Winning the game with your Super Bowl strategy

Winning the game with your Super Bowl strategy
The Super Bowl is the ultimate intersection of commerce and culture—a moment when millions don’t just tune in, but actively engage, viewing the commercials as entertainment. (Calling all non-sports fans who show up at the Super Bowl party for the snacks and commercials.) For brands, it continues to be an enormous opportunity to connect with consumers and authentically participate with them, moving them beyond engagement and cementing the brand as a core part of their identity.

With seemingly the whole country watching, brands must not only create awareness, understanding, and affinity, they must captivate and entertain. Which means your Super Bowl strategy should, first and foremost, deliver moments that matter to consumers, moving them closer to feeling like they are participants with your brand.

It’s a season, not a day

One of the biggest mistakes brands make when formulating their Super Bowl strategy is viewing it as one day, rather than a season. This is a unique moment when consumers and media are genuinely interested in what brands are doing, and to effectively maximize that coverage and share of voice, brands must leverage the whole Super Bowl story—not just a single ad.

Having a multi-pulse approach is the only way to grab hold of your audience and sustain attention throughout the entire Super Bowl cycle, keeping your brand top of mind while simultaneously garnering excitement and anticipation that culminates on the big day. For CPG brands—particularly those that aim to be consumed during Super Bowl festivities—driving sales and consideration is an important objective that cannot be achieved on gameday alone.

Nail the timing

Not only is the cadence of your campaign critical to maximizing your brand's coverage, but understanding just how much to peel back the curtain beforehand  can make or break your brand's story. Our work with Skittles on “Broadway the Rainbow” is a perfect example of this.

Starting with the announcement that Skittles would not be airing a Super Bowl commercial at all, but rather a one-night-only Broadway musical on Super Bowl Sunday, there was instant buzz, with fans and media outlets alike wondering if it was real or not. Next, we slowly peeled back the curtain to reveal the star of the show, Michael C. Hall, followed by an exclusive invite to a reporter for a sneak peek soon after. And on gameday, the curtains opened on a bona fide musical, including the hero track “Advertising Ruins Everything”

While a Skittles commercial never aired on that Super Bowl Sunday, the brand captured the attention of their audience and media alike and sustained it throughout the entire Super Bowl season.

Tip: Think beyond a strong ad by keeping these best practices in mind:

  • Tell a compelling story that grabs people’s attention and holds it.
  • Sustain engagement by avoiding rote “we have an ad,” “here is a teaser for the ad,” and “here is our ad” campaigns that don’t stand out from the crowd.
  • Orchestrate your story—unfolding it in a way that makes consumers feel they are participants in it.

The value of celebrity

While media and consumers alike are interested in what brands are doing for the big game, a celebrity spokesperson or partnership can unlock coverage in untapped, relevant verticals and expand your campaign’s reach considerably. While there are plenty of Super Bowl pre- and post-game roundups around what brands are doing or who did it best, partnering with a celebrity can elevate your campaign and earn standout features and headlines.

That same star power is helpful during the game, too. Consumers will watch around 60 ads during the Super Bowl, and a celebrity can help your campaign break through the noise and stand out as a memorable moment. This is evident in the big winners of last year's Super Bowl ads, including Anna Kendrick with Rocket Mortgage and Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost with Amazon. A good casting decision can go a long way.

Tell a full story

The most important part to nailing your Super Bowl strategy is understanding your campaign from a holistic perspective and telling the full story. Building hype before, unveiling more of the story as the season progresses, and maximizing your post-campaign coverage keeps your brand in the front of consumers' minds. The right game plan is table-stakes to creating moments that matter and moving your audience into deeper participation with your brand.


ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Jackie Hopkins, Managing Partner, Communications and Marketing

    Jackie is a senior leader in communications and marketing with over 25 years of experience developing and executing data-driven ideas that deliver cultural relevance, resonance, and a strong return on investment.
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