Sunday, February 7 saw the 50th American Super Bowl. The Broncos heralded victory over the Panthers, Beyoncé arguably stole the halftime show (despite avoiding an onstage fall), and social media lit up with buzzing conversation throughout.

For Sunday, Facebook reported 60 million people posting Super Bowl-related content, with more than 200 million posts, comments and likes.

By the next morning, the official twitter hashtag, #SB50, had received 5.93 million tweets.

One of the huge parts of the Super Bowl this year was again the commercial ad breaks, which year on year aims to consistently push the creative boundaries.

A total of $392m was reportedly spent on the on the TV Super Bowl commercials this year, with a 30-second ad spot averaging $5m. So you’d think, with such an active live social TV audience, advertising creatives would have utilised that active audience to engage with their adverts more dynamically. Unfortunately, no.

Nationally, only 45% of the 60 ads that were shown included a hashtag, giving the social audience no real direct payoff incentive to engage. One big exception was Esurance (link here): viewers were asked to retweet #EsuranceSweepstakes during each ad, to win a share of $1m throughout the game.

A very effective social TV strategy given there is a key reward for audiences to engage socially. Furthermore, the engagement mechanic was to discover the @Esurance account and find the content to retweet, which led @Esurance to have a total of 1.1m mentions on Twitter, trumping the next-largest ad handle mentions (@Pepsi, with 396k).

This essentially showcases that if audiences are given an incentive to get involved with these ad slots socially, then they are incredibly inclined to do so.

But creatively speaking, the Super Bowl ads can go much further with social!

Socially reactive ads have been proven in the UK to really drive social audiences to engage and convert them into viewers, the Ed Sheeran dynamic advert that was championed with Channel 4 & Agency The 7 Stars, was seen by 5% of all of the UK viewing public at the time. Viewers were driven to decide which song they wanted Ed to play on screen. Simply, the song with the most hashtag votes was played out to the viewing public during the ad slot. The ad became a unique live interactive music event.

No longer is a hashtag alone enough to entice audiences to engage.

So come on, agency creatives! If you activate those live event’s social audiences, not only will your brand’s social mentions increase; you’ll also be raising those all important viewing figures for the networks. Currency which is never going to go away in broadcast!


Photo © Asif Islam /

About Author

Tom Bowers is Head of Europe at Tagboard, a company specialised in social aggregation technology, offering simple ways to search and share social content with audiences. Its technology is used by leading brands, media companies, sporting teams and leagues worldwide, to unite their communities conversations, amplify their social engagement, and create countless impressions.

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