How To Win The Real-Time Super Bowl

If recent history is any indication, brands will not merely buy $4.5 million ad spots at the Super Bowl. Many will also staff a war room, watch the game, and tweet and vine on whatever they see. 

This kind of activity can gain a lot of attention. Recently Charmin responded to Deflategate by tweeting a picture of a football, with the caption “You know you don't have to deflate us to be more squeezable.” And Krispy Kreme reminded everyone that “Ours are fully filled.” Both got a big response. 

But did these tweets actually work? Did they deliver real value for the brands? Skeptics will say no. And in fairness, it is hard to tie social media activity to revenue. To combat this, advertisers often point to a metric called Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). It looks at the number of impressions your content creates in social and other media—and asks how much it would have cost you to buy the same amount of advertising. For example, let’s say you have a tweet that is seen by 1,000 people on Twitter. If Twitter charges $3 to reach 1,000 people with an ad, your tweet has $3 in AVE. 



Unfortunately, this metric doesn’t work. Cost is not value. A good ad delivers more value than a bad ad, even though they cost the same. An ad that reaches your target audience is better than one that doesn’t.  The quality of the conversation matters too. You can reach a lot of eyeballs for all the wrong reasons. 

So how can we understand the value of real-time? The key is to look at what matters to your brand—and work back from there. 

Set goals for real-time. Don’t simply do real-time to do real-time. As with anything, you have to know what your business is trying to accomplish first. Then define what kinds of outcomes from real time would contribute to those goals. For every brand this will be different. For example, Microsoft recently created a viral sensation with its HoloLens videos. But the company has a narrower audience that’s critical to that technology’s success: developers. If the videos didn’t spark heavy chat volume on developer forums, they probably didn’t reach their goal. 

Include social sentiment. Impressions are great, but you also want to know if their impact was positive or negative.  Social sentiment analysis gives you insight into what people are saying, good or bad, about your brand. That helps round out the picture created by mere volume. 

Balance big swings with less competitive ones. The Super Bowl is almost as competitive for brands as it is for the teams involved. As a result, you may want to try real-time at less competitive events too. Brands that live-tweeted the National College Football Championship a few weeks ago had a lot of success in a less competitive field. 

Authenticity matters. This is a simple one, but often missed in the heat of the moment. You may have the funniest idea ever, but if it’s not true to your brand messaging, leave it on the shelf. A discordant message will not contribute value, no matter how many people see it.

Be strategic. Many brands do real-time occasionally. Instead, you should bring it into the context of your overall social and content strategy—and make it a year-round practice. You can even create campaign messaging that anticipates the kinds of events you plan to cover. 

We’re all looking forward to the Super Bowl and the 30-second ads that come with it. But keep an eye out for the new competition raging in real time. Some brands will make it work, others will make a mess, but with so many out there trying to make us happy, it should make for great spectator sport. 

Final thought: as a lifelong Seattle fan, I can’t sign off without saying something: Go Hawks! 

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