Thinking About Experiential Marketing At Super Bowl LI

We’re now two days removed from the Super Bowl. The confetti has been swept away, the recaps have been capped and re-capped and capped again. With Tom Brady’s legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time more or less sealed (depending on who you ask), much of the conversation has inevitably turned to the other grand and spectacular tradition of the game — the marketing.

An underrated aspect of the pomp and circumstance around the Super Bowl is the agreement that consumers have somewhat unintentionally entered into with advertisers over the years. Thanks to a track record of wonderfully creative, innovative, emotive or zany ads, we’ve turned an aspect of broadcast many consumers intentionally skip out on to one that’s looked forward to, debated over and turned into a weeks-long content cycle.

But, are Super Bowl marketers still proving themselves worthy of the stage they’ve been given? Are these commercials living up to the consumer expectation to be entertained in exchange for their time, attention or even money? It’s a debate that really only happens in the week after the Super Bowl, but as experiential marketers, it’s the question we ask ourselves on every single project.

Because, as a sponsor when you’re on-site at live events — whether sports or lifestyle — the contract entered into with consumers is exactly the same as the one Super Bowl advertisers enter into with the viewers at home. You’re asking fans on-site to take time away from an event to engage with your brand, and you’d better back it up with an engaging reason as to why.

Experiential is one of the best and most tactile forms of brand-to-fan engagement available to us as marketers, but it — like Super Bowl ads — comes with a heightened level of consumer expectation and that means “eye rolls” if you stumble in the execution. To avoid the stumbles, consider these three simple pillars when devising a successful campaign or activation: creation, execution and amplification.

Too often in experiential marketing, an activation can feel like it was hatched by a few people sitting around in a room and thinking to themselves, “How can we make this truck look cool?” They then seemingly just trot it out to the stadium on game day. An experiential program is a miss if it doesn’t capture brand values and convey messaging the same way that a truly great Super Bowl ad does. To accomplish this, it must be executed with an integrated approach including creative assets and encompassing traditional media, be it print, broadcast, or digital.

On-site at the Super Bowl in Houston, I was particularly impressed with the Nick Sports activation — which did an excellent job of capturing the importance of creation and execution. While bigger or more “adult” brands might have drawn the attention of the industry, the Nick Sports activation filled an important need in the Fan Zone that often goes overlooked — providing good, clean fun for the young fans in the crowd. 

Whether it was the river of slime that encircled the footprint, the decision to revive elements of their cult program Double Dare for live game-show elements on-site or the string of NFL personalities who appeared at the footprint and left covered in that trademark-Nickelodeon-green goop, the footprint was never short on engaging spectacle. The Nickelodeon activation did something activations should always aim for —giving consumers on-site a story they couldn’t have experienced anywhere else. The integrated approach put into play creative assets — characters, themes, ideas — with which fans actually wanted to interact. Needless to say, it was a hit among excitable children and their weary parents alike.

A perfect example of the amplification element of modern-day experiential took place thousands of miles away from Houston but succeeded by bridging that gap beautifully. Using 360-degree immersive projection “pods” placed at a military base in Poland, Hyundai was able to bring to our troops (via satellite) a Super Bowl experience like little else that came before it. 

The heart-tugging reveal, of course, was that the soldiers’ families were on-site to surprise them. The activation was amplified by the unique decision to document it live during the game, and an ad was cut on-site and broadcast to Super Bowl viewers around the country as the game’s final moments waned. It was an innovative concept deserving of its laudatory praise on Monday morning, but its execution, perhaps, even more so. 

In creating an unforgettable experience for a small number of deserving consumers and amplifying that experience to a truly massive audience, Hyundai was able to make a small brand-to-fan engagement a viral hit. They made good on their agreement to entertain viewers and to engage meaningfully with fans on-site. 

The Super Bowl is an annual opportunity for brands to shine. Like all campaigns and activations, though, brands must effectively create, execute and amplify in order to be part of the conversation after all the confetti has been swept away and around the water cooler on Monday morning.

Next story loading loading..