Three content marketing lessons learned from Super Bowl 50

Another year, another Super Bowl – and a whole new crop of ads to analyze and enjoy.

There’s always much to learn from watching major brands as they take TV’s biggest stage, and with Super Bowl 50 being the third-most viewed telecast ever, the stakes were incredibly high.

As usual, the insights we gleaned can be used to inspire and inform future ad campaigns. But their value doesn’t end there. Several brands employed strategies that are ideally suited to content marketing campaigns.

Here are your top three content marketing takeaways from Super Bowl 50 campaigns.

Put mobile first

Mobile as a channel is vital to content marketing success… but are you bold enough to part with tradition in order to appease your mobile audience? That’s what Jeep did with its stirring Portraits ad.

Created by agency Iris Worldwide, the ad used only a third of the screen; the photos were deliberately placed vertically and optimized for viewing on a mobile device.

“We thought about how wouldn’t it be interesting to build a spot so it worked really beautifully in portrait mode on a tablet or a mobile,” Sean Reynolds, Global Creative Director of Iris Worldwide, told WIRED magazine. “It was the only way we could really frame these amazing faces and tell this story.”

The decision to air decidedly mobile-friendly creative on game day suggests a turning of the tide: marketers are finally going all in on mobile content.

“It’s a ballsy move to sacrifice two-thirds of the screen real estate on your $166,000-per-second national TV spot,” says Cole Sletten, Creative Director of New York digital agency Ready Set Rocket of the Jeep ad.

But given that consumers now spend 62 percent of their digital media time on smartphones and tablets, brands that modify their customary content and design for mobile users will surely be rewarded.

“Vertical was a strong choice because it hit on two truisms of content marketing,” Sletten adds. “First, it served the material well, and second, it was clearly optimized for a specific — in this case younger and mobile-centric — audience. I have to say, I love that this is getting so much attention.”

Maximize paid search

When consumers see a TV ad and are compelled to go online in search of further information, brands have a golden opportunity to turn that initial interest into engagement.

Taco Bell seized its chance this year when it ran a paid search campaign in conjunction with the big reveal of its mysterious new menu item.

According to digital marketing agency Merkle, which tracked and evaluated digital marketing efforts by Super Bowl advertisers for its Digital Bowl Report, Taco Bell was a top brand in terms of digital media performance, and took first place in paid search rank.

The restaurant chain’s winning strategy included leveraging paid search before, during, and after the game, both on desktop and mobile devices.

In addition to bidding on broad search terms like ‘Super Bowl’ and aiming for conquest clicks with keywords like ‘Doritos’, Taco Bell changed its ad copy mid-game once the new menu item had been revealed.

It also bid on keywords mentioned in its Super Bowl spots – like ‘bigger than’ – so that once Taco Bell was calling the product by name, consumers were able to find out more.


This approach is effective for cross-channel campaigns, but has value for digital content efforts as well. By using search to promote content like brand films and web series throughout their lifespan, and applying the nomenclature used in your branded content to your paid search campaigns, you can capitalize on audience interest, Taco Bell-style.

Offer exclusive content

Teasers are always a popular Super Bowl advertising choice, because the sneak peek at upcoming ad content generates awareness and buzz. Along those same lines, Super Bowl advertisers are finding other ways to offer exclusive content.

In the case of GMC, the official vehicle of both the Broncos and the Panthers, the automaker launched a digital video campaign offering exclusive footage of some of the players.

The videos show them answering questions posted by fans to GMC’s Twitter and Facebook pages, showcasing the 2016 GMC Sierra Denali HD and Yukon Denali’s in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot feature in the process.

The brand also released player interviews to provide football fans with insight into their pre-game routine – like eating half a dozen eggs every morning – to their mindset, their feelings about participating in Super Bowl 50, and their inspiration. All content was made available through, as well as GMC’s social channels.

“Today’s consumers are spending much of their time consuming digital and social content,” Rich Latek, US Marketing Director with GMC told ClickZ.

“While broadcast clearly plays a role in in sports, there is a great opportunity to deepen the story with digital video, and give fans unique content that allows them to interact with players and see a different side of their personalities than they normally would see.”

Latek adds, “Digital video makes it easy for fans to watch as many videos as they want, and share it with their friends, as they anticipate the big game.” For content marketers, this means that offering exclusive, behind-the-scenes clips sourced from your production projects can increase your overall exposure and reach.

Super Bowl campaigns are a treat for consumers and marketers alike. This year, borrow the best of their features to apply to your content marketing strategy.

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