The brand winners and losers of Super Bowl 50

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The Denver Broncos lifted the Lombardi trophy last night, their victory over the Carolina Panthers certain and decisive. But there wasn’t a clear winner in the other big game — the one being played off-field.

Brands were out in full force hoping to capture the attention of a highly-engaged second screen audience that spent just about as much time checking Twitter, Facebook or Instagram — but mostly Twitter — as watching the somewhat lackluster game.

We kept tabs of all the off-screen action in real-time on our live blog last night. And now as the potato chip dust settles, here are our picks for winners and losers of Super Bowl 50.

1. Doritos
Sure, its first ad, horrifyingly, featured an unborn baby forcing itself out of the womb, ‘Alien’-style, to grab Dad’s chips. But Doritos was the very model of a modern social media brand throughout the game, tweeting the craziest bits of its commercial throughout and replying to plenty of fans. Before the game even began, they tagged the sky, hiring pilots to skywrite “Super Bold” and draw chip-shaped triangles. According to Amobee, Doritos was the second-best-performing brand on Twitter, with 238,770 tweets mentioning it. On Facebook, it also made a splash, with over 28,000 likes and comments and 350,000 video views during the game on one post alone.

2.  T-Mobile
T-Mobile CEO and defensive back John Legere went on a tweetstorm, comparing his carrier’s speeds inside Levi’s stadium with Verizon’s. Verizon had spent about $70 million fixing up the network in the Bay Area ahead of the game, which made T-Mobile’s allegedly superior performance all the more awkward.

Whether accurate or not, he kept trolling his competitors throughout the game, effectively owning the dialogue on social media. Oh, and that Drake ad didn’t hurt either.

3. Budweiser That Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning planned to go home and drink Budweiser after winning the Super Bowl may have been the most startling brand revelation of Sunday. When Manning was being interviewed after the game by CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, he said he was going to celebrate by kissing his wife and drinking a “a lot of Budweiser.” And then — he said it again, on the stage this time. Analysts say those mentions were worth close to $3 million in free advertising. And Bud says it didn’t even pay for it.

(Manning has casually dropped mentions of Bud before during press conferences and the like — possibly because he has a stake in two Anheuser-Busch distributors in Lousiana.)

4. Esurance
Esurance has a tried-and-true game day formula: They run sweepstakes during and after the game every year on Twitter for the chance to win $1 million. It’s not creative, but it’s a good formula and ensures them maximum exposure: According to data from Amobee, Esurance had over 835,000 tweets — the most of any brand — in the four quarters of the game. That’s huge, considering Doritos, which had second-most, had just over 238,000.

5. Twitter
Twitter is dead; long live Twitter. A scant 48 hours after “RIP Twitter” trended on, you guessed it, Twitter, it was clear that for large scale live events, nothing beats the social platform. Facebook barely registered any brand voices — while plenty of brands did see video views come in from there, most of the digital activity was centered in and around Twitter and its live streaming site, Periscope.

Losers

1. Red Lobster
The brand dug its own grave pretty early on. When halftime performer Beyoncé calls you out in a racy lyric in her new song, you react — and fast. (We can’t print the whole lyric here, but the essence of it is that when Beyoncé receives carnal pleasure from her significant other, she treats him to a meal at the seafood chain.) But even as fans waited for the brand to say something about being included in her new single “Formation,” Red Lobster took eight hours to respond — and when it did, it was pretty awful.  

2. Avocados from Mexico 
Avocados from Mexico, a second-time Super Bowl advertiser, went all out with a war room. Its near-incessant tweeting to every brand out there just came off as thirsty.

3. Adam Bain
Twitter may have won, but its COO, Bain, didn’t. Bain spent the game tweeting constantly about how great Twitter was (we believe you!) and how terrible Facebook was. We appreciate the need to be a company man, but slow your roll.

4. Brand-on-brand action
Brands tweeting at other brands used to be cute because it was rare: Only once in a while did you see tantalizing smacktalk between competitors or a bit of flirtation between completely unrelated companies. But this year, it reached new levels. Some brands like Wix spent the entire four-odd hours tweeting at other companies. We’re calling this trend dead.