Year-Round Lessons from the Super Bowl for Millennial Marketers

By: Sean Brenner

PHEW! Have you recovered from that Super Bowl yet? The biggest comeback of all time, mind-boggling highlights for both teams, the fifth title for that Brady guy and the first-ever Super Bowl overtime. Not to mention Lady Gaga’s performance and, of course, the ads.

Make no mistake, the halftime show and commercials are still very much a part of the experience for most viewers. More than half of people surveyed last month by Burston-Marsteller said they would be disappointed if the game were broadcast without ads, and among “constant users” of social media, 71 percent said they love watching the halftime show, versus 58 percent overall. How meaningful the ads are to millennials might be another question. The same survey found that 2 out of 3 millennials prefer the game itself to the ads and halftime show.

But with such a huge audience of millennials watching, there’s no question that advertisers are using the game as a platform to reach them. Some observers pegged last year’s game as a turning point, the first Super Bowl in which marketers were most clearly going after millennials.

Even if spending millions for a 30-second spot on the biggest sporting event of the year isn’t in your future, what marketers are learning about leveraging the Super Bowl has some lessons for reaching millennials that should resonate year-round:

Build in social media.
Even a few years ago, a big chunk of the Super Bowl’s millennial viewers said they would be upset if they couldn’t engage in social media during the game. And with any big event, tweets and Facebook posts have become a standard part of the experience. So brands need to fully engage here, even if the campaign is focused in another medium — and not just use social media for one-way messaging.

Go multiplatform.
An Adobe Digital Index report last year found that half of millennials are “watching sports content on smart TVs, mobile devices, PCs or gaming consoles.” Is your marketing creating links to those other platforms?

Tie in to issues that matter. (So long as it’s authentic!)
Kia’s “Hero’s Journey” Super Bowl ad stood out because, for one thing, it featured the always-entertaining Melissa McCarthy. For another, the vignettes about the hero’s attempts at saving our glaciers, trees and whales likely resonated with socially active millennials. Sure, it’s somewhat easier for a hybrid car to make the enviro-friendly connection than for some other products, but the lesson still holds.

To amplify that last point, nearly 9 out of 10 millennials said in a survey that it’s critical for brands to show how they’re giving back to the community via Super Bowl marketing. As big as the Big Game is, don’t forget that there are 364 other days this year to use your marketing to demonstrate that commitment.