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Media & Marketing
Published: 8 Feb 2016

Super Bowl 2016: Second Screen & Counterprogramming

American broadcaster CBS's 30-second ad slots during yesterday's Super Bowl football game went for $5m – up from $4.5m in 2015. As a result, big brands paraded their highest production values as well as numerous celebrities and intellectual properties to make their time in front of 110 million viewers worth their money.

Marvel superheroes Ant Man and Hulk wrestled over a can of Coke, while musician Drake let a telecommunications company take over his Hotline Bling video shoot, and actor Ryan Reynolds populated an entire town to demonstrate the many safety features of a car driven by distracted ladies. If you missed any, you can revisit all the main broadcast spots on YouTube's Adblitz account, where 850 million minutes' worth of Super Bowl ads were watched last year.

These numbers line up with a general shift of viewership towards digital channels. Latest survey data found that 50% of consumers are now watching sports content on smart TVs, mobile devices, PCs or gaming consoles (Adobe Digital Index, 2016), while 73% were planning to use two devices while watching the Super Bowl (Salesforce Research, 2016). Concordantly, true standout marketing performances came from brands that heeded this development, and spread companion and counter-programming content through digital formats.

US website provider Squarespace teamed up with American comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele to get its name out on game day. Key & Peele portrayed Morris and Lee, aspiring sportscasters, who had built a Squarespace website to live-stream their commentary of the 50th Super Bowl. The only catch was that CBS has the sole broadcasting rights to the game, barring the duo from mentioning any of the players' names or even the game directly. Real Talk with Lee and Morris, Presented by Squarespace, ran for more than three hours, and will never be replayed in its entirety.

US broadcaster Fox also tried to lure fans away from the big show with a pre-game Saturday Night Live skit that promised footage from the upcoming finale of Fox's The X-Files mini-series. The material was shared via the show's Twitter and Facebook accounts, but could only be viewed during the Super Bowl halftime show.

Meanwhile, General Mill's frozen pizza brand Totino's positioned itself against the Super Bowl with a pre-game campaign on live-streaming platform Twitch. The Bucking Couch Bowl video game competition took up the 3.5 hours leading up to kick-off and included top gaming influencers. They were seated on a couch with a mechanical bull mechanism controlled by the viewers – hence the title.

These efforts surrounding the 2016 Super Bowl illustrate how modern brands can use divided attention and second-screen habits to hitch their omnichannel marketing to big cultural moments. For more on targeting audiences on digital channels, see State of Mobile: Winter 2016, Beyond Ad Blocking and Big Brands Celebrate Pop Culture.

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