Peter Stringer
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SuperBowl XLV = Social Super Bowl I

What do you get when you combine the biggest TV event in American culture with emerging media and advertising? Sunday will mark what might end up being remembered as the first-ever Social Super Bowl.

While there’s been a digital component to the Big Game over the last decade, with the explosion of media attention surrounding Facebook, Twitter and digital media in the mainstream media over the past 12-18 months, this year’s tilt is poised to be the biggest social media event in the medium’s nascent history.

As it is already, sports and social media dovetail nicely, and Facebook and Twitter owe much of their success to their natural fit with the affinity-laden brands of the sports world. And when it comes to second-screen experiences, the NFL’s game progression, emphasis on statistics and overall pace makes it the ideal second-screen sport.

Volkswagon - Star Wars Commerical

The Volkswagon/Star Wars Commercial may have ben the most memorable spot of SuperBowl XLV.

But perhaps most important is this marriage: advertising goes hand-in-hand with the NFL’s showcase event, and this year it’s expected that more brands will look to activate viewers by driving them to their social channels than ever before. And they’ll look to do it in unique ways, whether it’s by driving football fans to their Facebook page or labeling their 60-second spots with a Twitter hash tag. Making an impression isn’t enough this year; brands are looking for social media’s biggest buzzword: “engagement.”

A quirky, memorable commercial is only half the battle this time around. Talking babies, Geico Cavemen, and “Wazzzup??” won’t be enough. Provocative Go Daddy commercials from a few years ago that directed fans back to the website to see the “uncensored” version of their commercial may have preyed on males’ base and unrefined instincts, but they were certainly ahead of their time with the idea of driving consumers to their website to convert business.

And for those brands who want to generate buzz, will they go the route of dialing up YouTube stars like Ted Williams and Antoine Dodson, or the Double Rainbow guy, to get your attention? I’d bet you may hear from all of them. And Volkswagon already took the YouTube spoiler approach, earning 10 million views on a Star Wars themed ad that could get more exposure on your friends’ Facebook wall than it will get on your flat screen on Sunday.

I don’t have any stats to back this up, but let’s assume that while the men at your Super Bowl party will be using commercials as an excuse to grab another beer, snack or take a bathroom break, the women in the room will be dialed into the commercials. Stereotypical? Perhaps, but advertisers will likely zero in on this concept, and given that statistically, women are spending more of their online time on Facebook than are men – and will likely be doing so while the Steelers and Packers are colliding on the field – it’s a huge opportunity for brands to drive customers to their social presence.

It will be interesting to see which brands look to push fans to their own website, and which go the facebook.com/brand route. And as a social media observer whose Patriots collapsed a few weeks back, for the first time, I may truly have more interest in the ads than the football this time around.

Sad but true.

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About Peter Stringer

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Peter Stringer is in his ninth season with the Boston Celtics. Currently serving as the team's Senior Director of Digital Media, Stringer manages the the team's interactive and social media marketing and strategy.

Opinions expressed herein represent those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Boston Celtics.

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