Super Bowl 51 | Marketing Takeaways

Now that the big game has finally concluded as one of the most drama-filled championship games in NFL history, it’s time to jump right back into the work week. Regardless of which team had your heart during the heat of battle, there are plenty of marketing takeaways that we can learn from Super Bowl 51.

Of course, we can’t talk about Super Bowl 51 without mentioning those fabled commercials and advertisements elevated to what are in some cases sublime cinematic experiences. Though an average American football game lasts around 3 hours and 12 minutes, the actual time that the ball is in play is around 11 minutes. That means filling the spaces in between is a big business and something advertisers routinely drool over. Games usually have about 20 commercial breaks containing over 100 ads, ultimately adding up to one-third of the game overall!

Super Bowl 51 – A Marketing Circus

This year was no different, although we’ve come a long way from the “wazzup” days in all their late 90’s glory. If you’re not into football and just into seeing what over the top commercials emerge each year, then this is the blog for you. I won’t claim to know relatively anything about football besides the fact that we seem to measure things like how many pizzas Americans eat a year or the distance from the Earth to the Sun in terms of “the length of a football field.” Like we’re going to be playing sports in space anytime soon! Well… maybe, but realistically speaking, we can measure our efforts as marketers and gain valuable insights from the approach gigantic brands take during one of the most viewed annual events in the United States.

Be Timely

When it comes to deeply patriotic advertising and making toasts to the “American story,” Budweiser is the heavy-weight champion. Considering that the company temporarily renamed its signature beer “America” for the summer of 2016 they’re as red, white, and blue as it gets! Whether they’re showing fans from sea to shining sea or having their iconic Clydesdales kneel at ground zero, Budweiser basically owns this narrative. Their Super Bowl 51 rendition took their traditional route, all while incorporating a timely approach in light of President Trump’s resident executive order on immigration.

The commercial spot tells the story of the immigrant roots of the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, depicting the (fictionalized) story of co-founder Adolphus Busch leaving Germany in 1857. After a difficult sea journey, discrimination for being foreign, and difficulty finding a new life in America, he eventually meets his counterpart to create one of the biggest breweries in the country. Regardless of its historical accuracy, this is something that many immigrants, past, present, and future will come up against and how the country handles this is of paramount importance. The take away here? Know the right time to tell your story, even if it’s a difficult one.

Be Memorable

As a brand, you’re going to need to be as memorable as possible and many times that means getting someone’s attention in the first place. What better way to do that than with the use of miniature football legends in the form of adorable babies? Of the three spots the NFL aired, “Baby Legends” was the most well received.

This really goes to show that when you’re trying to make a memorable impression, you’ll need to present your message in the most universally enjoyable formats known to humanity – babies dressed in adult clothing, sometimes complete with facial hair.

Be Progressive

Now, there are a lot of things to say at any given moment and finding the right progressive chords to strike during an event like Super Bowl 51 can leave your company resonating in harmony. With Audi’s “#DriveProgress” ad the reception was less than perfect, although the official airing left a lot of pre-game negativity repurposed into praise.

The ad makes a big statement on gender pay equality, depicting a father watching his daughter take part in a kart race as he ponders over whether she’ll cross the same proverbial finish line as her male counterparts. While the automaker whipped up a heap of criticism from social media users lamenting over the fact that the company has an all-male board and its senior management team includes only two women, their message endures. “Progress is for everyone” is hard to argue against, and turning that into a slogan for positivity (and ultimately sales) seems to be a relatively solid tactic.

Be a Living Brand

In a sort of meta-commercial, surreal Super Bowl 51 experience, this advertisement has got to be the most brilliant display of what I’d call “being a living brand.” Here’s the setup:

During the actual Super Bowl Analysis show, Fox TV football pundit Terry Bradshaw wore a shirt with a very obvious, very sloppy barbecue sauce stain just moments before the commercial break featuring his ad. As the Twitter gods would have it, Bradshaw’s stain actually began “trending,” prompting incoming tweets teasing the commentator if real-life… then cue the commercial!

Bradshaw is then shown embarking on a humorous quest to find a clean shirt, only to opt for a good old fashion machine wash featuring Tide. As time warps and folds beneath the weight of this commercial, the effect for Tide’s organic reach was absolutely stellar. With so many people wondering about the stain before and after the commercial spot, new sites were actually prompted into debunking speculation surrounding the situation. A great use of real-time marketing and simplicity, all wrapped into a fun and unique take on the traditional commercial format.

Be Social

And while Bradshaw’s stain had a lot of social media movement, there was another bald white man who had a bit more reach than previously thought possible. That’s right, I’m talking about that saucy Mr. Clean commercial featuring Procter & Gamble’s muscular cleaning genie himself. Just see for yourself:

As if cleaning coordinated to soulful R&B wasn’t enough to arouse your passion for scrubbing household filth, Mr. Clean took to Twitter to interact with his hoards of swooning groupies, as well as his commercial adversaries. Sure, viewers were almost equal parts disturbed and turned on, but this brand really drove their persona home on social media. The cheeky white-clad animated brand ambassador actually started trolling other brands, prompting an amazing volume of likes, retweets, and overall engagement for @RealMrClean.

Like I said, I am the last person you can have a conversation about American football with (unless it’s the band) but marketing is a different story – if you had a favorite commercial or think there’s another lesson we can learn from Super Bowl 51 and its advertising, let us know in the comments below!