Forget the sweat and the game we don’t understand: Super Bowl is creative nirvana

So I’m no sports fan & certainly no expert on American football. So if you are, don’t hate me. This post is about the creative opportunities and constraints of the media event that is the Super Bowl. Relatively few people watch the Super Bowl in the UK compared to the monster audiences in the US – because it’s on during the small hours and the American version of our beloved football is confusing for many. But that’s not to say it’s not one of the most talked-about events in media land.

For well over two decades, the event’s coveted ad slots have been the source of endless curtain-twitching for the planet’s creatives as they crane their necks to see who can do what with a couple of million dollars and the biggest TV audience of the year. It’s almost become a competition, not only in terms of who can afford to advertise (answer: more than 50 companies) but also who can pull off the coup of the night and end up the most-talked about on social media.

What appeals to me more, though, is the bun-fight that goes on for the scraps. Translation – those often less-moneyed but sometimes more creative agencies who try and garner publicity via a back door route. Brimming with swagger, their attempts to ‘hijack’ the event are often creative gold. Not surprisingly, this kind of approach scores highly on my own personal top 5 Super Bowl creative moments…

5/ Chevy Game Time

US car brand Chevy were one of the official advertisers of the 2012 game but cleverly used their ads to keep viewers thinking about their cars for the duration of the match and beyond. A whopping 700,000 people downloaded an app that allowed them to interact with Chevy’s TV commercial, specifically by answering questions about the ad they’d just seen. By answering them correctly they could win a Chevy. Neat, if a little cynical.

4/ Doritos’ ‘Giant Dorito’

Well, sort of. The world-famous nacho kings have been a big part of the national Super Bowl ad circus for almost a decade, having run a competition each year in which members of the public get to come up with an official Super Bowl ad idea, win a stack of cash and then see the ad screened during the game. But for me they won top creativity points in 2014 when they gave out 50 tickets to the event, made the winners wear an orange shirt, and roughly assembled them in a pattern that looked vaguely like a Dorito in the distance. Twitter gold.

3/ Old Spice ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’

Yes, it was one of the official TV slots in 2010, but this ad debuted at Super Bowl was really cool and worked well as part of a bigger campaign. It was short and funny, unlike the Ferris Bueller Honda ad in 2012 which must have cost and fortune and didn’t really work for me.

2/ Volvo’s car-ad hijack 2015

For the price of five new cars plus a bit of media spend, the Swedish car giants pulled off a clever stunt at this year’s Super Bowl by offering their Twitter followers the chance to win a car whenever another car company’s commercial came on during the match. All you had to do was tweet #volvocontest with details of who you’d like to win the car for… guaranteeing in the process that your attention was instantly diverted from whichever marque you’d been looking at on the telly.

1/ Newcastle Brown Ale ‘If We Made It’

Brilliantly spoofing the ludicrousness (and enormity) of the event in a fittingly tongue-in-cheek manner, this irreverent faux-ad from the canny northern brewers (via Droga 5) won them an award at last year’s Cannes Lions. Really funny, really British and pennies (well, relatively) to make. A brilliant hijack and a case study in turning your negatives (not as much money) into a positive.



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