Re-Envisioning Super Bowl Spots As Content Marketing

There’s nothing quite like being a Super Bowl advertiser. It’s a moment when everyone’s eyes are on your brand, and one of those rare opportunities when consumers treat your ad as free-standing entertainment.  It’s easily the biggest opportunity every year for brands to reach audiences and turn broader awareness into interest for months to come.

The Super Bowl is the world’s greatest storytelling platform. But as many a marketer has found, telling effective brand stories just can’t be done in one sitting. For that reason, not every brand scores as many points as it could with a Super Bowl spot. True success comes for brands who think of the opportunity as the beginning of something, as opposed to the whole enchilada. By introducing new characters, ideas and information along the way, brands are now able to treat Super Bowl ads like a pilot episode for a longer-lived series of content – the beginning of a much longer engagement that has some lifespan.

This is where brands can borrow a page from content marketers: A brand that launches a campaign for Super Bowl season in this way is doing something that looks a lot like a content marketing program. It involves the episodic roll-out of a number of different types of content, on various platforms, to retain consumer engagement along the whole length of their journey. There’s certainly a place for high-profile ads in a content marketing program, but those ads should deliver relevance and utility, not just reach. At the heart of a good content marketing strategy is good storytelling.

Newcastle has done a good job of leveraging the hype around the big day. Aside from its attention-grabbing ambush marketing approach, Newcastle has long invested in episodic content. Their “If We Won” campaign imagines a reality through a series of playful videos in which the UK had beat the USA in the Revolutionary War. Last year’s “If We Made It” campaign around the Super Bowl also left room for numerous riffs on the game-day ad—a series of illustrated storyboards framed up as the budget alternative to a “real” Super Bowl ad.

This year’s ad, sticking to the “we can’t afford to advertise” idea, should also resonate with content marketers. The campaign concept has an established voice that hews closely to the brand identity, it will result in a series of stories and there is an online content hub where interested people can dig into more videos, download offers, and find more ways to engage with the brand. To really score big, Newcastle could treat this additional content as episodes in a series, sequentially delivered to online users long after game day, and personalized based on users’ behaviors and demonstrated preferences.

On the other end of the spectrum are GoDaddy and Budweiser.  Both brands will feature puppies in their ads in this year’s Super Bowl—GoDaddy is introducing its first canine furball while Budweiser is bring its lost puppy back from last year. While this will make for a collective “awww” heard around the world during the game, it’s what happens after game day that will determine success. Both brands now have an opportunity to deliver their entertainment through a regular stream of touch points and conversation starters from brands.

As an advertising platform, the Super Bowl offers each of these brands the opportunity to supercharge their storytelling strategies. Cute puppies do garner a lot of attention and can change a brand’s stature, but the important question to ask is this: how can brands use the event as a driver of longer term engagement? What are the stories that will hold a visitor’s attention longer and drive them to consume more than just the game day ad? As an example, if we think of the puppies as characters in a story it would be interesting to see the continued adventures of these characters in video shorts, blog posts from the field, Instagram posts, and more.

Not only can content hold a visitor’s attention longer, it can also drive measurable results. Indeed, for Newcastle, GoDaddy, Budweiser, and any brand who publishes on a regular basis, how well a content campaign is working can be tracked with emerging content metrics like repeat engagement and the number of pieces of content consumed per person. In short, a content-centered campaign allows brands to measure engagement and impact over time—not just the week of February 1st.

Big brands with big budgets should run Super Bowl ads. It’s certainly an effective way to garner major share of voice and score big points for favorability. However, it’s no longer enough to make a lot of noise in the limited window that an annual event affords. What a Super Bowl advertiser really needs is a content marketing mindset to engage audiences over time, using game day to jumpstart a deepening, year round relationship with consumers.

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