By Alexandra Zamfir

February 15th, 2016

What does your brand’s social media and the Super Bowl have in common? While millions of fans gather at Levi’s stadium or in front of TVs for the biggest football match of the year, another game is being played in the advertising industry and with high stakes. The Super Bowl is the Hall of Fame for advertising, where some brands make it big, while others flop – and fans turn to social to voice their opinions and help spread the message of the brand, or join the chorus of posts criticising the campaign. There is also the third option, the worst of them all – going unnoticed.

Here is a quick overview of what was happening on social before and during the Super bowl (mentions of brands on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in connection to the event):



Your audience might not be quite as big as those of the brands at the Super Bowl – or on the contrary, might be bigger. You might be running social media for a B2B company, or for a product that’s considered to not be sexy enough for social. At the end of the day we are all faced with similar challenges in terms of building an engaged and loyal audience. We need to find the right messaging and the exact way to deliver it – and the basis of this is not dependent on the amount of budget you have. It’s all in how well the brand’s true identity shines through, and how the message resonates with your fans.

The reaction to their Super Bowl ads represent a real test for brands, in terms of finding ways to amplify an already growing hype, or being ready to put out fires if necessary. This year, there were a few advertisers that were able to breathe a sigh of relief, as their efforts paid off and audiences joined in to carry their message. In this article we will be taking a look at what they did right and what lessons social media managers can extract from these best practices.

#1 – Axe #findyourmagic

With this ad, Axe has proven an evolution in mindset, becoming a more mature, and more importantly, a more inclusive brand. Axe is celebrating all men and everything that makes them special, be it flaunting a big nose, a big brain, or rocking pumps on the dance floor. For years, Axe positioned themselves as the brand of choice for men wanting to increase their attractiveness. With this ad, Axe is no longer limiting itself to one specific category, men that want that one thing and have Axe to help boost their image. They have chosen to reposition themselves as the brand suitable for all men, unique and special in their own ways, and different in their wants and needs.

Their message shows a deeper understanding of who their buyers are and then showcases those faces as their new spokespeople. They managed to attract many positive reviews and make a splash on social, where people were excited and inspired by this new approach. It also gathered almost 10 million views on Youtube in a month since launch.

What did they get right? Their audience. That is exactly what us, as social media managers, should have at the forefront. Do you know who you’re talking to? Get to know your audience, really understand their needs and behaviours. Your fans are driving your brand, keeping your business running and you should be looking to cater to them first and foremost. Try to deep-dive into how their needs change as the day progresses and different events occur, and match your offering for the specific point in time. This is very much a data analysis exercise, but even the smallest changes can bring visible increase in positive results. For example, is your product something that fans normally look for after work? So send your posts out minutes after the hour to pop up in their feeds at the optimal time when they are commuting.

#2 – Mini #DefyLabels

Mini bet big on their Super Bowl ad by gathering together loads of celebrity star power in the delivery of the spot. Other brands did that too, making this Super Bowl one of the most popular in celebrity sightings – so what put Mini at the head of the pack? It all comes down to the messaging. Celebrities with stereotype-bashing careers such as Serena Williams, Abby Wambach, T-Pain, Randy Johnson, Tony Hawk, and Harvey Keitel were the perfect picks to fit the message of the ad: defying labels. The brand managed to broaden its horizon from fully focusing on the product to delivering a more powerful concept than that: fighting labels and promoting inclusion.

“This powerful concept leverages the brand’s new sophisticated positioning, with a little bit of the MINI attitude that’s always been there,” said John Butler, chief creative officer, BSSP. “It goes beyond a typical celebrity endorsement. This creative is all about not letting others define you, or for that matter, what you choose to drive. It’s about never giving others that power over you”.¹

How that translates to social is in the brand image we create. As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it in his book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” – “Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally do ask them to buy from you, they feel like you’ve given them so much it would be almost rude to refuse”², and that is exactly what Mini’s strategy is. They are thinking audience needs first and leaving the product on the backburner, in an attempt to create this positive association. Mini knows there’s more to ads than shouting about your product, and that audiences will appreciate more a caring and involved brand, with a meaningful message to communicate.

#3 – Budweiser #GiveADamn

Budweiser has consistently had a great presence at the Super Bowl, with ads that have led the buzz and made people all over the world talk about them. This year, they chose a bit of a different approach, by focusing less on the product offering (the beer is still featured in the ad) and more on an educational message to their audience: Don’t drink and drive. Budweiser realized that they cannot step away from their business purpose, selling alcohol, but they can be a mindful brand that has the consumers’ needs at the forefront.

