A Super Bowl Game Plan For Content that Scores

An image of an Echidna holding the Lombardi trophy handed out at the NFL's Super Bowl.

As a football fan (both three-down and four-down versions), watching the Super Bowl is something I enjoy doing, with or without a rooting interest. And this year's game allowed the strategist in me to enjoy the defensive machinations and counter-punching.

As a content strategist with a history in marketing and communications, the Super Bowl provides me with that same type of entertainment as it affords you an opportunity to see marketing and communications agencies take their best shots at appealing to a massive audience.

At the end, there are four key themes that come out of Sunday's Super Bowl marketing winners and losers.

Go Where Your Customers Are

There's a reason why so many companies invest so many resources into Super Bowl advertising. Actually, there are around 112 million reasons.

The Super Bowl is more than a football game. It's a cultural event. And it gathers crowds.

There are many people who watch the game not for the action between the lines, but rather for the halftime show and the commercials. It's become a gathering place where fans of the sport can enjoy the on-field action, while those less interested can use it as a good excuse to get together.

This is what people who superciliously mock the Super Bowl miss. It, and sports in general, is partly about competition, but it's also about shared experiences. From "Henderson scores for Canada" to Bautista's bat flip, people across all demographics can rally around a common point. From coast to coast, I can talk sports with people I don't know. When I wear my Montreal Canadiens jersey outside, I average about five interactions with people I don't know -- mostly positive, except for those poor, misguided Maple Leafs fans.

Sports gives us a common element around which we can unify and serves as a foundation for conversation. And the Super Bowl is an annual, one-game-for-all-the-marbles touchpoint. Unlike NHL or NBA playoffs, where a best-of-seven format requires more investment and serves to weed out the non-fans, the Super Bowl is a finite experience -- akin to an Olympic gold-medal game or a World Cup soccer final.

So when you know that nearly three quarters of all TVs that were turned on, were tuned into your event (the Super Bowl commanded a 73 share amongst households), it make sense to direct your efforts -- as expensive as it may be -- to that readily available pool.

The Lesson: Target your content and your marketing efforts to venues where it's naturally going to be seen. There are countless media for you to use, but by understanding where your audience is naturally collecting, you can better direct your messaging to your clientele.

If you're trying to reach out to teens, then Facebook may not be the place to go. Conversely, if you want to appeal to a senior demographic, then traditional media will likely provide more bang for your buck than anything you do on-line.

Know Your Audience

Looking at USA Today's Ad Meter review of the Super Bowl ads, you'll notice a pattern: cars, snack foods, beer and other beverages, cellular providers... easily consumable items and accessible across demographics and needs.

If you're going to spend money, you want to ensure you're going to get a solid return on your investment. While no content strategy or marketing effort is guaranteed to succeed, you can increase your potential for success by not just targetting demographics, but targetting specific needs and offers to your available.

Certain products and services don't do well on-line. Things you need to taste, touch, and smell obviously require a more interactive experience, so focus on the emotional messaging -- and include a clear call to action. And certain audiences betray like-minded interests and behaviours.

Yes, there are the outliers (personally, I enjoy both live sports and live theatre and see the value in both. I have found that's a rare behaviour), but when you're spending your advertising budget or focusing your content strategy, you want to make sure you're going where your customers are and that they audience you're targetting will be receptive to your message.

Stay on Target

If you thought Puppy Monkey Baby was stupid, disturbing, or trying too hard, then the message was not for you. If you are going to use the existence of Puppy Monkey Baby as evidence of the decline of human culture and good taste, please get your nose out of the air and lower that eyebrow.

It's Mountain Dew.

It's not like this was the Royal Shakespeare Company advertising, using this creature and the repetitive, nonsensical phrase. This was Mountain Dew. Advertising a caffeinated version of its product.

Remember, this is the same company that featured dancing deer and sheepdogs, over a house-inspired beat. This isn't high art -- this is targetting to a specific demographic. And it's effective.

At least it's effective in its demographic. USA Today's ad meter looked at the advertisements and it scored highest in the under-21 demographic. It's low overall score is representative of by its polarizing nature. But of the 63 ads ranked, it's one of the few that's still being talked about -- and so viscerally.

A Time and a Place...

I know Peyton owns a few Papa John's franchises in Denver. I know he's got a stake in a couple of breweries that produce Budweiser. And I'm a big Peyton fan and respect how he's approached the game.

But c'mon... that post-game hug-fest and interview came off as rather staged. Remember there's a time and a place for promotion. Speak like a human. Have you ever said, 'Let's go out to the bar and enjoy some [insert specific brand of beer of your choice here]?' No. You'll say, 'let's go out for a couple of beers.'

Wait for the "What kind?" follow up if you want... Or find another time and place, because the line between promotion and schilling is very fine indeed.


Questions Answered

What content lessons can we learn from the Super Bowl?



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