The Social Media Playbook: Three Brands That Won During the Big Game

There is no “time out” in the world of social media. Brands can follow the best-laid plans between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., but an event at 8:37 p.m. could change the game in unforeseen ways. That is exactly what happened during last night’s Super Bowl game between the San Francisco and the new world champion Baltimore Ravens.

For the few who were not watching Super Bowl 47, something happened in the Big Easy at 8:37 p.m. that will be discussed all week: the lights went out. Specifically, half the Mercedes-Benz Superdome lost power. While play would resume at 9:10 p.m., the game had changed for both the teams in the stadium and the audience at large.

Social media streams exploded with Tweets and posts about the blackout. While most joked about the outage and complained about the event, three companies saw an opportunity and immediately took action. They observed the blackout, monitored the content streams, and seized the moment to leverage their brands in a manner more successful than most million-dollar advertisements. They looked, listened, and then responded. In my book, Oreo, Audi and Tide all share the title of Super Bowl Social Media MVP.

Oreo’s response to the blackout will likely be a social media case study for years to come. The brand responded quickly not just with a tweet or a post, but with an image. This Tweet was retweeted over 10,000 times in the 33 minutes the lights were down, meaning it was shared on average 303 times every minute. The only thing missing was a glass of milk.

Audi literally made jaws drop when the company responded to the power outage in a manner that not only promoted its brand, but also took a swipe at a competitor. This tweet, coming nearly nearly two hours after Audi aired their Super Bowl ad (and only seven minutes after the blackout), has received almost 10,000 retweets. Mercedes-Benz may have had nothing to do with the power outage, but Audi’s swift comment definitely placed it above its main competitor for the evening. It can be dangerous to attack other brands, but Audi “toed the line” better than most NFL receivers.

Last, but by far not least, Tide’s response to the blackout left a mark on the social media world. Just like Oreo, Tide tweeted a message and an image, but the social team went a step further. With their #MiracleStain ad set to air during the 4th quarter, Tide’s team made sure to include the #MiracleStain hashtag into their blackout. With just one tweet Tide was able to reinforce its brand identity while also managing to provide additional leverage in advance of the social media campaign it was already promoting. The additional bump helped pushed their TV advertisement into the top 10 most discussed ads for the evening.

The impact of these tweets is made all the more impressive when compared to the costs of the advertisements these companies purchased. This year a 30 second ad during the Super Bowl cost between $3.8 million and $4 million dollars. For a tiny fraction of the cost of their ads, these companies were able to rapidly multiply their ROI and capture the attention of the audience far better than companies who were not responsive.

Too often companies use social media only as a platform to broadcast content. They push and promote their messages without observing and reacting to the world around them. While doing so may not necessarily cause harm to their brands, it prevents them from recognizing and seizing creative and valuable opportunities that can’t be planned ahead of time. If brands want to truly leverage the power (pun intended) of social media, they must be nimble and responsive to the world around them. Even between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.


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