Like millions of Americans, I tuned in for the biggest sports game of the year. Since my beloved Steelers weren’t a part of #SuperBowl50, you could say I was more interested in the advertisements and halftime show. Still, my eyes weren’t glued to the television screen as usual during those commercial breaks. I found myself more preoccupied with social media, following the #SuperBowl conversation on networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I know I’m not the only one.

Though it was once all about the commercials, brands have recently found new ways to join in the Super Bowl fun without the high price tag thanks to social media. Since Oreo tweeted an unforgettable response to the unexpected Super Bowl blackout of 2013, it seems like more brands are learning how to get in on the action in their own way.

Facebook remains a popular way to reach large audiences, but social media networks like Periscope, Snapchat and Twitter have become the preferred forms of communication during a live event. According to, “Facebook’s video still pulls tons of views for brand ads (about 178 million Super Bowl ad views before the game came from Facebook)… Twitter is the go-to place for real time talk.”

Twitter offers a unique opportunity for brands to directly communicate with their audiences and insert themselves into live conversations. Countless brands tweeted along with viewers before, during and after the big game yesterday. I could go on and on about the good, the bad and the ugly I came across, but instead, I’d rather highlight the social media efforts that grabbed my attention.

Multimedia Campaigns

According to Esurance Social Media Communications Specialist Sarah Evans, “We know the only way into somebody’s house, into somebody’s life, is not just through the TV screen, but through handheld devices and social media.” Keeping this in mind, Esurance implemented the #esurancesweepstakes campaign via Twitter to complement their commercial.

While some brands released teasers before the Super Bowl or shared extended versions of their commercials on social media, Esurance was one of the only brands to hold a contest this year. These distinctive efforts got the brand noticed, keeping consumers engaged long after the commercial had aired. It just goes to show that a little strategy can go a long way.

Competitor Responses

Long-time advertiser Budweiser and newer beer brand ShockTop chose to place multiple advertisements during the big game, but Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) isn’t a huge fan of commercials. However, the Milwaukee brewery crafted some brilliant tweets in response to its competitors’ ads.

The brand shared images of Budweiser spokesman Seth Rogan and ShockTop spokesman T.J. Miller drinking a PBR, joking that both comedians enjoyed the American premium lager long before they were paid to endorse the other brews. I guess you could say Denver wasn’t the only team with a strong offense last night!

Brand Interactions

Doritos has been a staple in the Super Bowl rotation since they first introduced their Crash the Super Bowl contest in 2006. During this time, the brand has become associated with hilarious and creative ideas. Though the first finalist’s commercial prompted some unexpected Twitter chatter, the brand chose to overlook that conversation and focus instead on interacting with other brands.

What made the Doritos retorts so witty and unique was the seamless way they related their product to the other brands and their ad concepts. Whether kidding around with Snickers or teasing Esurance, Doritos was busy with its own game during the big game.

These social media efforts might not be buzzed about or even remembered like some commercials, but I definitely think they’re noteworthy. I consider them a reminder that you don’t always have to spend the big bucks to get noticed. Though advertising is a familiar and popular form of promotion, brands have begun to recognize that it’s not their only option.

It’s not enough to know that an event like the Super Bowl can be a promotional opportunity. Brands must determine the right strategy and/or tactic(s) to help them leverage that opportunity in order to achieve their desired return on investment (ROI). Knowing you’ll be competing with other brands to break through the clutter, this strategy and/or tactic(s) should be unique, exciting and reflect your brand values.

Consider this something to keep in mind when you start planning your brand communications for something like Valentine’s Day, the Oscars or maybe even next year’s Super Bowl.

— Erin Carlin, Account Executive