5 Marketing Lessons from the Super Bowl

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American Football

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in America’s sporting calendar – appealing to both casual fans and diehards alike. For marketing officials, it’s a chance to launch ads that are seen by millions of spectators, setting them back a whopping $5 million for a 30-second slot.

With a budget like that, it’s unsurprising that Super Bowl ads pull out all the stops, even recruiting big name celebrities to help their campaigns. This creates some interesting results.

2016 saw brands like Coca Cola, Wix.com and Doritos creating memorable adverts. The clear winner in terms of social shares seems to be Doritos with their ‘ultrasound’ advert.

Most brands don’t have that kind of budget – but there are still marketing lessons to be learned forsmaller brands learn from the Super Bowl?

Understand what it takes to go viral

Understanding what it is that makes these adverts shareable is key. Research from Buzzsumo suggests that content which invokes amusement, awe, joy or laughter was most shareable. Super Bowl ads are no different, with funny adverts excelling and seeing high social shares.

Lesson: Make any content or advertising campaigns you create emotive. Give people a reason to share.

Social Media

Tied into virality is the use of social media. Brands that engaged online throughout the Super Bowl achieved plenty of attention. Despite a recent #RIPTwitter trend that had some users thinking Twitter would die out, the Super Bowl proved how effective it is for live events.

Esurance excelled thanks to a campaign that was strongly tied to social media. They gave away around $1million to 17 people through the hashtag #esurancesweepstakes and received around 2 million Twitter mentions. Other branded hashtags like #puppymonkeybaby from Mountain Dew attracted lots of attention.

Lesson: Any ad spend or campaign should be supported with social media. Using a branded hashtag that can attract mentions and be tied to your brand, as well as encouraging retweets with giveaways and prizes, can earn you some impressive engagement figures.

Pre-Event Advertising

Before the Super Bowl had even begun, most brands had uploaded their ads on YouTube and had already started to attract millions of views. In the always-connected world, you don’t have to stick to the actual event. Hyundai’s ad, The Chase, was uploaded ahead of the Super Bowl and is one of the most viewed, with 22 million views.

Brands took to Facebook, YouTube and even Snapchat to promote themselves. Some, like Gatorade, even bought branded Snapchat filters — on a regular day, these cost $400,000.

Lesson: Upload your marketing efforts ahead of events and start generating engagement early by promoting on social media.

Make sure you’re aware of ROI

Up to 80% of super bowl commercials don’t boost sales or increase purchase intent. Most of the slots are used by brands with an ad spend so great that they get involved simply so they don’t miss out.

An actual demonstrable ROI is hard to predict, but research suggests just 6% watch the adverts to discover brands, products or services and less than 1% watch to influence a purchase. An advert at the Super Bowl is more to boost brand awareness.

Lesson: A business needs to know how much it can afford to spend and what it expects in return. If you have a strict budget, throwing money into video advertisements and features in editorial magazines might not provide much in the way of actual sales when compared to spending the money on PPC advertising or a more direct marketing service.

Tap in to popular culture

Finally, the most successful Super Bowl adverts include celebrities and pop culture icons to help them go viral. T-Mobile, for example, spoofed Drake’s popular Hotline Bling song to create an instantly recognisable but humorous ad.

Avocados from Mexico’s AVOS in Space ad dropped lots of pop culture references into their ad, from Emoji’s to ‘The Dress’ to Scott Baio.

Lesson: Even the most serious brands shouldn’t be afraid to discuss pop culture and push the boundaries. People engage with things they recognise, so make your campaigns familiar and funny.


Small companies can always benefit from watching larger brand’s marketing efforts. Despite the fact most of us will never see a $5 million ad budget, there are some clear lessons we can learn from studying bigger businesses’ campaigns. If you’d like help with your own marketing campaigns, get in touch today. 



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