Super Bowl 2013: Making the most of the blackout

by Stratton Craig

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Snaring in excess of 100 million viewers each year, the Super Bowl is the seminal event for big brands that want to show off televised commercials to a global audience. At the 2013 Super Bowl each 30-second commercial slot cost around $3.7 million, but thanks to a lengthy blackout and the social media response that followed, the effect of Twitter as a free marketing device was the event’s standout marketing success story.
Featuring efforts from Budweiser, Taco Bell, Audi and Coca Cola, amongst others, this year’s Super Bowl wasn’t lacking in big-budget commercials. Where 2012’s ads were ambitious and packed with celebrities, however, the offerings of the 2013 Super Bowl were met with a mixed response. The LA Times considered the commercials ‘decidedly low-wattage’, and other critics derided a lack of creativity, given the expenses paid to produce them.
Though the game developed into one of the most entertaining in recent memory, the crucial moment, from a marketing viewpoint, occurred when half of the stadium’s lights went out shortly after the half-time break. For 34 minutes play was suspended and viewers turned to Twitter to vent their frustrations. There were around 231,500 tweets per minute, more than at any stage during play, and the trending topics quickly expanded from football to encompass a series of witty brand responses.
Tide couldn’t resist a pun, tweeting: ‘We can’t get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out. #SuperBowl #TidePower’.
While Calvin Klein tried to distract fans from the delay by linking to a video of a male model working out in CK-branded boxer shorts.
The response of Oreo, however, took the crown, with CNET terming it ‘an idea so brilliant and bold that it out and out won the night’. Despite having already aired a commercial, the firm’s agency had a mission control team ready for developments, and they reacted in record time to tweet an image of a dimly-lit Oreo cookie, with the tagline ‘You can still dunk in the dark’. The clever tweet achieved well over 10,000 retweets, thousands of ‘favourites’ and a host of positive responses, not to mention a vast quantity of consumer interest, and commercial respect for Oreo’s quick response.
With over 24.1 million Super Bowl related tweets posted over the course of the event, and huge brand interest developed free of charge, it’s no wonder corporations are increasingly viewing social media as a cost effective way to communicate with their customers. Just how Oreo’s sales will be affected, by both the television commercial and the Twitter response, remains to be seen, but the importance of creative thinking, reactive advertising, and social media to the marketing world has rarely been more obvious.

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