The football gods have been kind and the lockout has ended. It's the beginning of the NFL season, which means an increase in both avocado sales and healthy advertising budgets to capture the 20 million-plus weekly viewers. Although the season has just begun, advertisers and marketers are already thinking about the big game. Super Bowl XLVI, with a projected 100 million viewers, will be the seminal marketing event in the U.S. This year, NBC has nearly sold out of inventory at a going rate of more than $3 million per 30-second spot. Creative agencies are brainstorming concepts for witty TV ads with clever viral extensions. Media agencies are crunching numbers to ensure a communications mix that will drive results on paid and earned media. Yet, as all of the agency elves go to work in Santa's Super Bowl Shop, there is a silent but powerful medium that some brands have discovered and others are still yet to grasp: mobile.
A Super Bowl ad without a mobile extension is like shaking Peyton Manning's hand without asking for an autograph. Over the past three years, brands have increasingly used the mobile medium to trigger immediate engagement at the point of exposure. Thanks to mobile devices, brands have a chance to carry the $3 million per 30 seconds further than ever before. The past two Super Bowls showed exponential growth in the use of mobile strategies, and this year will be no different. If brands haven't jumped on the mobile bandwagon yet, it's vital they do it now and for other major live or televised events.
Talking from experience
Earlier this year, we worked with a handful of brands that had a strong Super Bowl XLV presence. One large brand made every effort not only to create a mobile-optimized site, but also an HTML5 site with content optimized for the iPad and linked to its Super Bowl ads. Their eagerness and ingenuity paid off -- during the first two quarters of the game, the mobile site received more traffic than the online site.
With results like this, implementing a mobile strategy is no longer optional in order to compete for football fan mindshare. So how can brands use mobile technology to engage fans and not just replicate these results, but surpass them during Super Bowl XLVI? Here are a few tips for both media and creatives to develop a winning strategy:
1. No device left behind
Ensure that your site works on phones and tablets and uses the full breadth of the medium. Take advantage of location or rich CSS3 transitions on smartphones, utilize the experience of digital print that a tablet produces or simply make sure images render on lower-end devices that are not HTML5 supported.
2. Connect the dots
In 2010, it was a blessing to have a site that was optimized for mobile and had a user interface with a few pieces of content. This year and beyond, mobile content has to feel relevant, especially if users are seeking you out after watching your commercial. Make it easy for them to relive your ingenious TV spot. Create an interaction with a brand ambassador or get them quickly to a point of purchase while the iron is hot. Mobile should be an integrated touch point to all Super Bowl plans before, during and after the event.
3. Add paid media
You've just spent a small fortune on TV ads. For less than a tenth of the price, you can have a paid mobile search, display and video strategy that captures the in-the-moment behavior of users. Studies show that cross-media exposure drives additional conversion, whether it's taking your media sponsorships mobile or enabling multiple layers of targeting, from handset type to location or behavior. Google and Ipsos OTX research shows that 71% of smartphone users search in their phones after ad exposure, whether from traditional media (68%), to online ads (18%) or mobile ads (27%).
4. Get social, baby
Twitter and Facebook continue to be big winners every Super Bowl. According to Semiocast research, Super Bowl XLV was the topic of more than 4.5 million tweets. Additionally, for the first time in 2011, viewers were given the chance to vote on their favorite Super Bowl ads on Facebook. Methods of gaining earned media can easily be done by mobile and in some new inventive ways. For example, for a music-driven ad campaign, Old Navy teamed up with music-identifying service Shazam to connect smartphone users to a virtual store to buy clothes and download music featured in the ads.
5. Measure Success
Perhaps most important, but least thought of , is how you'll measure your mobile Super Bowl strategy. We have spent more than a decade integrating the relevant pieces of mobile marketing technology from ad servers to mobile web and SMS platforms that enable you to serve, execute and track which media placements lead to specific interactions. Furthermore, looking at when and where you received traffic paints a clear picture of consumer mobile behavior, allowing for continual optimization at any large-scale event. Yes, you spend a large fortune at the Super Bowl, but that large fortune should mean large returns and a large data set that will make you a better marketer.
Just as social media in 2011 becomes a part of the Super Bowl starting lineup, mobile will be the new rising star that will make a difference this season. Having already talked to a number of major brands, the intention of utilizing the mobile medium is clear. The next step is helping to achieve measurable results so that CMOs not only will boast about what Super Bowl ads were run, but also gauge their impact by mobile site visits and app downloads. By having access to the right info at their fingertips, consumers won't only be talking about the commercials, but the products that relate to them as well. So move over chips and guacamole, move over bottle of beer, there's a new Super Bowl companion taking up hand space and it's the mobile device.
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