What event professionals can learn from the Super Bowl
Find out what event professionals can learn from the Super Bowl as a showcase of building up attention, creating and engaging communities, leveraging technology, and advertising.
This Sunday, February 13, 2022, the Super Bowl will see the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Los Angeles Rams at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Without a doubt, it will be the most-watched broadcast in the U.S. in 2022.
Indeed, the Super Bowl is consistently the most anticipated, watched, and discussed event in the United States every year. Twenty-eight of the thirty most-watched television broadcasts in the U.S. are Super Bowls. Brands go head to head to produce the best commercials and vie for customers´ attention. The half-time show is a mind-blowing event in and of itself.
While it is evident that most event professionals do not have the financial resources to pull off a show of the Big Game´s magnitude, we argue that the event offers valuable lessons.
Anticipation fuels attention
The anticipation for the Super Bowl is built up for weeks before the event day, as the NFL and the brands involved leverage a wide array of marketing strategies. For instance, Pepsi released the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show trailer, featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar.
Brands commonly roll out commercials and social media campaigns before the big game – and in the process, attract valuable media attention and commentary. When it comes to the event itself, the NFL and media build up every year’s edition using emotion-driven narratives and storylines, invoking its status as the “best ever” Super Bowl.
In that light, event organizers should consider building up excitement and constructing narratives around their events. For instance, event professionals can post sneak peeks before the event day, videos going behind the scenes on the event production, memorable moments from previous events, and short interviews with speakers. Otherwise, event professionals can also engage in PR strategies to bring media attention and promote their gatherings in local or industry press.
At its heart, the Superbowl is a shared cultural experience. Around 100 million people tune in every year, not only as passive and individual viewers of the sporting action but as part of a collective community. The majority of viewers see the game in a social setting, whether in the form of in-person gatherings or virtual communities.
Crucially, the experience is not only limited to collective watching. Talking about the ads with colleagues, debating the best players with friends, or discussing the half-time show is central to the event. People take sides and become personally identified with the teams and athletes involved in the occasion.
For viewers at home, this experience revolves around joining a conversation about the game, discussing the best commercials, or sharing their instant reactions to the half-time show on social media. On the ground, the Super Bowl experience is an interactive football theme park that offers fans the opportunity to get autographs from players, participate in games and shop merchandise.
In that sense, event organizers should implement community marketing strategies to create and engage long-lasting communities of attendees and like-minded professionals. For instance, tactics include the use of shared spaces for interaction among members, such as social media platforms or online forums, and hosting regular online networking and community-driven events.
Entertainment is vital
Alongside being a high-stakes sports event featuring elite athletes, the Super Bowl is one of the most renowned entertainment spectacles in the world. From the pre-game show to the signing of the national anthem, to the introduction of teams, to the half-time show and MVP awards, these entertainment moments surrounding the sporting play are vital to delivering an all-around memorable experience.
Most event organizers cannot afford to put something as grandiose as a Super Bowl show. Nonetheless, event professionals need to invest in entertainment as a critical point to elevate the attendee experience. Whether it’s a local music band, a stand-up comedian, or a caricaturist – entertainment breaks make events more fun and engaging.
Advertising is still relevant
Advertising is one of the most recognized tactics in a marketer’s toolbox, but its efficacy in improving brand awareness and customer intent is increasingly disputed.
Despite those concerns, the Super Bowl remains the premier advertising event of the year in the United States and symbolizes the prevalent acceptance of advertising. This year, ads for an in-game sport are selling at a record $7 million for 30-seconds of air time. Notably, 55% of Millennials and half of Gen Z say that Super Bowl commercials impact their buying decisions post-game.
Super Bowl ads are characterized by entertainment elements rather than typical advertising, tapping on the cultural significance of celebrities and sports personalities and increasingly leaning on influencers to deliver brand messages. They are reviewed extensively and celebrated by the industry before and after their airing. For many, Super Bowl ads are not separated from the story: they are the story.
As a result, the Super Bowl is a battleground for creativity in advertising, and every year, brands find new ways to surprise and actively engage viewers. For instance, Avocados from Mexico is giving around a million dollars of giveaways and has successfully driven consumer conversations around the brand. Bud Light is gamifying their spots, inviting fans to enter sweepstakes by posting photos on social media of all the zeros in front of them (in the Bud Light NEXT spot, on NEXT cans, street signs). Other brands take an educational approach, such as Hologic, which uses its ad to communicate the importance of early detection and treatment of women’s health issues.
In that line, event organizers can effectively use advertising by tapping into the power of cultural symbols or shared industry references. And, event marketers should consider using the platform of advertising to spotlight societal issues beyond the company’s bottom line, such as racial justice or gender equality.
The SuperBowl is also a showcase on successfully leveraging the most cutting-edge technology to its advantage. Broadcasters provide incredible viewing angles of the sporting spectacle thanks to the goal-line, sideline, and cine-cameras offering wide-angle lenses.
The SoFi Stadium, home to this year’s Big Game, has the largest videoboard ever created in sports. Samsung’s mammoth 70,000 square-foot 4K LED display immerses fans no matter where they are in the stadium. Furthermore, Twitter uses SoFi Stadium’s state-of-the-art roof to display “the craziest, off-the-cuff, realistic, unrealistic and hilarious Super Bowl takes.”
Tweet your wildest Super Bowl LVI prediction in 6 words or less— Twitter Sports (@TwitterSports) January 31, 2022
You’ll never guess where it might end up pic.twitter.com/MtVVpZXsBM
Additionally, the NFL is experimenting with digital collectibles and giving NFTs to every fan who purchased a Super Bowl ticket. Meta is partnering with the NFL to bring 3D avatars dressed in an official Bengals or Rams shirt.
Few event organizers can afford to invest in technology on this scale. Still, event organizers can take valuable learnings to implement technology to drive attendee engagement. For example, event professionals should consider using video walls showing viewers at home or displaying funny tweets relating to the event. And, event planners should invest substantially in A/V, offering different camera angles to deliver a dynamic viewing experience.
In conclusion, the Super Bowl is a prime example of creating anticipation and excitement around an event and building a collective experience engaging passionate fans and viewers. Event professionals can also learn from the advertising, the entertainment, and the technology surrounding the event. But we want to know: what is your personal take on the Super Bowl? What is your main takeaway from its ongoing success? Let us know in the comments below!
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