Firms engage viewers before unveiling Super Bowl ads to generate more buzz

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

The commercial "When Pigs Fly" by Nelson Talbot is one of the finalists in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest.
The commercial "When Pigs Fly" by Nelson Talbot is one of the finalists in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest.

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Even though the Super Bowl is still more than three weeks away, snack and beverage companies are ensuring they get the most bang for their potentially millions of dollars by using social media to build buzz around their ads, which will run during the Big Game Feb. 1

One of the most effective ways to ensure consumers stay glued to their televisions during the commercial breaks is to engage them early and often through social media and live events that make them feel like they are a part of the brand and the ad – which could cost firms up to $4.5 million this year for 30-seconds.

PepsiCo’s brand Doritos excels at engaging viewers with advertising leading up to the Super Bowl. For the ninth year in a row it is hosting its “Crash the Super Bowl”​ contest, which offers participants worldwide a chance to create and vote on the ad for the iconic chips that will air during the game.

This year, participants from 29 countries submitted 4,900 submissions, 10 of which are posted online​ where fans can vote through Jan. 28 for their favorite, which will air during the game. The brand also will select and air during the game its favorite from the finalists – many of which share common themes of young children going to great lengths for a Doritos chip or greedy adults who are unwilling to share. One winner will take home $1 million and could land a contracting gig at Universal Pictures in Hollywood.

Contests like this reach far beyond participants and often ensure friends, family, acquaintances and other voters will go out of their way watch the winning commercial.

PepsiCo also announced Jan. 8 that it will host a cooking competition in which four teams of students from The Culinary Institute of America will create unique Super Bowl party recipes using PepsiCo products as ingredients. Celebrities will judge the dishes and send two finalist teams to sample the dishes at Super Bowl events. The winner of the "Game Day Grub Match"​ will receive tickets to the Big Game and a $5,000 scholarship. PepsiCo also will donate $50,000 to the Taste of the NFL to support food banks nationwide.

First time Super Bowl advertiser Skittles also is engaging consumers and viewers early. It hosted a tailgating party with fans and former quarterback and Super Bowl champ Kurt Warner four weeks before the game.

A commercial featuring the shenanigans at the party in the stadium parking lot, including a hot tub full of Skittles, claims the candies will make will make game day “awesomer.”​ The Wrigley’s brand promises more activities leading up to the game to support its 30-second spot, which will run in the first-half of the game.

Wrigley’s partnered with the National Football League for the Super Bowl this year after its tremendous success last year with an ad featuring Skittles' fan​ and Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. In the ad, Lynch lifts weights filled with the candies. In another ad for Xbox Lynch pets a raccoon and eats Skittles.

Mars Inc.’s Snickers also will run a 30-second spot during the game, its first since 2011 when it launched its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”​ campaign with an ad featuring a hungry football player who is transformed into Betty White until a woman in the stands offers a Snickers bar, which restores the player to a young man. This year’s ad will feature the same tagline, but not White.

Longtime Super Bowl advertiser The Coca-Cola Company also will return this year with a 30-second spot. One of the company’s ads last year during the game featured children singing “America the Beautiful”​ in multiple languages and kicked up a predicted dust storm of controversy.

Opting for the play-offs gives firms more lead time

Rather than prime for one or two ads for the Big Game, some snack companies are opting to take advantage of the longer window provided by the playoffs.

Reese’s, for example, produced more than a dozen ads featuring comedian Jeff Foxworthy, acting as Ref Foxworthy, giving humorous twists on football rules. Among these are rules such as a pass interference may be called for not sharing Reese’s Minis.

Sabra Dipping Company also is commemorating its third season as the official dip sponsor of the NFL with “something for every fan, from easy game day recipes and in-store promotions to coupons and tailgating giveaways,”​ including two tickets to the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii, the company announced Jan. 6.

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