02/03/2014 05:59 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2014

The Super Bowl Creates Super Inspiration for Business Marketers


Rather than simply spending $4 million for 30 seconds of in-the-moment hype, brands like M&M, Axe, Jaguar and Sodastream are using their Super Bowl advertisements -- and the corresponding hype -- to launch year-long integrated marketing campaigns.

Even though most of us will never spend $4 million on one ad, we can learn important lessons that are highly applicable to our organizations -- from startups to established brands. For example:

  • Reinvent yourself. A major media moment can present the perfect opportunity to reintroduce a brand to its audience. Axe is best known for creating lust-centric ads that, at best, focus on helping the guy get the girl. At worst, the ads are downright sexist. But, that all changes on Sunday. The 30-second "Make Love. Not War." Super Bowl spot opens with a voiceover saying, "In a world filled with war, sometimes the most powerful weapon is love." This is part of a rollout plan for the new Axe Peace. In a statement, Axe noted that "Young people care deeply about the future. This generation is socially conscious and more digitally connected than ever. And as the film dramatizes, for one sublime moment a kiss has the power to make the world a more united and peaceful place."
  • Leverage short-term buzz for long-term gain. By itself, it's hard to justify $4 million for a 30-second ad; however, some brands have been very successful capitalizing on the short-term buzz to generate long-term gains. An investment deal, product launch, major partnership or high-profile new hire can create a burst of buzz and interest; however, a cross-channel campaign can keep the momentum going to maximize the opportunity. We're seeing more of a campaign approach from a number of this year's Super Bowl advertisers. For example, Nestle -- a first-time Super Bowl advertiser -- is using their ad to amplify a new product, the Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Forgetting the steep ad buy costs, the creative and production costs are also significant for something as high profile as a Super Bowl ad. If you're going to spend the cash to create high-quality content, make sure it's content that can serve multiple purposes. For example, CarMax took their original ad and remade it, replacing people with dogs. (And, we all know the Internet loves cute dogs, making this a smart strategy to increase online interest in the ad.) Or, if you're a bit more conventional, follow the lead of Dannon and Anheuser-Busch, among others, who are hoping to pique interest by releasing a short preview of their ads ahead of the big game.
  • Think like a DJ. Super Bowl ads are hands-down some of the best creativity to come out of the ad industry all year. Get inspired by the innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. Then, channel your inner DJ to "sample and remix" your favorite ideas into campaigns that will work for your brand. Crowdsourcing is one example. Doritos created a "Crash the Super Bowl" contest that allows amateur filmmakers to try their hand at a Super Bowl ad. The top two winners will air during the game. Your brand, also, can tap the wisdom of the crowd to boost marketing efforts, generate new product ideas or provide feedback.

What lessons do you think communicators can learn from how brands approach the Super Bowl?


Heather Whaling (@prTini) is founder/CEO of Geben Communication, a PR firm that helps emerging brands and forward-thinking, established companies excel in a social world. Named one of the top entrepreneurs in Columbus, OH, Heather also serves on the Board of Directors for The Women's Fund of Central Ohio. Connect with Heather through her PR blog, communication trends e-newsletter or Instagram.