The #brandbowl

The Super Bowl. The one day of the year we don’t set our DVRs. Instead of fast-forwarding through the commercials, we’re glued to the TV to capture every second. We pay a lot of attention to the major players on the big screen, but now so much of Super Bowl engagement is occurring on much smaller screens: laptops, tablets and smartphones, where people are active across their social platforms.

These three brands won at social around the big game:


GoDaddy released their Super Bowl ad in the morning on January 27th, featuring a lost puppy who finds his way home to realize he’s being sold online. Animal rights activists took to Facebook and Twitter to complain. Most puppy mill dogs are sold online. The ad was intended to mock the Budweiser #bestbuds ad, but had a very different effect. Due to the negative backlash, GoDaddy pulled the ad by 6:30pm ET the same day. HostGator, a GoDaddy competitor, immediately created and sponsored a “Puppy Love” Tweet and coupon code announcing they would be donating a portion of their profits to a local Austin Animal Rights organization. If any animal lover was considering a web-hosting provider, HostGator won their business. This is an example of smart real-time social marketing done right.

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Monster brilliantly used a Twitter photo size feature to create a post that went live right after the Super Bowl. The Tweet read “Congratulations Seattle from! #biggame” and the photo also featured a congratulations message in the image. If you click to view the full-sized image, you see a Monster search for a Social Media Manager position. This was smart for a few reasons. First, it makes fun of brands who have famously messed up on social media. Second, it immediately catches your attention (everybody watching on TV or on social would know the Patriots won the game. Third, they were able to prepare ahead of time by likely having two versions approved and ready to go. Lastly, it has a direct connection to their service (while many Super Bowl commercials are memorable, consumers don’t connect the brand or product affiliated with the ads).

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While the McDonald’s Super Bowl spot received mixed reviews, the brand recovered and won on social. McDonald’s Tweeted a giveaway tied to every product advertised during the Big Game. This was easy for brands who released Super Bowl commercials ahead of time, but more difficult for brands who didn’t, and involved a large real-time social media effort from the McDonald’s team. People entered by simply Re-Tweeting the McDonald’s tweet, generating engagement awareness for the program. Giveaways ranged from a $1,000 Victoria’s Secret gift card to designer sandals and a pedi tied to the infamous Jublia toenail fungus ad. The giveaways allowed McDonald’s to surprise their fans and engage real-time throughout the entire game.

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Brands Bring Their “A” Game to the Big Game

The Super Bowl has evolved from an NFL championship game for diehard fans to an American event that appeals to everyone, even if your team didn’t make it to the big dance. It’s become a time for socializing with family and friends for people of all genders, races, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. And let’s not forget the food. We’re talking serious food. Super Bowl Sunday is just behind Thanksgiving when it comes to the amount of food consumed by Americans on a single given day. So much for those New Year’s resolutions — but what’s one day, any way?

For many, the food may be enough of a draw. But for most, they want to see not only a great, nail-biter of a game, but entertaining commercials that will be buzzed about for the weeks to come. And since this Super Bowl was no nail biter, the commercials truly had an opportunity to shine. This year, more so than any year in the past, brands have either previewed their ads in their entirety or presented teaser ads to build some anticipation for the big day. Part of me feels this is like opening presents before Christmas, but I understand the thought behind getting momentum behind your ad and also building brands ambassadors who love the ad and will call it out for people to watch.

Because of the diverse audience that watches the Super Bowl now, long gone are the days of airing strictly beer and car commercials with bikini-clad babes (sorry, Spuds MacKenzie). Commercials have to be smart, memorable and either witty or heart touching in order to resonant with a broad scope of the audience. So here are my favorite commercials from the 2014 Super Bowl that not only run the gamut but should score big with the pumped up game day crowd.

