Real-Time Marketing Lessons from the 2014 Super Bowl

In the marketing world, we all know that the Super Bowl isn’t really about football – it’s about the advertisements! This year, however, it was really all about real-time marketing. With brands duking it out on Twitter to achieve their Oreo moment, the actual game was a snoozefest in comparison. Unfortunately, many brands tried and failed to harness this opportunity to reach real-time marketing fame, and some are wondering if real-time marketing is dead. Let’s tally up the scores and see who made a touchdown, who missed the kick, and how your brand can take its real-time marketing strategy to the next level.

The Scorecard

Last year, Oreo’s tweet about the Super Bowl blackout was hailed as the true winner of the game. Did this year’s brands stack up?


Brand: J.C. Penney

Strategy: Playing it Dumb

Score: Failed Attempt

J.C. Penney tried to stand out from the crowd with a lesser-used strategy: playing it dumb. They sent out a couple of strange, misspelled tweets that certainly created a buzz, but not necessarily a good one. Many thought that the brand’s account had been hacked, which certainly doesn’t inspire consumer trust in your brand. Mashable notes that this is an unfortunate trend in real-time marketing – while brands could once get by on wit, now they have to play dumb to get attention.



Brand: Domino’s

Strategy: Trying to Fit In

Score: Failed Attempt

While Domino’s tried a little harder than J.C. Penney, I’m still scoring their tweets as a failed attempt. The brand tried to make pizza relevant to the Super Bowl, but unfortunately, they failed. The number one rule of real-time marketing is not forcing it, and that’s exactly what Domino’s did with their half-time show quip and #PizzaDance.


Brand: Victoria’s Secret

Strategy: Brand-On-Brand Action

Score: Extra Point

One real-time marketing strategy that a lot of brands chose was brand-on-brand action, or responding to other brands’ ads and tweets rather than creating their own. While some think brands were spending too much time conversing with each other and not enough time talking to their customers, others believe this strategy is good for brands because it humanizes them. Personally, I think that some brands did it better than others. This response from Victoria’s Secret to a Volkswagen ad wasn’t a winner, but it earns the extra point for relevance.


Brand: Coors Light

Strategy: Brand-On-Brand Action

Score: Field Goal

Coors Light was another brand that chose brand-on-brand action as their real-time marketing strategy. Their witty response to J.C. Penney scores a field goal because it’s hilarious, which really humanizes the brand in the eyes of the consumer. It’s also relevant to football, which is a bonus.


Brand: Tide

Strategy: Brand-On-Brand Action

Score: Touchdown

Yet another brand that capitalized on other brands’ marketing efforts as its strategy, Tide got a little more creative than Victoria’s Secret and Coors Light. They spent the Super Bowl creating Vine videos in response to other brands’ advertisements. For example, this tweet was accompanied by a short clip of “Buds 4 Life” being written on a t-shirt in dirt followed by a bottle of Tide with the sign “Tide Gets It Out.” Tide scores a touchdown for putting extra effort into their brand-on-brand action.


Brand: Buffalo Wild Wings

Strategy: Witty Retort

Score: Two Point Conversion

Buffalo Wild Wings took this real-time marketing opportunity to craft a clever tweet referencing their recent ad campaign – commercials claiming that the brand has a button that makes games last longer. While this witty retort worked, it wasn’t particularly exciting, which is why it only earns a two point conversion.


Brand: Oreo

Strategy: Bowing Out

Score: Touchdown

After last year’s Super Bowl, all eyes were on Oreo. Rather than attempting to one-up themselves, Oreo gracefully bowed out of the competition. This strategy scores a field goal because it follows another main tenet of real-time marketing: know when to take a step back and not force it.


Brand: Progressive Insurance

Strategy: Bowing Out

Score: Touchdown

Progressive Insurance chose the same strategy as Oreo, acknowledging that sometimes, your brand just isn’t relevant. They score a field goal not only for following the real-time marketing rules, but also for continuing to humanize their brand through the Flo personality. esurance1


Brand: Esurance

Strategy: Giving Away Free Money

Score: Touchdown + Extra Point

Esurance was the stand-out winner of this real-time marketing competition. They cleverly chose to run the very first ad after the Super Bowl, saving $1.5 million. Then, they ran a Twitter contest, asking users to tweet using #EsuranceSave30 for a chance to win that money. They ultimately received over 2.1 million tweets, 200,000 of which occurred within the first minute of them airing the ad. Esurance scores the touchdown and the extra point with a strategy that everyone loves – giving away free money.

Honing Your Strategy

While some experts believe this year’s round of Super Bowl tweets signals the death of real-time marketing, many brands did get it right. By understanding the rules of real-time marketing, you can hone your strategy and ensure that you score a touchdown each and every time.

  • Timing: With real-time marketing, timing is everything. Posting that tweet too early or too late can be a major fumble for your brand. Only engage in real-time marketing when you are absolutely certain about the timing; it’s better to stay silent than risk a social media #fail.
  • Wittiness vs. Awkwardness: Many brands attempt to achieve real-time marketing success by being witty, but more often than not, they come off as awkward instead – that’s what happened to Domino’s in the example above. Rather than stretching to create witticisms, wait for the right moment – you’ll know when it is.
  • Keeping It Simple: Another tenet of real-time marketing is keeping it simple. If you have to think about that tweet or Facebook post for it to make sense, it’s not going to be effective, especially during the big game.
  • Knowing Your Audience: The success of real-time marketing is entirely dependent upon how much a tweet or post resonates with the audience. This means that you need to know your audience. Understand what is relevant to them and what will catch their attention before making a real-time marketing attempt.
  • Authenticity: As with all social media marketing, authenticity is critical for successful real-time marketing. Before engaging, your brand needs to cultivate an authentic voice that your audience can relate to on social media.
  • Planning Ahead: Real-time marketing may seem spur of the moment, but the best campaigns are those that are planned well in advance. The most successful brands train their marketing staff, choose a specific event to implement their strategy, and brainstorm ideas in advance.
  • Daily Engagement: You can’t launch an effective real-time marketing campaign without harnessing your audience first. Your brand needs to draw in its audience through daily engagement before going for the big win.
  • Using the Right Resources: Another aspect of planning a real-time marketing strategy is leveraging the right resources. There are numerous resources out there to help you discover what’s trending online and learn how your brand can make the biggest impact, including Google Trends and
  • Not Forcing It: Last but certainly not least, the key to successful real-time marketing is not forcing it. Similarly to Oreo and Progressive, it’s important for your brand to know when to engage and when to take a step back. With real-time marketing, it’s always better to hold back than to embarrass your brand and create negative attention.

How has your brand successfully engaged in real-time marketing?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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