The Super Bowl in a Networked World

As one of the most well watched events of the year, the Super Bowl is able to captivate a massive live audience of eager Americans like no other event on television. Advertisers use the primetime media slots to put their best work forward for the largest audience of the year, which has made commercials just as popular with viewers as the actual event.

Although the 2017 Super Bowl was not the most watched game of all time, it still drew 111.3 million viewers to the live event; which many advertisers viewed as an opportunity to state their brand’s alignment with a definitive side of a bipartisan issue and capitalize on the current political climate.

Budweiser, AirBnb, 84 Lumber, Google, and Audi all tackled current political issues like immigration, sexism and racial discrimination, but many of these progressive statements received blowback on social media. As Northwestern Marketing Professor Julie Hennessey explained in a recent Forbes Magazine article:

“Some of that [negative reaction] comes from a perception of a manufacturer and seller of products trying to grab an issue and align with it for their own gain.”

BUT perhaps it was these 5 companies’ ability to recognize and capitalize on their “Brand Authority” to actually help activate and engage social media users that made their messaging so powerful, opinion-forming, and lasting.

“Your Brand Authority is the framework for creating content strategies and being a part of relevant conversations with consumers based on topics they care about and are willing to share” Forbes Op-ed Contributor Jeff Fromm explained.

On social media consumers are always in control of interactions, so creating “content that is relevant to [millennials], their interests, passions, lifestyles, needs, desires, etc. and… can fit into their lives and streams of consciousness in ways that are unobtrusive and interesting,” differentiates brands on social media and adds value to the consumer according to CEO of V3Broadsuite Shelly Kramer.

#BoycottBudweiser was a trending topic among social media users opposed to its immigration-themed commercial either because they view it as a statement against Trump’s Muslim ban or because “political ads have no place being aired during [the Super Bowl],” a Washington Post article quotes from @SupportDonald’s Twitter. However, it became the most-watched online ad of this year’s Super Bowl and successfully aligned themselves with their core younger, more progressive demographic.

Additionally, Audi’s #driveprogress campaign advocating equal pay for equal work and AirBnb’s #weaccept commercials also were able to touch upon topics important to millennials in a way that made them feel empowered when used to a networked world that evokes a sense of nascent helplessness.


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