Special Days Like the Super Bowl Call For Special Strategies

Less is more—except when it comes to America’s unofficial National Holiday of Excess, the Super Bowl. Following last year’s extravaganza, marketers at Adobe got out their digital measuring sticks and sought to answer these questions: Should we still be spending so much money on a seemingly untargeted and an untrackable event? Should we replace it with a ramped-up digital program? Or will doing both be the thing to put the ball of commerce through the uprights. The answers they came up with, depending on a particular brand’s budget, were yes, yes, and yes. 

“$3.8 million is pretty steep for a 30-second TV spot, but mobile is a good place to go if you can’t afford to advertise on the Super Bowl [broadcast],” saysTamara Gaffney, senior marketing manager for the Adobe Digital Index. “Of course, it’s not going to have the same reach, but our analysis finds that mobile access of videos doubles on days when special sporting events are taking place. The viewership numbers all of a sudden become significant.” 

Adobe’s Digital Index team, founded last year to provide data-driven insights on digital marketing, analyzed 1.4 billion video starts on the days of events like the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, and the NBA playoffs and compared them to mobile activity on normal sports days. Sixteen percent of video starts came on mobile devices on big event days, compared to only 8% on base days. That means that 84% of videos are still opened on desktops, but it is the nature of the increase that leads Adobe to prescribe more mobile activity for marketers this Sunday. 

“There’s more content to consume online on special sporting event days, and there are more people watching those special events on TV. Mobile devices provide more of an opportunity to multitask,” Gaffney observes.  

Data from the past two Super Bowls indicate that online promotion helps the big-spender Super Bowl advertisers get the best bang for their buck, according to Adobe. Its analysis of the 2011 Super Bowl showed that advertisers received an average 20% increase in visits and page views on game day and maintained a higher-than-average traffic level during the subsequent week. 

But in 2012, more Super Bowl advertisers hyped their involvement by posting online videos the week before the game, which caused post-game activity to peter out sooner—most likely due to brand fatigue or to a fewer number of people sharing their favorite videos with friends during the week after. What that spells out to Gaffney, however, is a message to marketers to develop coherent strategies that blend traditional and digital channels. 

“There are complex relationships to explore with different channels built around a single event. It can be hard for marketers to figure out how they should all work together at once,” Gaffney says. “Aside from mobile, you have to work in a social program, and you have to figure out what roles each of these elements plays in pre- and post-game campaigns. No one has devised the magic formula yet.” 

Gaffney does have recommendations, though. She suggests that the companies making a huge investment in Super Bowl ads consider what payoff they’re looking for in social and digital channels, and use that as a guide for overall planning.  

“Reach is one factor,” she says, “relationship is another.”

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