Betty White, Pokemon, and Beyonce: The 2016 Social Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the most watched live event in America every year and is one of the few events left that have this type of guaranteed broad appeal. The game has continually reinvented itself, changing with the times, and marketers have responded in kind. We can see the elevation of the half-time show first with Michael Jackson's performance in 1993 solidfying the event as a spectacle for more than just football fans. This coincided with the rise of the Super Bowl commercial: more and more people began chatting about what took place between plays.

We've spent the last few years identifying how marketers have adjusted to the level of social conversation around the game and what's worked for them. This year during the game we saw brands repeating succesful plays from years past, but also an increased level of sophistication. Using social data, let's take a look at what the highlights of the night were.

Inside The Stadium


Instagram users have the option of adding a location to a photo whenever they upload it, so we wanted to first look at the fans in the stadium. Fans mostly kept their eyes on the field, but did take time outs to post photos regularly throughout the game—until half-time that is. Then, fans took their phones out and posted photos at the highest rates of the entire night. The next peak came from the celebration on the field. Whenever there was the most electricity in the air people in the stands were eager to share those moments with their followers on Instagram.

Beyonce Reigns on Twitter


While people in the stands were too busy cheering to respond to each major play, we can see each of these spikes coming through on Twitter. In the first half the kickoff and Panther's first touchdown generated the most conversation, but people were engaged throughout the entire game without any significant dips in conversation. Excitement began to rise throughout the end of the 2nd half as the Broncos win became more secure.

But using this data it's clear who really won the game: Queen Bey. She drove the biggest spike in conversation for the entire night with the Broncos win coming in just behind. Broncos fans were also more vocal throughout the entire night with #Broncos seeing 431,000 mentions followed by the Panthers #KeepPounding at 289,000 mentions. The Panthers topped the Broncos only once during the night when Jonathan Stewart made his leaping touchdown.

However, the single most shared item of the night didn't come from either team, but instead from Betty White:

I taught @CameronNewton everything he knows. #SuperBowl

— Betty White (@BettyMWhite) February 7, 2016

Peyton Manning Loves Budweiser


"I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight," said Peyton Manning after winning the game. These nine words were responsible for the extreme peak you see around 9:30 in the above graph. The other two peaks are Budweiser's Super Bowl ads. This unpaid announcement is, of course, an advertisers dream. Manning single-handedly generated 493% more brand conversation in three seconds than in two thirty-second national advertisements. It's safe to say that after his endorsement he won't be the only one drinking a lot of Budweiser in the coming months.

Brands Talking To Brands

As in years past we saw more and more brands engaging with their followers throughout the game. However, we were able to identify one major new trend this year. During the entire game brands responded to more than just the moments on the field: instead, they talked to each other. This is a clever way to add more personality to their stream and can remove some of the need to rely on major events to drive content. Let's take a look at a few examples of how brands were able to talk to each other while reinforcing their existing campaigns messages.

@Pokemon Gotta crunch ‘em all. Happy 20th Anniversary. #Doritos #Pokemon #SB50

— Doritos (@Doritos) February 8, 2016

Believe it or not a Pokemon generated a lot of the most engaging content throughout the entire game and Doritos was keen to join their buzz. This is a fun play on the tagline of, "Gotta Catch 'Em All". 

@Hyundai, thought we'd put a little extra junk in your trunk. #HyundaiSuperBowl

— Deadpool Movie (@deadpoolmovie) February 8, 2016

Ryan Reynolds stars in the movie Deadpool and also in Hyundai's Super Bowl commercial. The movie joined in by photoshopping a screencap of Reynolds in Hyundai's ad in character from the movie. 

Finally, we can't talk about brands talking to each other without mentioning Pepsi. They were the most talkative over any of the brands on Twitter and a driving force in getting others to engage with them. Who did Pepsi talk to last night? AxeKiaesurancePokemonDoritosMountain DewBud LightPapa JohnsHyundaiAudiSnickers, and Skittles. These twelve conversations were also shared by Pepsi's followers 9% more than Pepsi's typical content is retweeted. They also kept fans checking their stream by giving away props from the halftime show:

ZOMG!!! Janelle’s is now #UpForGrabs! RT for a chance to win it #PepsiHalftime #SweepsEntry Link to rules in bio!

— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) February 8, 2016

It's Gameday, Everyday

Although across the US marketers might take the morning off and congratulate themselves on this year's efforts, we know they won't take much of a break. All of the campaigns that launched last night will be followed up on, and we can use these efforts to guide us the rest of the year. Social marketers will continue to experiment with talking to different brands to determine the best ways to generate cross-promotional impact–think of this as Sponshorships 2.0. Product placement doesn't have to be limited to on-screen interactions. In fact, these subtle interactions are a more natural way to extend reach within social networks. In the coming year, keep an eye for how to apply these strategies to your own efforts and score some wins in your own Super Bowl, whenever it falls in the calendar.


Jason Smith's picture

Jason Smith

Jason Smith is a Senior Analyst at Spredfast and works to find the underlying story the data is trying to tell. When he isn’t breaking APIs and making charts he can be found playing music around Austin. Follow him on Twitter for general nonsense and various complaints.