Super Bowl ’09: Social Media Hits the Gridiron

Super Bowl and Social Networking

There’s an old saw about the Super Bowl that the game itself is really just an excuse to watch the ads.

That might be a bit of a stretch, but the numbers don’t lie. Nielsen Online’s Blogpulse, a buzz-tracking tool that analyzes content in more than 100 million blogs, found that the day after last year’s game, one-third of the Super Bowl-related Web banter was about the ads, not the game.

With NBC reportedly charging rates as high as $3 million for a 30-second spot, the Super Bowl has a steep entry barrier for advertisers. It’s no wonder then that many are taking to the social Web to build buzz and brand awareness with their ads as they try to get the most bang for their buck.

It is also a testament to the fragmenting media landscape, where advertisers are becoming aware that they can no longer rely on a one-way communication model to reach their audience. If people are building relationships and having conversations on social media hubs like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, then advertisers need to plant a flag there as well.

On Twitter, for instance, “Super Bowl” and “Superbowl” are among the top trending topics, along with the just-enacted Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, singer John Martyn (who passed away this morning), and evergreen Web fodder “Apple” and “iPhone.”

But fans aren’t the only microbloggers getting in on the action. In anticipation of its Sunday spot, E*Trade has created a Twitter account for its talking, stock-buying baby who stole the show at last year’s big game. Nielsen’s Sandra Parrelli told that last year’s ETrade ad was second only to Pepsi’s spot with Justin Timberlake in day-after Web buzz.

So far etradebaby doesn’t have much to say for himself. As of this writing there are five tweets: “Baby powder … like taking your bottom on a tropical cruise”; “Making my way down to Tampa for some pre-Big Game R&R”; and three directing users to sites where they can see outtakes from this year’s TV spot.

E*Trade is offering the footage that landed on the cutting room floor on its own site, and has also put the clip on YouTube, where it has attracted nearly half a million views.

For advertisers like E*Trade that want to keep their ad a secret until it airs on the live broadcast, online video can be an effective way to tease out the television ad. In some cases, the result is an ad advertising an ad. Universal Orlando Resort, for instance, is previewing its Super Bowl spot on the Orlando Sentinel’s Web site in a video ad that shows snippets of the TV commercial, promising an “unprecedented offer.”

Other advertisers aren’t being so cagey with their Super Bowl ads., for instance, is showing its 60-second ad in its entirety on YouTube, available here.

Ditto, another perennial Super Bowl advertiser. In addition to posting its ad on YouTube, the jobs site is making its presence felt on Facebook. Careerbuilder is taking out banner and sponsored ads, using Facebook’s new polling feature to engage people with its ads and profile page, and rolling out a Facebook gift, which is taken from its Super Bowl ad.

Finally, reclaiming its unique position among Super Bowl advertisers is domain name registrar

GoDaddy has a storied history of producing risque ads with suggestive puns and double entendres and submitting them to the network’s standards and practices review board, knowing full well that they won’t clear. Last year, GoDaddy used the Super Bowl spot that did air to direct you to its Web site, where you could see the one that was too hot for the censors.

This year, CEO Bob Parsons and crew may have toned it down a little, but the ads are still racy. Two spots cleared NBC standards and practices, and GoDaddy invited people to view them both on its Web site and vote for their favorite. The winning spot will air on the TV broadcast, but you’ll have to tune in to find out which one got the most votes.

If the online landscape seems a bit too fragmented to keep track of everyone’s interactive promotion strategy, the Web has a hub for you. has aggregated information from the advertisers about their spots, news stories and archived video of Super Bowl ads dating back to 1998. It also has some all-time favorites from previous years, including Apple’s iconic “1984” ad.

In true Web 2.0 fashion, the site is even running a Twitter polling feed where people can rate the ads throughout the game.

Set, hike!

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