Brands Compete in the Super Bowl Arena

— Adrienne Leonhardt, WE 

The guacamole is finished and the chicken wings are gone – but we’ve still got Super Bowl Sunday on our mind thanks to the results of our latest Brand Agility Index. The Super Bowl is not only the biggest day of the year for sports fans (and Lady Gaga fans), but for brands it’s the biggest opportunity to engage with U.S. consumers following the action on multiple devices. And, it’s not just about the ads themselves anymore. Social and digital engagement with consumers has become an important part of co--creating brand stories.

So which brands flexed their marketing muscle and showed up best across social and digital this Super Bowl?

Our Brand Agility Index measured brand performance in social and digital communications across paid, earned and owned media during this crowded advertising arena. We then analyzed all conversations and engagement levels from brands across news, blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and comments on YouTube in the days before and after the game.

We monitored a range of sponsors – from Amazon to Avocados from Mexico – but our top scorers on the day were Budweiser, T-Mobile and Coca Cola.

Once all was said and done, here are the key themes that emerged – and the impact for brands:


Politics attract attention

As evidenced by Budweiser and Coca-Cola. There was almost an unspoken expectation that brands should voice their opinion about the current political climate. For brands, this meant making a decision about whether or not to add a political tone that they may not have been vocal with before. Either approach was likely to upset some subset of the viewing public so it was key that whatever decision was made, it was done right. Only Budweiser and Coca-Cola made very obvious stands.Bud’s decision led to 97k mentions and high engagement scores, but sentiment was split 50/50 and ignited a new hashtag (#BoycottBudweiser) used on both sides of the debate.

THE IMPACT:Taking a stand will always drive high levels of engagement, as viewers of all opinions and backgrounds join the debate regardless of whether they were actually a customer. For brands considering such an approach the question is simple – does our narrative hold true to our opinion? If so, they should speak out loud and clear.


Content is king

Amazon, Disney, Skittles and Pepsi fell flat because their content missed the mark – whereas T-Mobile crushed it. Amazon’s subtle push of its drone service got everyone excited, but then they failed to follow through with a concrete announcement of its launch date. Disney promoted a film coming out later in the year with little buzz behind it. And while Skittles was on brand in terms of quirkiness, it failed to spark levels of engagement seen in previous years and so the brand lost out. Even Pepsi, the sponsor of the all-important half time show, didn’t put too much effort into creating an ad that would spark conversation. Other brands such as Avocados from Mexico (who missed an opportunity to make light of the current political situation) and Bose pushed ads that had people working too hard to define what they were saying. Subsequently, engagement fell flat and both brands missed out. T-Mobile was the one brand that really came to the table with good content, aiming high with a high caliber roster of stars. The comedic partnership of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg helped T-Mobile cut through the noise and create a strong wave of conversations online.

THE IMPACT:If you have a platform to achieve a level of reach that comes only once in a blue moon, you need to use it to your advantage through powerful content.

Lots of lessons for brands to digest as they brainstorm their big moments for next year – we’ll be waiting with chips in hand for Super Bowl LII!


Connect with the author, Adrienne Leonhardt on Twitter and LinkedIn.