To Win the Super Bowl, Brands need PR on the Roster

Chances are that if you’re one of the more than 100 million people tuning in to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, you won’t be fast-forwarding through the commercials. In fact, you may be watching just to see them.

In the modern Super Bowl era, the program’s commercials have become an attraction unto themselves. Every year, more than 40 top brands spend around $30 million each to develop and air commercials during the big game. It is a calculated risk, and industry professionals have increasingly questioned its value. Interestingly, for many brands, public relations and earned media are the unsung heroes of their Super Bowl strategy.

With each brand putting its best foot forward, it can be hard to cut through the clutter and justify the investment. Especially when you consider that brands are not just competing for eyeballs amongst themselves, but also with the game and the halftime show. That’s why, in recent years, brands have looked to do what they can for free to maximize their investment and generate the most views.

PR can’t turn a bad commercial into gold, but many brands now host media events, publish teaser clips, develop social media strategies, and work with reporters to maximize their earned media opportunities and to mitigate the risk of a $30 million flop. Here are a few examples:

  • In January 2017, Anheuser-Busch InBev hosted a dozen reporters from outlets as large as TheNew York Timesfor a media briefing on their upcoming Super Bowl commercials. The briefing included an hour-long presentation and multiple factsheets about their different brands and beers. The company didn’t show the commercials, it was building anticipation. But weeks later, when the commercials were pre-released ahead of the game, Anheuser-Busch knew it had a handful of influential reporters ready to write about them and amplify their reach.
  • In the financial services sector, MassMutual arguably won last year’s Super Bowl before it had even begun with its two-minute pre-kickoff commercial. It was a victory for the brand because it tugged at our heartstrings, but also because it benefited from earned media. The spot was an extension of an ad that the company had aired live on CNN on New Year’s Eve. MassMutual capitalized on the chatter around the live advertisement to secure earned media coverage for their Super Bowl spot in publications such as Axios. When it finally aired before the game, the company released a prepared statement to share with reporters. The next day, many lists of top Super Bowl ads had a link to MassMutual’s commercial, and some referenced the company’s statement.
  • Finally, you can’t talk Super Bowl earned media without bringing up social media. And every conversation of Super Bowl social media needs at least one mention of Oreo’s now-famous “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” It was the perfect tweet at the perfect moment during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout, and it scored well over 20,000 interactions at no cost at all. It was possible because Oreo understood that social media had become the Super Bowl’s greatest earned media battleground and they had a war room full of PR professionals ready to capitalize on the moment.

I’m a Jets fan, so I’ll admit that I don’t know much about the Super Bowl, but I do know that these examples are just a few of the ways brands use earned media to boost their big game advertising efforts. With the cost and competition for ad time rising every year, earned media interactions are increasingly important to the success of brands’ Super Bowl ads.

Strong earned media helps brands cut through the Super Bowl clutter and maximize their ad-spend’s reach. That’s why every brand, big or small, looking to make an impact at the Super Bowl should have PR on its roster.

By Michael Falco, Junior Account Executive


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