Social Media and #SB50: How Brands Can Tap into Super Bowl-Related Discussion on Each Platform
The Super Bowl (or #SB50 as it's known to friends) is now only hours away, which also means we're about to get hit with an onslaught of ads as marketers try to tap into the spectacle of the event and capture a share of the attention in what's likely to be the most watched TV event in the U.S. for the year.
But while everyone's working to build social media 'war rooms' and get some time in the spotlight with their own 'Oreo moment', there are also many ways for smaller players without multi-million dollar ad-budgets to tap into the #SB50 trend and generate greater reach. It's not necessarily easy, newsjacking on the back of a trending topic always carries a degree of risk, but at the same time (and as pointed out recently by Twitter's Head of Small Business Russ Laraway), smaller companies may actually have some advantages in this regard, as they're able to be more agile and take more risks.
No doubt most brands have a plan of some form in place for the big event already, but for those final touches or last-minute considerations, here's what the main social platforms are doing to cover the Super Bowl, along with some notes on how brands can tap into that conversation and hopefully float to the top of that trending stream.
Real-time is becoming a real focus for The Social Network. Long the domain of Twitter, Facebook started making a big push into live event coverage, seeing it as an opportunity to keep users on platform for longer. Back in October, The Social Network upgraded their search functionality, putting a bigger focus on uncovering real-time and trending content and conversation - an important update, considering Facebook's now servicing over 1.5 billion searches on the platform every day. Further to that, Facebook last month unveiled their new Sports Stadium tool, a new way for Facebook users to follow real-time events and discussion around specific sports events.
As per the screenshot, Sports Stadium provides a dedicated feed of on-platform activity around each game, including:
- Posts from your friends, and their comments on plays
- Posts and commentary from experts, like teams, leagues and journalists, with easy access to their Pages
- Live scores, stats and a play-by-play
- Game info, like where to find the game on TV
To access sports stadium, all you need to do is search for the relevant game on Facebook and you'll be automatically directed to the Sports Stadium feed, if one exists. The function's currently only available for NFL matches (and for iOS users), and the timing of its release is obviously aimed at positioning Facebook to capitalize on Super Bowl discussion and showcase their capacity to cover live events - as such, you can expect Facebook to be putting a lot of effort into ensuring the Sports Stadium experience is functioning at optimum levels for the big game.
Facebook's also been putting emphasis on 360 video, with a recent post on the Facebook Media blog highlighting some of the best examples of sports coverage on the platform via 360. There are massive opportunities in immersive video formats like 360 and VR, and Facebook's obviously keen to highlight the strengths of these offerings heading into 2016 (note: Facebook's first Oculus Rift VR headset is scheduled to be made available to consumers from April). You can expect to see quite a bit of Facebook-exclusive 360 video content showing up in the Sports Stadium feed for Super Bowl 50.
Given this, and the expanded access Facebook has to both official content (the official NFL Facebook Page has more than 13 million fans and is currently posting multiple updates per hour heading into the weekend) and on-platform engagement, Facebook has the potential to create a compelling fan experience around Super Bowl 50. If you're looking to tap into real-time discussion, it'd be worth paying attention to the evolving conversation on Facebook and considering ways to reach your Page fans around the event.
How brands can get in on it
One of the most interesting aspects of Sports Stadium is the addition of commentary from your own connections and within your network - theoretically, that also means people who are fans of your business Page could be reached through Sports Stadium coverage, if you can come up with a relevant, and resonant, message. While you'd expect that Twitter will garner a lot of the attention during the event, don't discount the lure of Facebook and the efforts they'll be putting into making their Super Bowl coverage work this year, in particular. Given the emphasis they've been putting on real-time coverage, it'd be no surprise to see on-topic posts get a reach boost during the event - obviously, timeliness and trends already play a significant part in the News Feed algorithm anyway, but that boost might be bigger than normal on Facebook this time around.
Consider what angles might be relevant to your brand, plan to capitalize on big moments, if possible, and stay up to date with Sports Stadium's coverage to see what's trending and what brand content is getting attention, in order to take cues.
