The “Super Bowl” of Personalized Marketing



Super Bowl LII was host to a number of innovative advertising campaigns. From Tide “taking over” other ads with the help of Stranger Things actor David Harbour, to the Duracell tweet about Philly fans throwing batteries … the big game this past Sunday wasn’t only where the country’s top two football teams came to play. With the sheer number of eyeballs glued to the set for those three hours of gameplay – 111.9 million people watched the 2017 game – it’s little wonder that advertisers willingly pay $5 million or more for a 30-second TV spot.

Spending has shifted in the past few years though, especially as brands have started noticing that mobile devices are an important “second screen” to many Super Bowl viewers. The 2017 game generated 190.8 million social media interactions from people watching the game, so crafting a multipronged strategy is key for brands looking to put a stake in the ground. This push to include mobile devices has also corresponded with a rise in personalized interactions with consumers. Almost like it’s the “Super Bowl” of personalized marketing too.

The Brands Taking the Super Bowl by Storm

Tide practically won the night with its push to integrated, mashup ads; David Harbour popped up within commercials for other P&G sister brands to drive the point home. Tide even brought Old Spice spokesman Isaiah Mustafa into the mix for his iconic “I’m on a horse” spot. This mashup among P&G brands wasn’t the only blend between major brands and sub-brands. The crossover between Doritos and Mountain Dew, with Peter Dinklage rapping to a Busta Rhymes song for Doritos and Morgan Freeman responding with a Missy Elliot song for Mountain Dew Ice is another example.

Riding the Personalized Marketing Wave

Because the Super Bowl is one of the few major media events that still draws a large crowd to a single night, broad-based advertising that has more generally lost a step tends to succeed there. That said, brands who advertise during the big game don’t only focus on the broadcast channel anymore. Now they have contextualized interactions throughout the game and even after it – see the Duracell tweet after Philly won the game.

Other brands go deeper. Tostitos offered a platform to customize invitations for Super Bowl parties leading up to the game alongside Alfonso Ribeiro (who played Carlton on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”). Kraft leveraged submitted family photos for its first Super Bowl ad, pulling in user-generated content to showcase its brand identity. Beyond user-generated content, many brands also integrate mobile and other digital channels into their ad strategy as a way to reach consumers on their “second screen.”

Consumers that have “cut the cord” have a key role to play here. As more consumers (more than 60 million in 2018, according to eMarketer) move away from watching the Super Bowl on traditional TV, brands have the chance to tailor their ads to specific geographies and demographics with much greater precision. This ability empowers marketers to develop more tightly personalized messaging, tailoring their interactions to what consumers are talking about in the moment the game is being played. Whether that is game news via social or talking about specific ad campaigns, the result is that brands who pay attention stand to benefit.

Whether this takes the shape of providing offers directly to mobile devices during the game, or interacting with consumers across social at the right time, the point is that brands have greater opportunities for engagement. This switchover in Super Bowl marketing heralds a new era where ad content is targeted not only based on demographics and historical interactions, but also on what the consumer is watching at that very moment.

How Can Small(er) Brands Compete?

Not every brand has the budget to advertise during the Super Bowl. But that’s not a problem, because even smaller brands can personalize interactions and benefit from the community aspect surrounding major events. The Super Bowl is only at its most powerful because it’s a live event, which makes contextualizing customer interactions even higher stakes than it normally is. Brands that lack budget to buy an ad should do a few things:

  • Pay attention to the conversations going on. Leveraging social media to “listen” to conversations happening about the game, whether that’s a play or an ad, is a powerful method of adding context to a campaign. Smaller brands that can be attentive to what consumers are saying can better target their message to the conversation.
  • Understand customer behaviors and preferences. Brands of any size need to understand their customers before they can target them. If a brand’s target customers aren’t participating in conversations around the Super Bowl, or any event, then tailoring a message to that event doesn’t make sense. This component of personalization involves having the right data in place, which often means deploying a customer data platform to unify disparate components into a centralized point of control. Once this information is at a marketer’s fingertips, it becomes easier to tailor messaging.
  • Tailor messaging based on customer data and insights. A customer data platform has a huge role to play when it comes to tailoring offers and communications. The accessibility of customer data, and resulting insights, is of critical importance in personalizing communications. Brands that take the unified information of a customer data platform and leverage it in tailoring their communications stand to reap substantial benefits.

The Super Bowl offers a prime opportunity for brands that can understand their customers and leverage those insights effectively. Although a company might not have the budget to advertise during the game, that doesn’t mean that the opportunity is lost. Smaller brands can still win if they focus on understanding customers and delivering the right message at the right time.

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