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13 Lessons in Marketing, Super Bowl Style

By Bobette Kyle
Posted Friday, January 21, 2005

Each year, the Super Bowl provides marketers opportunity to study and learn from the games' advertisers, players, and coordinators. Super Bowl XXXVI (February, 2002) was no exception. Foremost, of course, was The Game's appropriately patriotic theme. America's mettle and proud heritage were showcased to the world through this year's red, white, and blue logo; music selection by the performers; and depictions of historic U.S. icons. The Game further supported U.S. patriotism through the presence of the armed services, police department, and fire department at the game as well as interviews with troops in Afghanistan. Finally, as if by design, the unlikely Patriots won the championship.

Super Bowl XXXVI provided other lessons as well -- lessons applicable to small budgets as well as large. Because the same marketing basics and strategic rules apply whether you are marketing online or off, the lessons can be applied to Internet as well as traditional marketing activities.

On to the lessons -- one for each Old Glory stripe.

Lessons from the Advertisers

Lesson 1: Know your target audience.

Both Pepsi and Levi demonstrated this lesson.

- Pepsi's commercial re-creating several campaigns through the years showed how the company changed its advertising and image to reflect the teen target's interests. The commercial also played to the current teen market's interest in nostalgia.

- You may have noticed that Levi ran the same commercial twice during the game -- the first time in English, the second time in Spanish. This reflects an awareness and appreciation of target audience demographics.

Lesson 2: Research.

Before airing the Super Bowl commercial, Levi completed a customer preference survey of visitors to the Web site. The winning spot was aired during The Game.

Lesson 3: Consider launching your campaign around an event.

E*Trade launched a new campaign by firing the monkey and officially announcing a new image. This new positioning carries through to the E*Trade Web site. You can also watch the commercial on E*Trades site.

Lesson 4: Teasers can build interest.

Anonymous mLife commercials in the days before the Super Bowl caused many to wonder, "Just what is mLife?" Late in the game, AT&T revealed mLife as the concept of a mobile, wireless life. Mlife, presumably, is prelude to a series of new AT&T products.

Lesson 5: Research trademarks carefully.

As a result of the mLife campaign, MetLife initiated a lawsuit against AT&T claiming mLife will dilute the MetLife brand. The lesson? Be aware of the potential for opposition from those with similar names, even if your products are unrelated. This pertains to domain names as well.

Lesson 6: Sponsorships can help build brands.

Schwab, E*trade, and Miller all helped brand equity by sponsoring portions of The Game this year. Consider this same tactic on a smaller scale. Numerous events, ezines, Web sites, and local causes offer sponsorship opportunities.

Lesson 7: Events are new product opportunities.

Reebok is offering limited edition commemorative sneakers. Super Bowl apparel is abundant. You can apply this same technique by brainstorming new products related to both online and offline events.

Lesson 8: Be sensitive to changes in sentiment.

This year E*Trade ditched the cute monkey in favor of a more trustworthy company image. Likely, this is due in part to a change in values and expectations from the company's customers.

Lesson 9: Strategically place brand logos.

Motorola produced headsets worn by The Game's coaches. You probably already knew - their logos flashed on the screen in every coach shot. Logos were predominant on the earpieces and facing outward on the microphones. Take a cue from Motorola and place your logos where they will be seen.

Lessons from the Game

The league and teams themselves displayed lessons in marketing related to strategy, analysis, and implementation. Among them:

Lesson 10: Involve your customers.

The NFL draws interest in both its broadcasts and Web sites by conducting votes online. During the game, fans were asked to take various polls online and could vote for the Super Bowl MVP.

Lesson 11: Promote across media.

The team used multiple media outlets - game broadcasts, ( (, and ( -- to promote the game. Additionally, they synergistically built audience for all three outlets by cross-promoting each through the other two.

Lesson 12: Take advantage of competitor's weaknesses.

Look for a chink in the competition's armor and use it to your best advantage. One of the few Ram's weaknesses is a propensity for turnovers. The overmatched Patriots knew exploiting this weakness was one of the few chances they had of winning The Game. When the opportunities came, they were ready.

Lesson 13: Implementation is key.

The underdog Patriots played a strong game. When it was time to execute, they pulled it off well. The same holds true for marketing programs. Preparation and planning are meaningless without effective implementation.

About the Author
Bobette Kyle draws upon 12+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing research in her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network, (, and author of the marketing plan and Web promotion book "How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Website Marketing For Small Budget Business." (


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