Oh, how Twitter could love to make a big splash during Super Bowl 50. The micro-blog giant, much maligned in recent months, is very keen to get a win, and they've pulled out all stops in their promotion of the event and how marketers can tap into the power of tweets.
Both Dan Pattillo, Twitter's Director of Sales, and Russ Laraway, Twitter's Head of Small Business, have been out giving interviews this week, detailing how small brands, in particular, can jump aboard on the Super Bowl hype train via tweet. On top of this, Twitter's data team have been busy working on visualizations like this one, which shows the journey each team's taken to the game (as measured by Twitter conversation around each team):
And this - a real-time, interactive map of how much each of the Super Bowl teams are being mentioned across Twitter, broken down by state.
Twitter's also released a 'How to Follow' guide to the big game (spoiler alert, their key advice is to follow the hashtag #SB50) along with the now customary special event emoji, which are linked to specific hashtags.
Twitter's also taking the opportunity to showcase the power of Moments, with a specific Super Bowl tab already up and running, and a Super Bowl channel on Vine, showcasing all the best related content from their micro-video platform.
Periscope, too, is getting a Super Bowl themed addition, with the regular hearts switching to footballs for any broadcast with the hashtags #SB50, #SuperBowl, #Broncos, and #KeepPounding included in the title.
Twitter's also highlighted a range of media handles and related hashtags that fans can follow or use during the event to join in the conversation - as noted, Twitter's very keen to keep a hold on their position as the leader in real-time event coverage, and they're leaving no stone unturned in their advice on how fans can use their platform to accompany the title match.
And realistically, you'd expect Twitter will host the majority of the conversation - Twitter's still the place people go for real-time conversation, it's still the first place many social media users turn to in order to stay in touch with up-to-the-minute happenings (for reference, there were close to 29 million tweets around the event in 2015, a 21% increase in volume from the 2014 game).
Hopefully Twitter does have a good Super Bowl - a good news story is what the platform really needs (particularly heading into next week, when Twitter will announce its Q4 and full-year numbers).
How brands can get in on it
As noted, Twitter's gone to some effort to highlight how brands - particularly smaller players - can tap into the #SB50 discussion and make the most of the platform's potential for reach. First, Twitter recommends brands prepare for three types of moments that can, and will, happen during the game - 'predictable moments', 'anticipated moments' and 'unexpected moments'.
As noted by Twitter's Dan Pattillo in AdWeek:
- Predictable moments are those you know are going to happen, things like the coin toss, the halftime show and timeouts. "Everyone knows these things will happen, so brands need to decide ahead of time how they want to distinguish themselves".
- Anticipated moments are those Super Bowl scenarios that you'd expect will play out. "Brands should have plenty of versatile assets ready for a number of potential game scenarios. Prepare on-brand creative such that it will be easy to change copy on the fly.
- And unexpected moments are those ones that no one could see coming, but present a big opportunity (see: Oreos 'Dunk in the Dark' tweet). "We want to make sure that people don't discount those moments, those are probably some of the biggest highlights, and people share that-and it's very social content."
In addition to this, Twitter also recommends brands use event targeting and geo-targeting to hone Twitter ad content down to your specific, focus audience groups, and to avoid 'boring stock photos' in favor of your own, compelling, creative content (and remember, tweets with images can generate up to 313% more engagement than those without).
Twitter's also talking up Periscope, a content option that didn't exist during last year's event. Video has proven extremely popular on Twitter, with some 82% of Twitter users watching video content on the platform (the vast majority via mobile). Given the recent update to enable Periscope video content to autoplay in-stream on Twitter, Periscope could be a good, cost-effective option for those looking to reach their audience in a unique way.
Still the reigning king of online video, YouTube has put its focus on the 'Big Game' ads, with its 'Ad Blitz' platform showcasing all the top ad content from the Super Bowl, much of it ahead of time. And there's good reason for that - YouTube says that "brands that release their ad on YouTube before the game receive an average of 2.2x more views than those that waited until game day to post an ad"
Already, early release Super Bowl ads have been watched on YouTube more than 140 million times, underlining just how big a deal the event is for marketing purposes.
