Getting A Super Jump…

We hit the midpoint  of brand awareness madness as the worlds of sports, pop culture and marketing move toward the Super Bowl at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans. There will be the usual hype around the ad campaigns unveiled during the game, a cavalcade of promotion that in some circles has become as big as the game itself. While millions will talk about the winners being the Ravens or the 49ers the following day, still millions other will debate the pluses and minuses of brands that will try and leverage a very heavy buy with consumer engagement coming out of the game and its global audience.
As we watched last week’s AFC and NFC Championship Games we came up with another thought on how to beat other brands to the chase of the Super Bowl. Why not launch a campaign, especially one with large domestic consumer ties, in those games and not wait for the Super Bowl? These days we see holiday advertising spread out for months to try and stay ahead of the competition, so why not leverage the massive, two networks, day long into primetime platform that the NFL offers up?  Would it make more sense and create more buzz, and maybe even set a precedent?
Here’s why launching on Championship weekend could make sense for brands looking long term.
1-      The audience is massive. While not the global size of the Super Bowl, those tuning in at some point during one of the two games will come close to the Super Bowl audience size combined. The combination of the two championship games have become celebrity buzz generators for the network and grow an exceedingly bigger audience for casual fans who in years past may have only watched the Super Bowl. Now those fans appear more engaged for the Championship games and their storylines as well.
2-      The broadcast window is diverse. The two games, spread across a pair of networks, Sunday was Fox and CBS, give a brand the opportunity to cultivate a fan on different broadcast platforms. While some categories may be exclusive, the ability engage in a window of live play almost twice the size of the Super Bowl can be very, very appealing as well.
3-      The day provides a great launching platform for brands also engaging on Super Bowl Sunday. The Super Bowl is a brand launch platform for many; why not make it a brand destination? While there are some brands that use the game as a wrap-up for season-long contests, and others like Pepsi and Visa that are using digital ties to pull in fans, an innovative brand could actually launch its campaign on the Championship day and then get two weeks’ worth of buzz to their next step at Super Bowl Sunday. Maybe there is an audience tie in, maybe it is voting to decide the end of a spot, maybe it involves an athlete. Whatever the choice the window is there for the offing.
4-      It becomes a brand differentiator. Yesterday’s commercials during the games were the same ones that have played during the season. Greg Jennings and Old Spice? Seen it many times. State Farm and Aaron Rodgers? Been there.  By using the Championship Games to unveil something new and different, fans are more apt to have a greater recall, especially in a category where competition is tight. Films certainly appear to get the idea of engagement on championship day, why wouldn’t other brands as well?
5-      Twice the passion. While the Super Bowl is definitely more pop culture today, it is still about the markets of the teams. The final game brings two markets, the championship games bring four. Twice the opportunity to engage on the day in the market, should a brand want to carry out grassroots opportunities in addition to the broadcast ad launch.
Now of course this concept is not without risk. Doing a program on the ground to augment the spots will be tougher, as you will not know the home markets until the Sunday before. There is less of an opportunity for hospitality for the Championship games on site, but there are great chances to engage through pep rallies and other events in the markets of all four teams.
We now live in an environment where being “first” is much more tantamount to success than ever before. Engage now, get the attention span captured first, and you are ahead of the competition. Super Bowl for brands is all about that competition, so getting a two week head start would make a great deal of sense.