Super Bowl Marketing Playbooks -- Which Will Deliver the Win?

02/04/2012 10:02 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2012
  • Shiv Singh Global Head of Digital, PepsiCo Beverages

With the Super Bowl this weekend, marketers across the country are putting the finishing touches on their Super Bowl advertising plans. Arguably, this is one day in the year that can not only make or break an NFL player's career but also that of a major marketer. As a result, it is fascinating to watch the different marketer playbooks unfold and by the end of next week we will know who the winners are.

With 52% of all viewers engaging in some kind of communication during the game, here are the major Super Bowl playbooks being deployed by marketers. Which do you think are the strongest? And which really matter?

1. A straightforward TV commercial only: A few advertisers treat the Super Bowl as just a TV commercial opportunity and don't do much around it. Their focus is typically on winning the USA Today ad meter, getting the reach that the Super Bowl provides and calling it a day. With new product launches or new businesses, this is a more common approach. Think of what GroupOn did last year as an example. There's no question, these advertisers could extract more value from their involvement with the big game.

2. A TV commercial seeded early on with digital media: Some advertisers spend a lot of money seeding and launching their commercials in the days and weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. This is done with the hypothesis that momentum builds into the Super Bowl and beyond by launching them online first. And it makes sense as 57% of Americans pay attention to the Super Bowl ads before the game. In some instances, the seeding takes the form of display media or teaser videos. Volkswagen did this successfully last year. That ad now has 50 million views on YouTube. This year at least 20 advertisers have already seeded their ads online.

3. A promotional centric narrative beginning with a sweepstakes: In this playbook, the advertiser typically announces and launches promotional activities a month or two ahead of the Super Bowl providing tickets, event activities and other incentives to build momentum around their brands. Visa kicked off its Super Bowl sweepstakes, as did Best Buy back in November. This works best if it is part of a broader, brand equity driving Super Bowl narrative.

4. A deeper narrative driven by a culturally significant message: In this playbook, the advertiser attaches itself to a broader, culturally significant message and attempts to breakthrough by raising the stakes beyond the typical Super Bowl ad formula. Chrysler did this last year with the Detroit themed spot - making critical points about the reinvention of Detroit and Chrysler's role in it as well. Brisk went down this path, too, with its own Eminem spot and his take on advertising.

5. A commercial with a strong call to action that pushes further engagement: A lot of advertisers include Twitter and Facebook calls to action pushing consumers online to view extended narratives, participate in some form with each other or go do something. This is commonplace now. HULU for example is promoting the #mushymush hashtag tying in with language in the commercial that they aired last year. Others, such as Audi, drive to Facebook.

6. Online Engagement dynamics separate from the ad but tied to the Super Bowl: Some look at the Super Bowl as a broader moment in culture and work to enhance that experience, beyond airing a new commercial. This playbook takes into consideration the game, the half time show and the broader narrative around the Super Bowl. There are few strong examples of this today and as I note below this is the way Pepsi is running the play 2012.

7. Fighting for the Online Ad Meters aggressively: And finally, some squarely focus on winning the ad meters and devote digital media dollars to doing so only (basically trying to garner more votes and views). With the USA Today/Facebook partnership, 2012 will be most fascinating in how the USA Today ad meter is seen as a credible barometer. YouTube has a similar NBC partnership. And there are several other online ad meters too. Because these are public and visible rankings, some advertisers put a lot of effort into winning them.

In the case of Pepsi, we believe that the Super Bowl isn't just about the game or even the game and the TV advertising. In our minds, it is a broader entertainment experience and we believe that we will succeed if we engage our consumers the most deeply and powerfully by participating at the game level, the advertising level and the broader Super Bowl entertainment experiential level too - all at once and in a synchronized fashion.

As a result, we are advertising in the Super Bowl with a TV spot that uses Melanie Armano the X-Factor winner and Elton John. It has her singing a remix of Respect. The full version of this song can be accessed via Shazaam. But that's not all, we are also driving consumers to the first ever brand-led Social TV platform, Pepsi Sound Off ( where they can participate in a virtual viewing party with celebrity hosts such as Mark Sanchez (note Pepsi Sound Off integrates seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter too). We are also partnering with Pandora to provide special Super Bowl themed custom radio stations for people running Super Bowl parties further contributing to the entertainment experience.

There's no question that the Super Bowl is no longer a one-day event. It is a multi-dimensional, multi-platform month-long engagement opportunity for fans on a scale and with a complexity that is truly unmatched. Just like on the gridiron, advertisers will have different playbooks and time will tell which ones will bring home the victory.