Why The Super Bowl Is The Ultimate Opportunity for Brand Collaboration

02/03/2017 04:11 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2018

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By Brady Sadler, EVP, Growth & Innovation, GYK Antler

Marquee events like the Super Bowl are rare times when people actively look forward to commercials. But with the cost of a spot reaching $5 million, advertisers have been thinking differently about how they can still participate. In addition to social or experiential campaigns to hack traditional advertising and sponsorships, brands should consider forming collaborations to make their efforts more impactful. Disney and the NFL's “I’m Going to Disney World” is considered by some to be the ultimate Super Bowl ad and was an early example of native advertising. So how can brands team up to create the next iteration?

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Inspirational speaker Jim Rhone once shared some famous advice: “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” And yes, that applies to brands, too. In today’s world, your brand is now the sum of the other brands you spend the most time with.

As a marketer, you can leave this association up to consumers, or you can be more proactive in your efforts to shape perception by aligning with specific brands. This has become even more important as brands take on personalities and engage in actual conversations with consumers and with one another. Super Bowl 48 brought about a watershed moment with Tide’s brand-to-brand conversation on social media. During the game, Tide started interacting with other brands by posting content and comments with the hashtag #GetsItOut. This showed Tide’s personality, sense of humor, relevance, humanity, and many other traits we expect to see from modern brands.

It may be more difficult to break out as just one brand inserting itself into a conversation in response to an ad this year, but you can form an alliance ahead of time with more than one brand. Just like any social movement, it takes several strong voices to rise above the noise.

Unlikely Bedfellows

Most brands are just beginning to get the hang of one-to-one engagement, but with the rise of messaging bots and artificial intelligence that are forcing conversations with machines, a personal touch goes a long way. The Super Bowl is a great time to show off personality and remind audiences that there are real people behind brands. However, joining an online conversation often requires a brand to have a sense of humor and a willingness to be self-deprecating.

This week, when people started commenting that the backdrop of the photo Beyonce posted to announce her pregnancy looked like an old-school JC Penny portrait, the brand fully embraced it and showed cultural relevance by quoting her songs in their responses. If your brand gets roped into a collaboration you didn’t proactively develop, consider how you can use it to show off a little personality or some humanity.

Utility

Brands should think about how they can team up to provide solutions for common game day challenges. This year’s collaboration between Tostitos, Uber and M.A.D.D. is a great example.

While their breathalyzer bag may not be practical or legally viable, it’s an innovative way to bring attention to a real issue: Super Bowl drunk driving.

Under the Influence

Celebrities like Justin Timberlake, John Malkovich and numerous others will show up in Super Bowl spots this year. But there has never been a better time to collaborate with personalities at different levels. While many brands have an influencer strategy, how many have a plan to activate this specifically around Sunday’s game? Ads are now released before the game, so a brand could team with a series of different influencers and give each one the resources to interpret one ad of their choice and then launch these throughout the game. Imagine how impressive a coordinated effort could be and the collective reach that could be achieved if it was all tied together.

Practical Alignment

Food is a category that provides endless opportunity for collaboration, especially when you think about the products that are already being used together or live in close proximity to one another at a party. A simple yet practical example is co-packaging products—something Digiorno Pizza and Toll House cookies have done for years.

Another opportunity is co-branding between CPG brands and appliance makers around specific recipes. With the growth of grocery delivery and prepared meals, how can brands team up and help people become smarter shoppers or better cooks? Everyone wants to be the guest with the most talked about or Instagram’d dish, but potlucks can be a daunting proposition for some.

Cross-demo

This year, Busch beer is playing off nostalgia and reimagining one of their famous ads from the 80’s. How might two brands work together to bridge a gap between two generations like kids and parents or grandparents? If executed right, brands can educate youngsters on a previous campaign that became part of pop culture to create a common language. Remember, what used to be a water cooler moment is now a trending topic. Today, brands could consider experimenting with a Snapchat filter that let’s young people tap into an older meme like the Budweiser frogs. Perhaps a brand could mail traditional newspapers or launch a series of radio ads that promote a modern campaign that typically only lives in digital?

Music

Brands are still only scratching the surface of what’s possible in the realm of collaborations with artists. The Super Bowl is a perfect time for a brand to dive in or double down. This year, Hyundai has hired acclaimed director Peter Berg to film a documentary-style spot during the game that will air immediately after. Brands could take a similar approach with musicians by enlisting a series of artists to release real-time freestyles or a post-game mixtape.

Brands must remember that collaboration is key year round, but tent-pole marketing moments like the Super Bowl present a unique opportunity to maximize those efforts. The only question is – how will your brand take advantage of this?