Avoid fumbling opportunities and score with Super Bowl social media

Aadil Mohamed -

Avoid fumbling opportunities and score with Super Bowl social media

The blueprint for a modern-day Super Bowl winner is a quick-thinking, opportunistic offense and a dominant, adaptable defense. Brands planning their own scenario for social media activities during the Big Game would be wise to embrace the same scheme this year to overcome unprecedented uncertainty.

Building a social media campaign around the Super Bowl to engage directly with consumers is, in normal years, a complicated, intense exercise. This year, every brand’s approach to what is traditionally the biggest sports-media-marketing event on the calendar is marked by caution.

Brands across all industry sectors have faced tough choices leading up to the championship tilt, scheduled for Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on February 7. From promotional veterans to rookies of the Big Game, brands are confronting the ambiguity and complexity of participating in consumer engagement attached to Super Bowl LV.

They must weigh the risks of launching new products or campaigns using both owned and paid social media when, even after the inauguration of a new U.S. president, there is still more polarization than unity. Given a news cycle that has been anything but predictable for months, brands have stressed flexibility as they make decisions about how they’ll use social media not just during the game, but in the days preceding it.

Whether your brand has signed on to feature a television ad during the Big Game and will complement it with a dedicated social media campaign, or if you’re going strictly digital, you need to know how to maximize engagement on social media while moderating harmful content well into the fourth quarter of play.

Harmful content can put your super bowl social media efforts at risk

Consumers now expect brands to be responsible for not just engaging with them but moderating comments across owned social media channels, and managing harmful content associated with their brands across the wider web. 

This goes for normal daily activities, but it’s amplified when, according to an AdColony survey, there will be an increase in the number of people who watch the game on an internet-connected device while also engaging on social media. 

At the same time, many brands have underestimated how much harmful content resides on their owned social media pages and how much it is hurting them. During live events, such as the Super Bowl, this harmful content can explode, assaulting all of your best-laid plans.  

Of course, there have always been instigators intent on spreading harmful content, misinformation, product/service issues, and complaints to sew discord and damage brands’ reputations. But during this year’s Super Bowl, it is anticipated that surging harmful content will create a unique landscape for brands. It could easily force you to turn over the ball and emerge from a place of offense to one of defense.

In our recent consumer survey, 68% said they have seen a significant rise in the frequency of negative comments on brand-owned social media pages. 

Now imagine all of that harmful content taking over your Super Bowl social media efforts. This is more than just criticism because someone doesn’t like your extended YouTube video; it’s instigators who are intent on harming your brand—and doing so publicly and on a world stage in real-time.


Consumers don’t think brands do enough to combat the negative

Coinciding with the expectation of higher engagement, there also is an expected immediacy to social media communication that has nothing to do with store hours or time zones or whether or not you’re in the middle of a Super Bowl social media launch. 

This is why more than half of the people we surveyed believe companies don’t do enough to combat negative comments made on their social media pages. In fact, 60% said how a company or brand responds to inappropriate or harmful comments on its social media pages affects their loyalty to them.

But it’s not just on brand-owned social media pages—the expectations are high on social media ads, too. Effective social media advertising can be a complicated tactic, especially during the Super Bowl while sensitivities are high. Many brands are unaware of the hidden risk of harmful content and comments on ads, and it’s hurting their efforts. 

Our survey shows that 72% of respondents do, in fact, look at comments on social media ads—and take action based on what they see. Consumer response varies depending on what kind of content they are exposed to, but our survey found there is significant risk to brands when consumers encounter negative comments:

  • 45% of consumers decided not to purchase an item when they saw a complaint from individuals about the item being offered in the ad itself.
  • 43% decided not to purchase an item or service and 24% postponed purchase until later if they encountered negative comments from individuals about the company that sponsored the ad.
  • 39% decided not to purchase an item or service if they saw derogatory, offensive, or hurtful comments on the ad.

If they see negative comments and harmful content on your Super Bowl social media ads, it will easily derail your efforts. 

Best practice is to respond quickly to these negative comments if they are a legitimate complaint, but if it’s an instigator posting contrary to your brand guidelines, it’s oftentimes appropriate to simply remove the harmful content. The challenge is in how quickly this is done, especially while you’re running a social media campaign during a live event, such as the Super Bowl.

Balance a shrewd Super Bowl social media offense with a prevent defense

As you think about all of the activities surrounding your social media leading up to, and during, the big event, you know the tried Super Bowl tactics will no longer work. You have to think about higher engagement, harmful content on brand-owned social media pages and paid ads, moderating harmful content—and managing it all while watching a little football. Even the messaging and how you’ll engage with consumers has shifted.

Thomas Kolster, author of “Goodvertising: Creative Advertising That Cares” and “The Hero Trap,” warns that brands should be cautious about how they participate online and how they show support for social and environmental issues during the Super Bowl.  

He advises brands using social media during this year’s Super Bowl should help people take action and to be cheerleaders. “We need hope. We need optimism. We need messages of healing and messages that unite,” he said. “People are no longer buying why you do what you do, but who you can help them become.”

Typically, brands would use their game day war rooms to watch and engage in conversation around the ads, the game, the halftime show, and your own marketing efforts. This year, though, that must shift to one that is risk-aware and hyper-vigilant about the instigators who are out to harm your brand and the detractors who can’t wait for you to misstep.  

To do that, consider the following:

  • Do you know of individuals or groups intent on disrupting consumer engagement during the Big Game? 
  • Do you have a policy in place to manage sensitive topics and distinguish between free speech and harmful content?
  • Are you currently set up to moderate harmful or hurtful comments made on paid social media ads?
  • Do you have a protocol in place to evaluate unknown threats posted online, particularly as you’re consumed with engagement around your social media activities during live events, such as the Super Bowl?
  • Does the organization have an escalation plan to be able to respond or react within minutes? 

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” the experience and knowledge of someone who’s been there before will help to overcome the anxiety and pressure that you face on the front line—not only around the Big Game but every day.

With a proactive early-warning risk intelligence partner, you’ll know what you’re up against and how to defend against a heightened risk of reputational damage. By monitoring social media in real-time, you’ll be covered on all sides with detection of reputational risks and high-priority alerts of incidents the moment they appear.

In football, as in business, the margin for error is small. In the best, most closely contested games, an inch here or half a step there can be the difference between winning and losing. 

Make sure that all of the effort you’ve put into your social media activities doesn’t fall short and that your team is the one standing on the field holding the trophy aloft at the end of the game.

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