Lessons in Audience Engagement from the Super Bowl

Three things I did differently during the Super Bowl this year:

  1. watched the game on TV
  2. did not watch the ads or read about them beyond a superficial sweep to write this post
  3. second-screneed the game and ad commentary with my iPad on Twitter. According to Twitter, we generated 28.4 million tweets.

The first half was more engaging on Twitter

During this phase, more attention was on the brands and their ads. You can see how the conversation about the game picked up in the second half from this data via Twitter.

The game started a bit slow — Tom Brady's Patriots scored fairly quickly, the Seahawks get better over time, hence the slower pace. You can see why I brought up the New England team's quarterback. As Google pointed out, he was clearly someone on mainstream fan's mind:

A surprising number of non marketers were getting into the fun — and bringing up interesting points both about the ads and the game. The top tweet about the game in my stream was via @MelidaGates.

Marketers had done their homework and were ready to offer links, stats, background information, and to get into the action by following where emails, hashtags, and phone numbers led. For example, @Jkrohrs pointed out the lack of calls to action and — incredibly, it's 2015, look at the Mary Meeker Internet stats — no mobile calls to action (CTAs.)

Many marketers have been early adopters of social media, and it is not surprising that brands would want to interact with them more on the off chance they would receive retweets. That is how I learned that McDonald's, Discover, and Sprint were active throughout the game. I received @ replies from Coca-Cola and Monster when I tweeted about them — their teams were also active.


Loctite was a surprise brand, obscure to many before the game, it generated 5,986 tweets, a respectable number with good sentiment at 80 (via Topsy) and participated on brand in real time.

Some brands did their homework, too. For example, @Audi (not a sponsor) fact-checked the BMW ads to expose actual brand preferences — a transaction is the highest form of preference in my book.

Brands warmed up in the second half

Probably in great part because of the tweets about the ads in the first half of the game — Facebook was kind of dead, by the way — brands joined the fray with more regularity (at least my stream.)

Analyze the tweets and you soon discover (no pun intended) that @McDonalds tweets were confusing, referencing the ads run by other brands, the company's campaign, and touting promotions on top of them. Lots going on in a tight space.

We were in for a surprise toward the end when @Monster (not a sponsor) congratulated the losing team, tongue firmly planted in cheek as we soon realized by reading the small print.

As for Nationwide — what a shame. Thousands and thousands of mentions, most negative with undertones of concern. The Super Bowl is a game — one people watch to derive entertainment, be with family and friends and have fun. There is a time and place for every purpose. The company's Twitter stream did not improve the conversation (via @LouisGray.)

We saw some good Doritos ads with a game winners' bag give away incentive. Also on brand was @Snickers in the fun ad (one of the few) and on Twitter. @BMWiUSA used their media dollars smartly with a message that establishes the fuel-efficient category while having some fun with it. I for one am intrigued and have checked the car out.

Budweiser pulled at the heartstrings with the #BestBuds ad — who can resist a puppy? Does it sell beer better than the more on brand #ThisBudsforYou? Many in my stream loved the first, said the second was trying too hard. I agree on both counts for likeability and positioning — an attempt to appeal to a less price-sensitive audience segment.

In conclusion, it's open-ended

The opportunity for brands is to treat mainstream media as a focal point, not a dead end. Yes, the campaigns were alive in paid search by and large as well. What about organic search? What about audience segmentation in a jobs-to-be-done kind of way to help people self select? How about mobile? Forget second screens, so many in my stream were tweeting from smartphones.

As Marketing Land reported this morning, only 50 percent of the ads included hashtags — Facebook was the most mentioned social network with four; Snapchat made its debut. Granted, marketers and early adopters are the ones keeping score, but there were opportunities missed by integrating search, owned properties like brands blogs, and social presences to offer additional entertainment, deals, and tell a more complete story of which the expensive media buy would have been the spear.

If I were pressed to declare an ad winner, I would have no hesitation to say P&G's  #likeagirl that got 278,207 Tweets with a sentiment ranging from 69-85 according to Topsy. Now this a good way to get involved in the conversation when you are a brand — make it real, see @JetBlue.

The most appropriate and fun tweet came via @hanelly at 7:24 pm EST of the game. A good example of real time relevance for the medium by capturing the undertone of many of the comments with a dash of deadpanned humor.

Dads were very popular in a non-sexist, warm, relationship-based storyline kind of way — a new market opportunity, finally.

@SpongeBobMovie wins the fun moment in my stream with a 50 shades of grey-targeted tweet. How about that?

 How about not waiting until next year to get integration right?