Thoughts on current and timeless marketing topics.

Xbox Super Bowl 2

3 Local Event Marketing Lessons from Super Bowl LII

Everyone talks about the TV ads around the Super Bowl, but it’s also the king of event marketing in the city in which it is held. This year with the Super Bowl in my city of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), I wanted to see how brands of different sizes were activating the event at the local level. Here are three examples of brands big, medium and small size brands and how they did it.

Big Brand: Pepsi

Pepsi We Like It Cold

I’m sure Pepsi did a thousand things around the Super Bowl and they are famous for their celebrity-centric advertising. This year was no exception and I personally loved their Peter Dinklage/Morgan Freeman back-to-back for Doritos and Mountain Dew. But they had another campaign that was local to MSP with a “We Like It Cold” outdoor campaign. I say outdoor in the sense of billboards and banners but I did in fact see many of these indoors in places like the Mall Of America and downtown skyways. I liked this campaign a lot because it really tied together all of the elements of the MSP Super Bowl that Minnesotans were both attempting to be proud of with the “Bold North” Super Bowl slogan and also what they were fearful of, which is that outsiders would criticize the city for it’s admittedly very cold winter weather. In MSP we DO like it cold (sometimes) because it makes us who we are, a hearty city of warm-hearted people with a surprising amount of high-end indoor culture (live theater, museums, dining) because we can’t go to the beach every day. It’s also a great link to the brand and what makes a soda great; who doesn’t love a cold soda on ice?

Medium Size Brand: Schwan’s

Schwan's Super Bowl

Schwan’s can hardly be called medium size since they generate approximately $3 billion per year in revenue, but on a relative scale next to PepsiCo ($62 billion) we can call it medium for purposes of this exercise. As I strolled through Super Bowl Live on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, Schwan’s set piece caught my eye more than any other. Like someone stood up in a meeting room and yelled, “give me delivery trucks stacked to the sky! With giant video screens on them! AND GET ME KYLE RUDOLPH!” As a marketing nerd of course my mind went immediately to, “what is the cost per impression of something like that?” and perhaps it’s something where you may not want to do all the math, but who knows — here I am writing about it and creating more impressions after all. The Super Bowl is a go big or go home environment and Schwan’s went BIG as well as linking creatively to their branding by making the iconic Schwan’s delivery truck a centerpiece of their event marketing set. I couldn’t stop marveling at it and is that not what we as marketers are after?

Small Brand: Heggies Pizza

Heggies Pizza Showdown

Small brands are often at their best when it comes to event marketing because they can be nimble, creative and can do smaller events that will still have a tangible impact on their business. What small brands lack is budget and the ability to say “Super Bowl” because they could never afford the official sponsorship. Enter Heggies Pizza with “The Great Pizza Showdown”, a taste-testing challenge of actual NFL sponsor Papa John’s, which they made sure to say was “just for fun” for legal purposes. Local celebrities Chief Hoppe of the Wyoming, MN Police (and 26,000 Twitter followers), Sweet Martha of State Fair cookies fame and Har Mar Superstar (who can and I’m sure would claim international fame) were the taste testers while at least a few hundred in the crowd got free pizza and tap beer. As the celebs were blindfolded and tasted Heggies square-slice and Papa John’s pie-slice pizza, Har Mar Superstar commented, “this one tastes too triangular.” It was fun, funny and the crowd cheered raucously as the celebs declared Heggies the winner. The timeless marketing move of setting up the big player in the category as the fall guy to the underdog brand worked again, and made for a great local brand activation around the “Big Game” (never say Super Bowl when you don’t have the sponsorship!).

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