Social Best Practices from Super Bowl Advertisers

Published on Feb 9th, 2016

by Jack Weinstein

We could argue all day about which Super Bowl 50 commercial was the “best.” Instead, I’ll just tell you which brands generated the most engagement on social media.

The Super Bowl is no longer a one-night advertising opportunity. In recent years, brands have used social media in the weeks before the big game to tease their commercials or get a head start on a new campaign or product release. And this year, most brands aired full versions of their ads at least once on social before the Super Bowl.

About 50 brands paid a record $345 million to advertise during the Super Bowl . We examined the social performances of the brands that advertised during the Super Bowl and the week leading up to it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. From our analysis of how the brands performed from Feb. 1 to 8, we were able to determine which social best practices drove the most engagement.

Victoria’s Secret was the fifth-most-engaged brand of 2015 so it’s no surprise to see them take the top spot among Super Bowl advertisers on social. The lingerie brand’s top post featured models Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio at the game on Instagram, where it generated 98% of its social actions (likes, comments, shares, retweets and dislikes) in 2015.

Disney Brands Among Super Bowl Winners

After Victoria’s Secret, one of the Super Bowl’s biggest winners was the Walt Disney Co. Not only did its social pages generate the next-most engagement in the week before the Super Bowl, but Disney-owned Marvel performed well. Its social pages and pages promoting the upcoming Marvel movie “Captain America: Civil War” all ranked in the top 10.

Marvel scored strong engagement with trailers. Its "Captain America" trailer was the third-most-engaged Facebook post during Super Bowl week.

Disney also capitalized on its upcoming “The Jungle Book” reboot and release of “Alice Through the Looking Glass." While it posted a trailer for “The Jungle Book” on Facebook, Disney generated more engagement with a still image from the movie posted to Instagram . Its “Alice Through the Looking Glass” trailer was also among the five-most-engaged Facebook posts on game day.

Partnerships Generate Engagement

While Disney was one of the top performers on game day, T-Mobile was one of the standouts in the week before.

It partnered with Drake, which led to the most-engaged Facebook post and three most-engaged tweets among Super Bowl advertisers in the week before the game. T-Mobile leveraged the success of Drake’s Hotline Bling music video to create its commercial. The wireless brand isn’t the first to use the video as inspiration for a social campaign. Butterball was wildly successful with its Thanksgiving #TalkLineBling campaign on Twitter .

T-Mobile posted 30-second and one-minute versions of its ad, which both generated at least 200% more engagement than T-Mobile’s next-most-engaged Facebook posts.

T-Mobile also found success with another partnership. Steve Harvey, who continues to poke fun at himself after announcing the wrong winner during this year’s Miss Universe pageant, appeared in T-Mobile's #Ballogize ad posted to Twitter.

The second-most engaged Facebook content in the week before the Super Bowl was posted by Budweiser, which fell just outside of the top 10. Unlike last year’s #bestbuds commercial, which helped illustrate the shareability of posts that tell a story , Budweiser took a different approach with its Super Bowl 50 commercial. It partnered with British actress Helen Mirren for its #GiveADamn campaign, its PSA against drunken driving.

While Mirren doesn’t boast the social following of other stars featured in Super Bowl commercials, the Budweiser ad used social currency to encourage its audience to share.

Enticing Audiences with Sweepstakes

Esurance was among the top 10 Super Bowl advertisers on social because it generated more engagement on Twitter than any other brand.

The insurance brand held a sweepstakes to give away $50,000. Anyone who retweeted Esurance tweets that included #EsuranceSweepstakes or tweeted using the hashtag was eligible. The campaign, which ran from Feb. 4 to 8, generated 563,000 total actions, 92% of its engagement during Super Bowl week. Each tweet generated 28 times more retweets than other Esurance content. Retweets are important because they amplify brand messages.

The first tweet of the campaign was the third-most-engaged tweet of Super Bowl week. Nearly 80% of its engagement came from retweets.

While just outside of the top 10 advertisers on social during Super Bowl week, soft drink behemoths Coke and Pepsi scored engagement points with different social strategies.

Coca-Cola posted only 26 times to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during Super Bowl week. But one of those posts tapped Marvel’s popularity in a cross-promotional campaign featuring characters that will appear in the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War.” The commercial was among the six-most-engaged Facebook posts on Gameday.

One the other hand, PepsiCo posted a whopping 98 times during that time period. Pepsi’s most-engaged posts were part of its #UpForGrabs sweepstakes campaign. Pepsi used offers in a majority of its posts, especially on game day.

Its Not Just About the Commercials

Automotive brands Hyundai and Audi found themselves among the 10 most engaged brands during Super Bowl week.

Audi used a strategy familiar to luxury automotive brands to generate engagement on Instagram. Its Super Bowl commercial, which it posted to Facebook  and Twitter  featured its new Audi R8.

Instead of posting a condensed version to Instagram, which would have limited the minute-long commercial just 15 seconds, Audi posted a user-generated photo, one of the brand’s social best practices.

Winning on Instagram

While a number of brands succeeded in engaging their audiences before and during the Super Bowl, one of the real winners was the NFL.

The NFL generated 30.2 million actions during Super Bowl week on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Of that engagement, 78% was posted on Instagram, where the NFL posted less often than the other three platforms.

On Instagram, the NFL generated more than 100,000 actions per post. That’s about 4% more actions than the engagement it generated per post in 2015 when it was one of the year’s top brands .

Its most engaged posts celebrated the champion Broncos and its star players, including Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and Peyton Manning, who may have played his last game in the NFL.

Which Super Bowl commercial was your favorite? Share yours in the comments and let us know if you engaged with any of the top Super Bowl brands.

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