For this, Budweiser enlisted Dame Helen Mirren, who, in a very candid British tone, delivered their message of drinking rationally and responsibly. Even though the topic is of the most serious nature, the delivery of the message is unique and interesting, grabbing the attention of their fans.

As a social media manager, you should try to see beyond the celebrity endorsement and British accent, and focus on the key take-away: Be part of the solution, not the problem. Budweiser could have easily illustrated several people in a bar, drinking and having a good time – but they chose to position themselves as more than that, and be educators for the public. That is what you can do, as well. Your product may not cause as much controversy as drunk driving, but your approach should still focus on trying to constantly educate your audience on topics that resonate between them and your brand. Strive to be the place on social where consumers go to find answers to specific questions – and take a direct approach in delivering answers, much as Dame Helen Mirren does. Not quite as blunt, but having a clear message, stripped down of confusing insinuations and fancy delivery. Your audience will thank you for it.

#4 – Mountain Dew #puppymonkeybaby

Mountain Dew has always been the wild child of the PepsiCo family. Everyone was expecting the brand to deliver something unusual – so they went one step further and introduced #puppymonkeybaby to the masses. It’s still the right amount of quirky, the right amount of Mountain Dew, but spiced up enough to create a viral sensation. Love it or hate it, Mountain Dew is one of the winning ads of the Super Bowl, creating an incredible amount of chatter around the ad. Their hashtag was trending for the duration of the event, and the social buzz is still going, making the ad an instant viral hit.

That’s also something you, as a social media coordinator, should have in mind. Create a brand voice that’s true to your intent on social, and one with which your audience can relate. This is a crucial part of every social media strategy, as it sets the tone for all your other activities and campaigns. Another important lesson: commit and stay true to your voice. It takes time for your fans to get accustomed to your style, so don’t confuse them. As well, don’t be afraid to show who you are – fans love personality, so showcase yours as much as possible.

#5 – Doritos #Ultrasound

The Doritos ad is a clear winner of the SuperBowl – it has caused heated discussions all over the internet and a good amount of controversy. At this point, we have all heard of this amusing ad, be it from TV, from somewhere on social, or from a chat with a friend. It’s funny, light-hearted and at the same time has its fair share of creative silliness. Doritos, much like the other brands, proved a good knowledge of their target audience, understanding that they would need an entertaining concept to release the tension of the game. It worked like a charm. The ad, which features a pregnant woman getting an ultrasound while her husband munches on a bag of Doritos, attracted almost 2 million views on Youtube and a total of 893,465 shares, according to Unruly, making it the most shared ad of Super Bowl 2016. 

The last tip is a tried and tested one – have fun with it. Remember your fans are human and they enjoy a little humor mixed in. Not all brands can enjoy the luxury of a full commitment to entertainment and nonsense, however a quirky approach is always welcome. This could be in the way you handle customer queries to alleviate some tension or simply showing the human side of your brand.

Turning lessons into strategy

It might seem that the Super Bowl is a big budget fest, and for the most part you would be right. Keep in mind though, the same brands that create these campaigns have similar challenges as all of us – what message am I communicating? And what is the best way to deliver it? Big budget is not a certainty for success – the negative implications are actually bigger and more painful when the message is not correctly tailored, as companies have to account for wasted money and negative exposure. With the power of social media and word-of-mouth, and the right creative idea, all brands have an equal chance for success and winning big.

When put into perspective, these 5 ads contain precious pointers and best practices for social media managers to help them in their quest of engaging audiences. In addition, take into consideration that all of them have been first and foremost optimized for social by the introduction of the hashtags as a way to give direction to fans that wanted to share their opinions. This is a clear indication that advertisers and marketeers have a social-first mindset and are aware that important conversations will take place on social – might as well gather those voices in one place.

The task is now to figure out what makes sense for your brand and apply that to your social media activities. These findings can be used as a solid start for creating your brand’s social content strategy or giving it a refresh.

At the end of the day, not everyone can play in the Super Bowl advertising big leagues, but you might as well take every opportunity to learn from the participants. What other social media tips stood out to you from the Super Bowl?


¹Mini Cooper (BMW) Press Release 

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