How to Boost Your Super Bowl ROI

Consider that $3 million you just dropped on a 30-second Super Bowl spot a waste of money — unless you’ve got a smart, calculated search-and-social-media strategy behind it.

Last year, the ads from the big game racked up 99.5 million collective online views, according to Visible Measures, which tallies viral-video data; 98.7 million people watched the game on TV, per Nielsen. It’s further proof that while Super Bowl is still valuable because it’s one of the last high-profile, mass-media TV events, it’s maximized with an ongoing online effort.

“Social media provides a longer shelf life for people’s campaigns,” said Anthony Iaffaldano, senior director-strategy and innovation at Reprise Media. “It’s about who’s got a plan in place to take the equity they’re building through all this activity and activate it after the game. Social media becomes more valuable as you continue to engage.”

Super Bowl

About 90% of brands had their Super Bowl ads up on YouTube in 2009, estimates a Google executive, although that’s just the bare minimum. A quarter of the brands in the Bowl tapped social networks to try to drive additional comments, ratings and conversation. And more than two-thirds bought paid-search ads against their brands or products.

This year, those figures will be even higher, setting the stage for what might be the most significant study to date on the interplay between paid and earned media. Marketers such as E-Trade are already planning how they’re going to extend their spots online.

And while the buzz of the game’s commercials will provide a healthy dose of PR value, most of the big winners from past years also relied on paid-media support. Visible Measures said paid promotion more than doubled the reach of a Super Bowl ad on the web. In that regard, brands in the game have come a long way. In 2005, only 21% bothered buying paid search around Super Bowl ads; last year that figure more than tripled to 65%, according to Reprise Media, which creates an annual Super Bowl scorecard rating advertisers’ online efforts.

So it’s no surprise the online-video-sharing sites are building major programs around the Super Bowl, hoping to capitalize off the dollars marketers will be putting against the game. YouTube is again promoting its Ad Blitz, and has created an entire editorial channel around the event, complete with its own custom content it can sell.

“One thing marketers are struggling with is ‘Do we put [the ad] up on our site and try to drive people there?’ or ‘Do we put the content on other sites?'” said Andrew Budkofsky, senior VP-sales and partnerships at “It depends on the marketer and its goals — if you’re running a specific promotion you might send people to your site and that’s why we do the custom content — so we can speak to a promotion and do editorial plugs. We can create custom content in a video.”

Here are lessons from Super Bowl’s past to make sure you make the most of the big game.


According to Google, searches for “Super Bowl commercials” start rising about a week before the game at a rate of 10% to 20% a day leading up to the game. (They peaked the day after the Bowl.) Meanwhile, Visible Measures reports pre- and post-game buzz can account for more than 50% of a campaign’s reach.

E-Trade is the poster child for a smart pre-game strategy; last year it released outtakes from its talking toddler campaign several days ahead of time. It took over the YouTube home page the Thursday before the game to promote the spots.

E-Trade also bought search terms on YouTube as well as on the main engines and set up a Facebook and Twitter account. Today, the E-Trade baby is still yammering away to its 3,000-plus Twitter followers. (A recent gem: “Can someone give me the 411 for the tooth fairy? Are milk teeth a commodity? If not, mine are staying in my mouth.”) No surprise, it’s back in the game again this year and already working on its online push.


Doritos has epitomized this for the past two years, running contests to see who could create the big game spot. The strategy capitalizes on the fact that friends and families of the finalists spread the word around the web since votes help determine the winner.