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Super Bowl Ad-Spotting: The New Game of Emotional Engagement

In the wake of Super Bowl XIVIII’s ad tsunami, it’s high tide time for brands to ride the wave of earned media.  But the real surfing begins as social media analysts get granular. 

Given the historic size of the Super Bowl’s TV and live streaming audiences—exponentially bigger due to Fox Sports’ separate online only ad sale—advertisers can learn more about the emotions driving the sentiment of engaged viewers.  

With a wealth of data to analyze, notwithstanding the miniscule channel switching rate and huge social engagement, social analysis can identify the emotional triggers critical to brand marketing: Not only through the weight of relative positive-negative conversations but a kaleidoscope of social media lenses and channels, projecting a raw unbiased, sometimes righteous, even zealous national psyche. 


Overall, my NetBase social media data analysis of the Super Bowl showed more interest in the sport of commercial-watching than the football game itself.  With viewership less about field plays than emotional engagement with the commercials—where the big game takes on a GPS for the soul aura—audiences took a timeout from the decorum of their regular 9 to 5 social conditioning to share their own gut feelings with the world.  

Event brand advertising has spawned a new art of social engagement.  The event, while providing context, almost becomes secondary to an advertiser’s opportunity to research mass sentiment at any point in time—by demography and geography, in any language.  Whether you even use the brand, love or hate it, the passion of your social media expression in big data becomes part of an invaluable expression of predictive brand trends.  

While many brands played it safe with “warm and fuzzy” themes (e.g. Budweiser’s taking the reins with its Clydesdales “puppy love”), the Super Bowl advertising field wasn’t immune to a few controversial plays.  For example, while Coca Cola’s ad featuring the singing of “America the Beautiful” in seven languages was lauded for its bold inclusive multinational sentiment, it also revealed a pervasive xenophobic underbelly in America, with ample vitriolic social push back surfacing as we listened on our NetBase platform.  Sourcing the “hate” sentiment to the microblog wasn’t difficult.



However, the nationalist sentiment in Bob Dylan’s Chrysler 200 commercial lyrics, did not lack a certain innuendo either.  After lauding Detroit, American ingenuity and craftsmanship, “Detroit made cars, and cars made America,” he concludes:  “So let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch.  Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.”

Among the people mentioned most during and following the game, Ellen DeGeneres was in the starting lineup.  Not to be sidelined, Beats Music made an expensive branding play with its ad featuring the famous talk show host making her signature moves with dancing bears.  Beats Music might benefit from a post-game analysis of its media buy to gauge whether immensely popular DeGeneres overshadowed the costly media play, or, for that matter, if the dancing bears made the field play.




I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Allstate Esurance and its clever #esurancesave30 post-game branding play, an old fashioned $1.5 million Twitter sweepstakes with the hashtag winner presumably receiving an amount reflecting Esurance’s media buy savings by broadcasting after the game.  An astute move for brand awareness, the ad prompted over 200K #esurancesave30 tweets in the minute following the game, with Twitter following skyrocketing from 8,900 to 110,000.



In the traditional—and in my opinion the archaic—KPI-ROI game of brand advertising, there’s a bigger win to be had by stepping out of bounds.  The playing field has changed for brands in social media, with post-game big data analysis more critical now than ever, and with granular precision. 

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