The Crowd Pleaser with a Heart: Bank of America U2 Invisible

What better way to get people excited through a commercial than with exclusive, free music from one of the biggest bands ever, U2. It’s free for day and for every download, Bank of America donates a dollar to RED. This commercial has strong black and white visuals of the band in front of a pumped up crowd with a pumped up inspiring, NEW song. This aired early on in the Super Bowl and there was plenty of chatter about it on social media as soon as it aired. Sure, it was a simple, straightforward commercial but it hits home with the star power in such a way that shines a good and gracious light on Bank of America.

The Heart Strings: Budweiser Puppy Love

You’ve got the trademark Clydesdale. You’ve got a cute lab puppy. You’ve also got a continuing storyline from last year’s “Brotherhood” ad. The “Awwwww” factor is at a level 10 here, people. (Oh, and a swim suit model just to check that box for the fellas.) Budweiser has the Heart String ads down pat and has another hit on its hands already, with almost 35 million views on youtube at the time of this post. Does it sell more beer? Hmmm. Maybe? It’s a formula that works for them and ties them to the heart of America. That connection builds recognition and breeds loyalty, which is what any brand hopes to achieve because while it may not be an immediate uptick in sales, it’s a leg up on the competition. (Good thing Budweiser released this one early since viewership in the 4th quarter of this game is likely questionable).

The Statement: Cheerios Gracie

Cheerios’ latest is a followup to last year’s commercial “Just Checking,” which features the same interracial family on an ordinary day. It’s unfortunate that in this day and age that seeing this type of family on television was controversial for some people, but it was. Groups called for boycotts of Cheerios among the backlash. With this ad and its placement of it during the Super Bowl, Cheerios is reinforcing its statement that love is love and family is family in a big way. The description for this ad on youtube is “When families eat breakfast together, amazing things happen.” When brands stand up for what they believe in, amazing things happen too. I tip my spoon to you Cheerios! (I love this so much more than the Nelly knock off for Honey Nut Cheerios – that ad might have been relevant back in the early 2000s when Ride Wit Me was still getting regular airplay, but it has no traction for me today).

The Imaginative: Audi Doberhuahua

Though it takes a bit to get to the point that Audi’s new hybrid A3 is all about design without compromise, this ad is a win for me on a number of levels. It has a bizarre factor (a doberman head on a chihuahua body looks crazy) that people will remember. It pokes fun at the Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercials that drive all us dog lovers to claw out our eyes (and the fact that she is in on the jab is great). It reinforces the idea of adopting a shelter dog. It also makes Audi feel attainable and not so hoighty-toity, snobby; it feels more real, which will ultimately broaden its appeal to a new set of buyers that may not have considered it before.

The Huh or the Left Field: Maserati Strike

This is a strikingly beautiful commercial, for that, there is no doubt. It’s epic on so many levels, but it has people scratching their heads because of the stretch between the working men depicted and Maserati is just that a stretch. This new car may be less than $70,000, but I would not equate that with attainable for the everyman or every girl, as the case may be (Quvenzhane Wallis, as talented as she is, seems like an unlikely choice to be a Maserati spokesperson, especially given she’s not even old enough to driver). But, you know, I’m still thinking about this commercial and still trying to wrap my brain around it, so it’s got me thinking a lot longer than some other commercials. Maybe that’s just the intent after all – to plant the seed of Maserati and to make you think that dream isn’t so far off in the distance.

The Reunion: Dannon Oikos The Spill

John Stamos has been the Oikos spokesman for a while and his involvement finally pays off, bringing something more to the table than his winning smile and shiny hair: a Full House reunion (well, a mini one). Fans of the show have been clamoring for a reunion for years and given the demographic as well as fit for Oikos, what better time to give it to them than during a Super Bowl commercial. This reunion of Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier was buzzed about earlier in the week when the trio made an appearance on Jimmy Fallon in a very Full House-esque skit, complete with Stamos channeling his “Uncle Jesse” to sing Teddy Bear to Jimmy. (Click here to see) While this commercial doesn’t have the A-list star power of some others that aired tonight, it has a nostalgia that people can get behind, remember and think of fondly when they’re standing by the yogurt case debating which one to buy.

What were your favorites? And what did you REALLY think about the Bob Dylan Chrysler ad?