Over 112 million people tuned in the 52nd edition of the Super Bowl last weekend, making it tenth-most watched program in U.S. television history.(CNN) Move over, Seinfeld.

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Not only is it the most anticipated televised event in the US, it is one of the biggest marketing and advertising opportunity for brands.

According to Marketing Week: “The Super Bowl is arguably the most coveted ad slot in the world…the average cost of a 30-second commercial during the game in 2015 was $5m (£3.5).”

That’s the equivalent of selling approximately 250,000 bottles of Tide detergent, in case you were wondering.

Are Super Bowl ads worth the price tag?

But why do so many mega-brands like Tide, Coca-Cola, and M&M, spend so much money on Super Bowl ads? They definitely don’t need the exposure.

The thing is, these household brands aren’t just buying ad slots during a popular football event,You’re buying access into a conversation, you’re buying access to be a part of a memorable experience, you’re triggering emotion..it’s a long tail strategy.” Explained Amy Avery, Chief Intelligence Officer of Droga5 Agency, who created a number of the winning Super Bowl ads. 

The Super Bowl is so much more than a just a sporting event, it’s THE live-broadcasted event of the year. It’s also an experience, a community, and a global conversation.

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In fact, only a handful of other televised events can generate more buzz for brands pre, post, and throughout the event.

“Hitting the Super Bowl’s huge audience of about 115 million people, multiple times, is one way the big guys can take advantage of being a big guy….which is getting harder and harder in modern times.”(Adweek) In fact, getting people to buy your product is no longer the sole purpose of marketing and advertising campaigns. It has shifted to getting them to talk about your brand.

Advertising in the age of digital distractions

As marketers, we can all understand how hard it is nowadays to engage with our audiences. Everyday, we are bombarded with email offers, sponsored Tweets and now even ads in our private Facebook messages. Because of this, brands must work twice as hard to deliver marketing campaigns that are relevant and stand out from the rest. This can especially difficult for the big brands whose ads we’ve seen hundreds of times. 

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For this reason, these companies spend the better part of their year planning every mili-second of their Super Bowl campaigns. “The ads represent months of research, hundreds of hours of planning by marketing teams, dozens of scripts, and 14-hour days of filming.” (Forbes) This is why the Super Bowl has seen some of the most brilliant ads ever created.

You may not have the huge budget or the amazing resources to help you pull off a Super Bowl-level ad campaign, but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply their winning strategies to your own marketing or social media campaigns. Here are the 5 that we learned from this year’s ads.

1. Keep it simple but execute it perfectly

Your campaign idea doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be well-executed. The best ads of Super Bowl including Tide’s ‘It’s a Tide Ad’, and Amazon’s ‘Alexa Lost Her Voice’, were simple concepts, but the ideas, casting, timing, and filming were absolutely flawless. 

This means that you need to go through every part of your campaign pre-launch to ensure that every element flows smoothly. From editing your video, testing your app, coordinating your promotion plan, collaborating with influencers, to proofreading outgoing tweets – everything needs to work perfectly. 

2. Humor only works well when done well

Humor works amazingly well to get people to recall ads. We can all remember a time when we chose one product over another because you were suddenly reminded of their hilarious ad. 

Amazon, Bud Light and M&Ms were just one of the many brands that went down the funny route in their ads in this year’s Super Bowl. “Now more than ever, I think people want—no, make that need—to laugh a little…Heck, even the NFL itself needs a break from all of the politics. The beauty of the Super Bowl is that you have a captive audience who are there to have a good time.” (Adweek)

Keep in mind is that funny campaigns aren’t always easy to do well. Wendy’s unfortunately missed the mark on this with their Super Bowl ad mocking McDonalds’ frozen beef patties. There was a bad Titanic joke somewhere in there. It was overall a failed attempt to highlight the freshness of their own burgers. While it’s entertaining when we see brands diss each other publicly, this just wasn’t as witty on TV as it is on Twitter.

Our suggestion? Get a good number of people to review your campaign internally before you launch it. If you’re the only person laughing – you may want to rework it.

3. Collaborate with the right influencers

The Amazon and Doritos campaigns showed that working with celebrities or influencers relevant to your brand can amplify your efforts in a big way. The two campaigns had a combined 42 million views on YouTube alone. 

What these two companies nailed was that they chose celebrities that were relevant and were perfect fits for their brand.

Pepsi on the other hand, didn’t get it quite right. Instead of hiring highly-coveted models or singers in their new ad, Pepsi decided to use nostalgia to remind the audience that: “This is the Pepsi that your grandparents (or this cool celebrity) once drank.” Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same effect as having Britney Spears or Cindy Crawford in your ad at the height of their careers.

Can’t get Morgan Freeman or Gordon Ramsay to collaborate on a campaign? Try working with micro-influencers instead.  

4. Hit them right in ‘the feels’ 

“The world can never have enough brands with souls,” says Eric Springer, CCO at Innocean. Campaigns that humanize brands allows your audience to see your company in a different light.

The best campaigns of these types focus on telling inspiring stories with real emotions, where the product or brand is merely in the background. Whether it’s to give thanks to your customers or to highlight how your company is contributing to a larger issue –  try creating campaigns instill the ‘feel-good’ factor.

5. Be unexpected

Great ads like The Dollar Shave Club and Poo-Pourri tend to stick in our heads forever. Why? Because they took something that we’ve seen a thousand times (razor and bathroom spray commercials) and turned them into something refreshing that we didn’t anticipate.

Tide’s ad came out on top against all other Super Bowl commercials by applying the same winning strategy. By parodying classic Super Bowl (and non Super Bowl ads), the ads all unexpectedly end up being… Tide ads. It was clever, funny, refreshing, and definitely deserving of the trophy.

Try taking an campaign idea that has worked well in the past and spin it in a different way. Can you create the same type of campaign using user-generated instead of influencer content? Can you repurpose an awesome video series into a Instagram Stories campaign? Good ideas can be used more than once, so don’t be afraid!

Over to you

What were other marketing strategies you’ve observed in this year’s Super Bowl or other live events? Share with us in the comments.

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Sandra is a content marketer at Mention. She hails from Vancouver, Canada, and keeps her pulse on all things digital marketing. She's also really into Game of Thrones and cats. You can find her writing cheeky tweets @sandrogynous

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