beer. Bud Lite rented an entire cruise ship for their Super Bowl bash, which, for brands trying to spend less, might be a little extreme… but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Super Bowl commercials will always have a soft spot in America’s heart. But consumers aren’t just interested in watching what a brand has to offer on TV anymore – they’re interested in engaging with brands on a more personal, authentic level. They’re interested in being part of the conversation, the experience, and the brand itself.

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