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Searching for the best Super Bowl experience

Will Northover, account director at Blackjack, reveals his pick of the live activity around this year’s gridiron spectacular, NFL Super Bowl XLIX.

Attracting a record 111.5 million TV viewers last year, the Super Bowl, the culmination of the American Football season, is simply the biggest sporting event on the planet. Unsurprisingly, it’s also a marketing phenomenon, with prime time TV slots going for over $4 million.

The biggest US brands simply daren’t miss out, causing air time costs to rocket, not to mention sponsorship deals. However, by far the most creative activity with the most impact – and probably the smallest budgets – is experiential.

Locally across the US – in fact, make that the world – people, local authorities and businesses set up satellite events to capitalise on fans’ desire to share the muscle-bound, cheerleading, hotdog-fuelled, ear-splitting experience. But here’s my pick of what the big brands are up to…

On trend

The growing trend of brands basing TV ad campaigns around a live experience was embraced by Budweiser in its “The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens” Super Bowl commercial. It features unsuspecting regular twenty-something guys going for a beer and being asked by the bar tender: “If I gave you a Bud Light are you up for whatever happens next?” Of course the guys agree – after all it’s a free beer! They are then sent down the road where a giant coin is lying on the pavement waiting to be inserted in a huge slot. The chaps duly oblige, and immediately the doors of the building in front of them fly open to reveal a party in full swing. But this ain’t just any party, as one of the guys soon discovers, as he is thrown into a live Pacman game, and must take on life-size Pacmen to escape. The effect is incredible and what a great idea!

On site

Technology giant SAP pulled off a real coup by using its know-how to create an experience on the ground in Arizona, where the Super Bowl takes place, that couldn’t have resonated more with fans and media. It sponsored and powered the official Stats Zone – a high-tech, interactive experience that transported fans into a world of numbers, images and insights about American football. The interactive experience used SAP’s social media analytics to measure all of the chatter surrounding the Super Bowl, and showcased each team’s fan experience throughout the week leading up to the game. Fans could also cast their vote for the Fantasy Player of the Year and create video pitches to share with their friends for a chance to win tickets to next year’s event, Super Bowl 50. The NFL Experience commanded a prime location at the Phoenix Convention Center.

On another planet

Finally, a few days before the Super Bowl, a crop circle mysteriously appeared in a field in Glendale, Arizona, just half a mile from the match venue. It seemed to indicate that American Football’s influence was not simply global, but intergalactic. That was until closer examination revealed the circle to closely resemble the logo of a famous soft drink brand. Yes, this was not extraterrestrial activity of any kind, but an experiential stunt – or more specifically guerrilla – by Pepsi.

It was arguably the most interesting part of Pepsi’s multifaceted, months-long Super Bowl campaign with a 30-second game-day spot and its sponsorship of Katy Perry’s halftime show. Wonderfully, the Pepsi crop circle was roughly the size of a professional American football field. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Super Bowl 50!

This was first posted in Event Magazine