Coca-Cola dispersed three ads starring its polar bear mascots throughout Super Bowl XLVI, “Superstition,” “Catch” and “Arghh.” But in an apparent first, it prepared different versions of the second two to choose among depending on how the game unfolded.
"Catch" shows two bears watching the Super Bowl, each wearing a scarf in his team's colors: red and white for the Giants and blue and white for the Patriots. During a time-out, one worried bear -- the one whose team is losing in real life -- steps outside. If the teams had been tied, Coca-Cola planned to use recent plays to decide which bear was most despondent. In the final ad, “Argh!”, the more-frustrated bear takes a walk to vent.
"Sure, it's probably not something [2012 Super Bowl network NBC] wants to set a precedent on, but the idea was appealing to them because of the buzz factor," Pio Schunker, then senior-VP integrated marketing at Coca-Cola, told Ad Age at the time.
The ads were part of an integrated Super Bowl campaign in which the bears watched the whole game live, reacting to plays, the halftime show and even the ads on a website at www.cokepolarbowl.com. The team at Coca-Cola agency Wieden & Kennedy practiced for three months, watching old footage of games to prepare for a variety of game-day scenarios. Ultimately, the biggest complication was the relatively good kind -- the team was repeatedly forced to add servers to accommodate traffic. The @CocaCola Twitter handle, which was handed over to the polar bears, saw a 12.5% increase in U.S. followers before the game even started. As kickoff approached, 32,000 people had RSVP'd on Facebook -- 15 times the goal -- leading the Coca-Cola team to plan for 300,000 concurrent users on the live stream. But the stream hit that mark during the pre-game show, necessitating the addition of six servers.
The number of viewers on the live stream grew throughout the game, which led to the addition of another nine servers for a total of 18. Eventually the Coca-Cola team, stationed in control rooms at Major League Baseball's Advanced Media, moved over to MLB's servers to accommodate the traffic. By the third quarter, more than 600,000 users were watching the live stream, and capacity had been increased to allow for 1.1 million users.
There was still a slight time delay on the Polar Bowl, Mr. Schunker said -- six to seven seconds on average. "It was unprecedented for us," Mr. Schunker said just after the game. "We had planned for contingencies -- if things blow up what do we do -- so it went smoothly. In the end, with all the feeds coming in we couldn't keep up with it. We did our best. We had a whole staff of people writing and responding to people, but it was just crazy by the end."Send credit info to [email protected].