Super Bowl Advertisers Heavy Up on the Social Media

I was at a panel discussion a couple of years ago with David Plouffe, campaign manager for President Obama's 2008 campaign. David said one of the revelations they had during the campaign was that if it wasn't on video, it didn't happen. In a similar vein, social media works best when, well, when there is something to be social about and very few things are as social as sports. In fact, four of the top 10 most tweeted moments have been sports moments and every one of those four beat tweets of Osama Bin Laden's death and all but one beat the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. It should come as no surprise then that the Super Bowl represents for advertisers, not just millions of eyeballs watching the broadcast but also millions of fingers simultaneously sharing their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. As social media matures, advertisers are becoming savvier in their ability to use it as part of the overall media mix. This year, the Super Bowl gives us a good look at current practices using a combination of traditional and digital media. During this year's Super Bowl, advertisers will be anticipating that viewers will access the Internet while watching the game.

The Super Bowl routinely draws more than 100 million viewers and is the biggest single event stage for advertisers. All 70 spots sold this year going for as much as $4 million for a single commercial. According to the Coca Cola marketing team, at least 60 percent of Super Bowl viewers are expected to have another screen—smartphone, tablet or laptop—nearby. So naturally, Coke will be planning to engage viewers online. Coke's TV spots will be directing viewers to CokePolarBear.com, where a couple of the Coke Polar Bears will be watching the Super Bowl each rooting for a different team. Reportedly they will be cheering enthusiastically and also watching the commercials. Should be fun when a Pepsi ad comes on! Visitors to the site will also be able to ask the bears questions. Finally, after the game, visitors will be able to send friends coupons for Coke, either celebratory or conciliatory depending on your team preference.

See Coca-Cola Polar Bears' "Superstition" Ad

GM's Chevrolet is also motoring grill first into the fray with the Chevy Game Time app. Using the headline: "Don't Just Watch, Play Along With the Super Bowl" the free app download will allow users to interact socially with trivia questions and polls during the game along with the chance to win 1 of 20 cars and thousands of other prizes being given away. Users can also share the content with people in their social network. In a clever twist, if you registered before Jan. 27, you were given a unique license plate number. See that plate number on a car in the spot and that means you've won it.

See Chevy's "Happy Grad" Super Bowl Ad

Most, if not all of the 35 or so advertisers in this year's Super Bowl will be trying to send viewers to websites to further engage them. They will be competing with Super Bowl advertisers, who will be trying to grab viewers from the many who will be online and pretty much everybody else. The power of social media is that it puts the power into the hands of whoever can wrest attention. The Super Bowl itself, for the first time, is setting up a Super Bowl Command Center. A team of social media strategists and technical experts will situate themselves in a 2,800 square foot facility and monitor the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms to interact with the expected 150,000 people who will be in Indianapolis for the game. They will help them find parking, perform other helpful tasks and be on hand in the case of an emergency. As of this writing there are more than 21,000 people already following the command center on Twitter.

The Internet can be an incredibly useful marketing tool for advertisers. The trick is to find the right level of engagement for the brand. Consumers, who utilize the second screen generally, are enjoying discussing the event with their chosen network of family, friends and associates and eavesdropping on what others are saying including the rich and famous. The brand that tries to get to intrusive or familiar runs the risk of actually alienating the consumer or worse angering a consumer who can then aim his weapon—his influence—at the brand. In this day and age an influential consumer with an axe to grind can do some damage. I hope that with all of the online excitement, we don't miss the game!

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Larry Woodard is a director on the Advertising Week board and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New York Council.

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