BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: The 5 best activations at Super Bowl LVI


The world’s biggest sporting event has plenty to offer both sports fans and marketers. Here are five MVP marketing lessons from the 2022 edition.

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Even if you aren’t an NFL fan or a sporting fan in general, you’ve still got to give props to the Super Bowl. It’s one of the greatest single-day sporting spectacles in the world. It’s an over-the-top fan extravaganza that’s full of fireworks, high-tech light shows, an epic 1,000-ton oval video board with over 70 000 square feet of ultra-high-definition screen, and of course, the world-renowned half-time show. It’s also the testing ground for the biggest marketing budgets. The TV airtime is the most expensive per second throughout the year, and the global audience was over 112 million. But here’s the thing: the smartest activations didn’t rely solely on TV spots: the live brand experiences were the real winners. Here are our five favourites.

1.  THE HIP-HOP SHOWSTOPPER: PEPSI LVI HALF-TIME SHOW

Lesson: Live entertainment with the right artists is unbeatable

The half-time music concert is always a Super Bowl drawcard, but this version seriously dialled up the volume. It featured only hip hop for the first time, which earned it plenty of positive praise, and it centered on the legacy of Dr. Dre. It was an unforgettable mini-concert led by six legendary superstars with 43 Grammys between them: Dr Dre (of course), Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent. This extravaganza was performed on an incredible ‘neighbourhood’ stage that was set up in minutes. Granted, it must have cost Pepsi an eye-watering amount, and it’s not strictly an activation – but it was the standout brand experience winner, and it trumped all the TV ads.

2. THE HOTEL HIT: ULTIMATE SUPERBOWL SLEEPOVER BY MARRIOT

Lesson: Collaborating to provide a shared brand experience is a win for both sides

It’s a super-simple but oh-so-effective idea. This hotel chain transformed one of the stadium’s hospitality box suites into a swish hotel room. Fans entered by sharing their most cherished NFL experiences involving travel, and one winner was selected to spend the night before the game at the stadium. It’s a novel idea that earned plenty of engagement for little cost.

Marriot SuperBowl Sleepover

3. THE VIP EXPERIENCE: THE GROUPON PARTY LIKE A PLAYER CAMPAIGN

Lesson: Turning customers into VIPs can earn huge social media engagement

Groupon sells experiences, and this one was a hot take on elite 'baller’ celebrations. They collaborated with Rob "Gronk” Gronkowski, a famous NFL player, and offered his massive mansion for a once-in-a-lifetime party and sleepover for a winner and 15 of their friends. This included flights to Boston and two nights of hotel accommodation. On game day, they were taken to Gronk’s house for an experience that had beer and wine tastings, an indoor bounce house, mini-golf, axe-throwing and a hot stone massage station. Groupon also offered other prizes, like a trip to Las Vegas, a Harlem Globetrotters experience and a pair of custom-designed sneakers.

4. THE BRAND COMBO: THE MICHELOB ULTRA SUPERIOR BOWL

Lesson: TV ads work better with smart live activations

Granted, this campaign did include a big-budget TV ad, but the reason it’s on the list was the smart way it was combined with a real-life pre-match event. They created a fictitious bowling alley (Superior Bowl) at the Lucky Strike alley in Hollywood for an Ultrabowl tournament – which tied in perfectly with their TV ads. The teams featured celebs and athletes, and the soundtrack was provided by famous DJs. It also included Anheuser-Busch employees, partners, agents from the NBA, NFL and MLB, and a few lucky fans. The venue also hosted a Superior Bowl merch shop; a press wall; photo ops; beverages and bites; and open bowling for those invited.

5. THE BRAND IGNITER: FORD #ELECTRIFIEDTAILGATE EXPERIENCE

Lesson: Fun fan experiences can turn viewers into future customers

Most of the big car brands relied on big-budget TV ads, and electric car products were a recurring theme. While some of the ads were fun, the real winner was Ford, as they had plenty of low-budget but effective charged-up fan experiences at the LA Convention Centre. The all-electric F-150 Lightning truck model was the focus, and it was used to show how it can answer all fans’ tailgating needs (electric grill, gaming systems, TV setups, and massive sound systems). This was all done to show how the truck can work as a backup generator. But that was just the start: fans could win prizes for their best touchdown celebration dance in the Electrifying End Zone Celebration, earn giveaways in the Rally Tally Vehicle Discovery Hunt, make custom fan cards, and snap photos with NFL player legends.

WRAPPING UP

Just like these Super Bowl winners, you don’t have to spend millions to earn high levels of engagement and marketing ROI – you just need to craft smarter live experiences. If you need some help building a match-winning performance at your next event, give us shout here.
We’ll help you take home the trophy.

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