In addition to Ad Blitz, YouTube is also opening their real-time ads beta to more brands, enabling advertisers utilizing YouTube to instantly run ads across YouTube itself, as well as "hundreds of thousands of apps, and over 2 million sites in our Google Display Network with a message that ties directly to the big moment people just experienced live".
While YouTube is probably less beneficial for smaller players, the Super Bowl is a key event for the platform and their ad offerings - take a look at this graph from YouTube's Trends report highlighting usage spikes related to ad content around the game.
And while YouTube's focus is largely on bigger players, it's worth noting, if you are using, or considering using YouTube in your marketing plans around the event, the usage trends amongst YouTube's audience related to Super Bowl content.
A new player in the battle for advertiser attention around the Super Bowl this year is Snapchat. As reported by Digiday, after missing out on the big game last year, Snapchat has sold out its Live Story with the NFL for the Feb. 7 match-up, with Marriott, Budweiser, Pepsi and Amazon all signed up to be Snapchat Super Bowl sponsors. Snapchat signed a deal with the NFL back in September, and since then, the ephemeral content app has partnered with the league to produce more than 30 Live Stories around different NFL teams, giving Snapchat users unique and exclusive access into the NFL experience. According to Snapchat, 65 million unique users have consumed NFL content on the platform this season - with Snapchat users submitting nearly 60 hours worth of photos and videos to the company each game. Those are impressive numbers, and as you can imagine, both the NFL and Snapchat are keen to see what they can do around the Super Bowl to better reach the app's massive Millennial audience.
Last year, Snapchat missed out on the Super Bowl after asking for $1.77 million from a single, big-name sponsor for a Live Story around the event. Such a sponsor didn't eventuate, effectively leaving Snapchat on the bench - but this year, Snapchat's taken a different approach, signing up various sponsors and capitalizing on their new relationship with the NFL itself.
In order to tap into Snapchat for the event, brands can either run their own Super Bowl related content within their own stories, or they can pay to buy video ads on Snapchat's Discover channels. That option may be out of reach for most, but there is one other way that brands can get in on the action and play a part in what's expected to be a massive event for the app.
Back in November, Snapchat unveiled Story Explorer, a new way for users to discover Snapchat content. Story Explorer effectively enables users to see specific events from various perspectives, via various Snapchat users. Using a form of content detection and matching, Story Explorer will find related snaps to certain content, presenting you with more options to view that moment.
You'd expect that the Super Bowl would present a great opportunity for Snapchat to showcase this feature, and within that, it's possible that brands could tap into the stream and have their Super Bowl related content shown to a wider audience. It's no certainty that you'll make the stream, it's less of a 'strategy' than others, but a great, on-topic and entertaining snap could be selected and exposed to a wider audience via Story Explorer, in addition to being valuable within your own branded Live Story.
And the last platform to touch on here is Instagram. While Instagram's audience is probably not as aligned to the Super Bowl as others, it's sheer size alone means there's inevitably going to be a lot of Super Bowl related content, so long as you know where to look.
Instagram introduced a range of new discovery options in mid-2015, including trending hashtags and places, both of which are likely to play a part in the platform's Super Bowl coverage.
In addition to that, Rolling Stone this week released a listing of the top 10 Instagram accounts to follow for Super Bowl 50, including 50 Cent, Coldplay and, um, Mariska Hargitay (?).
Instagram's also released their new 60-second ad product just in time for the big game, with T-Mobile already using the option as an extension of their Super Bowl campaign.
A video posted by tmobile (@tmobile) on Feb 3, 2016 at 8:37am PST
There's no definitive, specific opportunity for smaller brands on Instagram, but brands will be able to tap into the trending conversation, and the new discovery tools increase the chances of that content reaching a wider audience.
The Super Bowl has become a massive marketing event - arguably the biggest advertising showcase in the world - and it makes sense for brands to look to tap into that conversation and generate more interest and exposure in their products within that wider event context, and social provides all brands the opportunity to do just that. The key element to keep in mind is relevance to your audience - staying on brand is crucial, even when trying to tap into a trending topic. And on top of that, originality. The brands that win out during the Super Bowl coverage are the ones that offer something new, something different, that are able to grab attention by hitting at just the right time with just the right message. It's hard to do, but for those that get it right, the benefits can be massive.
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