FROM THE OFFICE OF CHRIS WEIL: Brands think outside the TV “box” when it comes to experiencing the Super Bowl

This may be the 55th year for the Super Bowl, but for many advertisers, it’s a year of firsts. It’s the first time a Super Bowl stadium will not be sold out, the first time in memory both Budweiser and Coca-Cola will be on the sidelines, and the first time there has been a collective effort to engage viewers in their homes.

The desire for the game and for brands to provide escapism is even higher than usual, with an estimated 186.6 million U.S adults* planning to tune in on Sunday. Some brands are sticking with TV spots, like General Motors, but they are utilizing the spot to showcase their progressive model range of electric cars. Others are seeing it as an opportunity to literally think outside the TV “box” to engage with this captive audience.

Super Bowl has always been more than a game. It’s a cultural moment—a collective experience that brings people together. Throughout the pandemic, consumer mindsets have shifted as people have craved experiences to transport them out of their living rooms. We’ve seen all ages become open to digital experiences, relying on technology to stay connected with their loved ones. This year’s Super Bowl has presented the opportunity for brands to build on this shifting consumer understanding and digital adoption to interact and engage with sport fans like never before.

New research found that 73% of US consumers want more gamified elements in their experiences, exposing an opportunity for a savvy marketer. Verizon seized the moment and created a 5G stadium in Fortnite for both gamers and football fans. Bridging the gap between the biggest game in America and the biggest gaming community in the world, a collective of master builders from all over the world developed a magnificent stadium. It includes custom game modes inspired by the NFL and its players and tells the authentic story of how 5G is changing gaming. The experience includes the production of Twitch live streams with simulcasts on Twitter and YouTube, showcasing gaming influencers and NFL talent playing in the Verizon 5G Stadium in Fortnite. With the use of creativity, innovation and experiential, brands can deliver a unique memory for sport fans while they sit in the comfort of their own home.

With Bud stepping away from 37 consecutive years of ads spots, we are also seeing brands take innovative steps to support fans with clever campaigns. Did you know that during a “normal” Super Bowl an average of 1 billion chicken wings are consumed? Since many of those would have been consumed in neighborhood bars and restaurants, what happens this year? We’ve seen brands partner with celebrity chefs to bring this football staple into the home with free virtual cooking events. A few years ago, virtual cooking would have held little interest or perhaps even intimidated many consumers, but not anymore. Our recent research shows that 86% of people globally are interested in attending blended experiences. This provides an opportunity for brands to step up and “own” experiences, creating content people want rather than a 30-second message break that is targeted at them. Brands can move from borrowing or renting someone else’s audience to owning their own. Virtual and live experiences are now fully ready to work together.

Blended experiences are not solely for the Covid era. When the time comes to be able to hug loved ones, sit in crowded bars and be deafened by a roaring crowd at a stadium, our world will have changed permanently. Venue experiences will be taken to the next level. New technologies, like what Verizon is doing at this year’s Super Bowl with their 5G Ultra-Wideband and 5G Edge Computing, will create new experiences for fans. They will be able to safely share experiences through technologies such as thermal screenings, identifying potential health issues in large crowds, facial authentication to keep lines moving with fast-lane access and crowd analytics, predicting crowd movements to help reduce congestion.

Non-traditional media channels, such as delivery services, have strengthened during Covid, changing how brands can engage with consumers, especially when there is a cultural moment like the Super Bowl. Sport fans rely on brands to enhance their overall experience, and just because they are at home, it doesn’t mean the opportunity isn’t there. Brands have wisely used this chance to try new ways to engage with consumers, as well as realizing traditional routes are still relevant with TV spots reaching a huge audience. The experiential market will continue to boom as we see the year continue and people have an even wider access to blended experiences. But for now, sit back, order your takeout, tune into Fortnite and cheer on your NFL team!