Touchdown triumphs: The 5 Super Bowl 2024 activations that scored big

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The biggest stars aligned for the ultimate sporting festival. But the biggest winners weren’t the multi-million-dollar TV ads or flashy stage performances – these super-smart activations stole the spotlight on Super Bowl Sunday.

Look, we get the brand attraction: the legendary halftime show is a bonanza of music and entertainment, and big marketing budgets can buy prime airtime that reaches a record 123.7 million viewers. This year, Taylor Swift added her signature Swiftie power to the annual sport & celebrity mashup with her relationship with Travis Kelce, one of the leading players in the Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the first-ever Super Bowl in Las Vegas, the original Sin City and entertainment capital. 
 
Admittedly, we enjoyed a few primetime ads during the Bowl. Most relied on the typical celeb-cameo tactics, like DunKings for Dunkin’ Donuts, Talkin’ Like Walken for BMW, and the star-studded T-Mobile auditions. However, the real winners for us: Google and its smart feature promotion with a human touch and Volkswagen’s nostalgia-heavy American Love Story

Don’t get us wrong: these ads can be effective; we mentioned this last year in our previous Super Bowl LVI round-up. But are these ads really pushing the needle? We’d argue not. And here’s the thing: we love creativity and technology (seriously, AI is our bestie), but probs our favourite thing is getting the biggest bang for our marketing buck. We don’t think these ads are worth their eye-watering budgets – roughly $7 million for 30 seconds – and that’s just the airtime. In a time where activation technology is advancing at a blistering rate, everything from LED and NFC RFID wristbands and AR fan experiences to massive exospheres for OOH and second-screen social media strategies (TikTok Tailgate for Super Bowl), there’s just so much potential – you just need the right idea. 

That’s precisely why we love the ingenious and sometimes unorthodox activations that bring something new to the sporting and marketing arenas. A brilliant idea, slick technology, or an epic customer experience – the best ones wrap all three up in a potent activation powerplay.  

Here are the five marketing MVPs for us: 

1. Going old school but with a modern twist (or tortilla): Frito-Lay’s Luxor Wrap. 

Wrapping buildings is a tried-and-trusted tactic of the past, but it’s seldom seen these days. However, this huge wrap (30 stories high) was a perfect mix of form and function. Frito Lay’s triangular corn chip is the perfect shape for the Luxor building’s pyramid structure. The size, colour and shape created an instant head-turner on the famous South Strip, as turning the building into one huge tortilla chip was the best kind of traditional Out-Of-Home advertising. Not only did it earn plenty of visual traffic from pedestrians, but it also got plenty of free airtime during the aerial TV shots of the city on all the different channels in the broadcast build-up. Even better: on the day before the big game, people on the South Strip could scan the Luxor using Frito-Lay’s Triangle Tracker AR lens (on Snapchat) for a chance to win tickets – a smart modern twist.  
 
That wasn’t the only smart OOH – the massive Sphere was doing plenty of high-tech ad duty as the coolest billboard in the world with brands like Bud Light and Pepsi. We especially loved the smart (and viral) Wild Cherry promo and ‘magic trick’ collab on TikTok with magician Zach King.  

2. Building a whole mini-city experience: Pepsico’s Chip Strip. 

The Luxor wrap was only part of the activation greatness from the company that owns Frito-Lay. They took over a part of the strip to create the Chip Strip, a mini-city of clever activations, like the Cheetos Chapel with a digitised version of mascot Chester (and employees actually got married and renewed vows with the CEO as a witness), an inflatable jousting ring to promote a new chip brand called Dinamita (which tied into a big-budget TV ad), a Snackpot game with a massive slot machine where customers had the chance of winning a Toyota Tacoma (the new hybrid model). There were also smart restaurant takeovers and restaurant pop-ups that turned snacks into four-dish culinary adventures. Granted, this must have cost incredible amounts of money, but in our opinion, they got plenty of engagement love in person and across social for their immersive mini-city efforts. 

3. Winning the personalisation and loyalty game: Gatorade’s iD Membership   

What’s the best way to launch your sports drinks membership and loyalty program? Start with the right launch date (the world’s biggest sporting event), define your key target market (invite the NFL talent roster and young visiting athletes), and then craft a once-off, exclusive Gatorade Zone experience and turn those guests into influencers and advocates. Once the invitees signed up, they got a custom access card for all the bespoke experiences and personalisation stations inside, like designing their own water bottles or buying exclusive customised merch in limited-edition drops like Gx jugs and Super Bowl gear. There was also a booth where a robotic camera provided a high-tech photo shoot (the same tech Beyonce used for her Renaissance tour). What was the tie-in with the membership launch, you ask? All these features (bar the photo shoot) were benefits that any subscriber could unlock with the new membership program: personalisation, product drops, discounts, competitions and free shipping – with reward points to come in 2024. Gatorade gets direct access to all its customers (no longer relying on supermarkets), the chance to build better relationships and a treasure trove of data. 

4. Dominating coverage with a glossy 360-campaign: Cardi B and NYX Duck Plump. 

NFL and cosmetics? Probably not the first brand marriage that comes to mind, but this company’s campaign was a true MVP. It’s a small challenger brand owned by L’Oréal in the bigger beauty brand world, but it earned a huge return by investing wisely in a campaign that nailed every touch point during the Super Bowl. They had a brilliant celeb choice (Cardi B), clever product name and theme (#DuckPlump & #ForLipsOnly), their first TV ad (with a slightly naughtier-but-memorable extended version), a potent content roll-out across strategic channels (especially TikTok and Cardi B’s signature phrase), exclusive product drops, and key to it all, a calendar filled with experiential events and a partnership with Ulta Beauty. Our pick of the experiences? The Tailgate games and the signature rubber ducks. The real brand win? It all tied together beautifully.  

5. Earning customer love with a pop-up and takeover couch combo: Ashley House.  

Couches (or sofas) and sports go together like ice cream and sprinkles, and for the Super Bowl, furniture maker Ashley took over and rebranded the Dawg House Saloon & Sports Book inside one of the bigger casinos in Las Vegas. The company rebranded the space in its signature orange colour scheme and filled the sports betting and watching section with couches and chairs. QR codes on coffee tables allowed the guests to see all the products, tailor them, and then order for delivery. They also offered merch giveaways, staffed the activation with brand ambassadors, and provided free live music performances by three of country music’s rising stars. Bottom line: Ashley’s customers could try out the products while watching sports with friends without visiting a store. The activation was boosted with OOH LED displays on the casino’s exterior, and even better, Ashley outfitted Barstool Sports’ podcast headquarters with its products – one of the most popular sports feeds in Super Bowl week.      

WRAPPING UP  

The good news? You don’t need million-dollar budgets or celeb cameos to craft marketing mastery.  

We’ve got the power plays you need to drive engagement and craft game-changing live experiences. If you need some help building a MVP performance at your next event or in your next campaign, give us shout here


Author bio

BRAND DIRECTOR

#momofboys, aspiring entrepreneur, lover of change, disliker of wastefulness. My dad once described me as “having the ability to find beauty in the strangest places”, which is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me.