Marketing Briefing: Why brands like Verizon, Tushy, Anytime Fitness ran with more interactive Super Bowl efforts this year

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Advertising’s big night has come and gone — the massive ad spend required for this year’s Super Bowl had some seasoned marketers sitting it out altogether while others pushing for more bang for their buck.

Sweepstakes to garner attention without having to shell out the cost of a 30-second spot — this year the price tag was a cool $7 million — isn’t a new strategy but it is one that brands like Anytime Fitness, Tushy and Verizon, among others, employed this year. 

By making the Super Bowl ad more interactive, whether through the sweepstakes approach or by a guessing game of sorts (as, for example, Downy did by making consumers guess which celebrity would star in its Big Game spot) marketers wanted to find ways to make sure consumers wouldn’t just passively watch, or worse, ignore their spots this year. The build up to the game for the brands is then less about the traditional teaser, full spot, longer spot online and more about getting consumers to want to follow along, either by creating a mystery to solve or offering some incentive for them to do so. 

“This aspect of building excitement leading up to it, this interactive storytelling and really thinking about the story across time, it draws people in, gets them closer to the brand,” said Danielle Donnelly, chief strategy officer at social agency FKA. “It creates more moments of recognition and understanding.” 

It also incentivizes people to pay attention to the brand more around the Big Game and, marketers hope, afterwards. 

Verizon offered fans a chance to win tickets to the next three Super Bowls with its sweepstakes as a way to promote a new mobile plan. “Our goal is to mobilize as many fans as possible, regardless of their team alliance, to engage with the sweepstakes and imagine what it would be like to attend the Super Bowl for the next three years,” said Kristin McHugh, Verizon’s svp of marketing activation and creative, adding that the effort “drives football fans in-store to local Verizon retail locations” by having them bring their phones into stores for the new plan as well as apply for the sweepstakes.

Direct-to-consumer bidet brand Tushy, meanwhile, wanted to boost brand awareness more than move product with its $10,000 sweepstakes prize for posting a photo of a bowel movement on Twitter or Instagram and tagging the brand. It’s about leveraging the Super Bowl to drive impressions, reach and engagement, said Justin Reekie, vp of marketing at Tushy, who added that finding a way to get people to engage with the brand does more to drive engagement than a traditional 30-second spot. 

And offering prizes or making a campaign more interactive is often much more cost-effective for brands than a 30-second in-game spot. Anytime Fitness’s pitch of free memberships and trips to those who win its sweepstakes — viewers could use the brand’s hashtag #JustHeardAnytime whenever the word anytime was used during the game to enter — allows the brand to get in on the game without spending as much as other advertisers. 

“It doesn’t cost millions,” said Julie Anderla, vp of marketing at Anytime Fitness. “It’s pretty efficient — you can do [Super Bowl] in a smaller way. When you have smaller budgets, it forces creativity. It’s less about how much we’re spending and more about, How creative can we be?” 

Should the price of the Super Bowl continue to go up and marketers’ budgets continue to get squeezed, more marketers may have to do just that.

Kimeko McCoy and Julian Cannon contributed reporting.

3 Questions with CEO Meha Agrawal, founder and CEO of DTC self-care brand Silk + Sonder

For the first time, Silk + Sonder is debuting on QVC. Why?

Given the dynamics that we’re seeing with direct to consumer, we do have to rely on partnerships with folks like the QVC and other opportunities for retailers to start selling Silk + Sonder. We just need to accelerate the path towards [it] because that’s how you really have that global impact.

What are the current dynamics for direct to consumer businesses? 

Most DTC companies that started 2016-2019, you experienced Facebook ads working like a charm. That’s really where, once you figure out who your initial user base is, you can do the targeting that you need and reach a scale. Then suddenly, with the iOS changes, you’re like, “Whoa, what, what just happened? Why isn’t it working and then less reporting and all these things.” 

DTC businesses that are just starting out, the strategy is a little bit different than those of us that have luckily, in our case, tens of thousands of members and enough initial brand credibility.  If I was starting a business today, my strategy would just be to go back to the basics: Who are you targeting? Where do they hang out? Do the things that don’t scale. You want to have 100 customers that love your product vs. a million that kind of like it. 

How have the changes impacted Silk + Sonder’s marketing strategy?

The truth is, paid social, especially with TikTok emerging, there’s an opportunity to at least keep those channels running. This is so hard for me to say because I care so much about the numbers, but allowing paid social to be a brand awareness play, even if you’re trying to optimize towards conversions, you’ll be surprised how many people see your product on an ad a couple times. Then finally, when they experience a problem, they’ll Google it and try to find it themselves.

Don’t underestimate the long term opportunity that paid social could provide, which initially used to be more of a short term strategy. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

The Super Bowl, the advertising industry’s biggest moment of the year, draws millions of viewers every February. But this year, streaming services were projected to dominate viewership for the Big Game, according to digital marketing agency Adtaxi. Find more key points from the report below:

  • Streaming viewership (30%) holds a lead over cable (29%) and broadcast (26%) for the first time in Adtaxi survey history.  
  • Regardless of primary viewing, over half of adults (52%) will follow the Super Bowl via another kind of digital screen. That statistic is up from 46% last year. 
  • This year, two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults will purchase items in preparation of the Super Bowl. Half of us (48%) will purchase snacks in advance of the game, a 4% jump from 2022. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“ChatGPT on the surface may look like the future of creative writing, but if you dive in and take a deeper look, it’s approximative at best. It’s a tool that might help you get an idea out of your head but it’s not ready to be my copywriter.”

— Adan Romero, chief creative officer at Publicis digital agency FKA, on ChatGPT and the future of copywriting as some like Giant Spoon test out more uses for it.

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