This week, Bud Light announced a tidy bookend Touchdown Glass promotion for Super Bowl LII to compliment the one that kicked off the 2017 season at Gillette Stadium about 21 weeks ago. The added symmetry that the Patriots will be participants in both games is merely a nice, if not lucky, bonus.
This popular NFL promotion was modified by Budweiser from one they had run with Canadian hockey teams, and introduced the first Bud Light Touchdown Glass to 65,000 Patriot fans as they welcomed the Kansas City Chiefs to open the season. Every time the Patriots scored a touchdown, LED lights in the base of the pint glass lit up blue. The promotion was ultimately expanded to six teams, with the lights controlled by a mobile app, sending a signal to the glasses when the given team scores a touchdown, making every Bud Light Touchdown Glass owner an engaged, interactive football fan-turned Bud Light marketing outlet. The Super Bowl LII Touchdown Glasses (seen in a tweet from Darren Rovell, right), will be given to ticket holders 21 and over, and will light up for any touchdown is scored during the big game.
Brands routinely pass up golden opportunities such as this to leverage existing data feeds to tap into fans’ passion points. The barriers to accomplishing dynamic, interactive promotions tied to data are not high entry costs (which are within price points of common promotional items and marketing), or even complex logistics. Rather a shortage of creativity and a lack of understanding about what data to push/pull and what data to collect are limiting brands from making the leap. The data feeds and programming parameters are available. People routinely consume content passively… the LED scrolls that wrap around buildings in big cities quoting stock prices, breaking news or sports scores and the time and temperature displays perched on the corners of billboards or inside/outside kitchen windows across the globe; and very much intentionally… painstakingly setting up alerts for favorite sports teams and players in a specific app; setting up social media platforms just so to receive curated “news” feeds; and live streaming a can’t-miss game when caught away from a standard broadcast television.
Sourcing a cool product to link a brand to a property is not difficult. This past season the Los Angeles Dodgers gave away replicas of Vin Scully’s microphone courtesy of Southern California Mercedes-Benz dealers. Incorporating the feed into the product is not difficult. Chicago based STATS, LLC, a global sports data and intelligence provider, powered the algorithm in the Bud Light promotions, among other recent activations. Wouldn’t it have been a knock-out if that microphone would crackle with the unmistakable, “It’s tiiime for Dodger’s baseball!” as the first pitch was about to be thrown each game, or an iconic Scully home run call boomed anytime a batter in blue went yard? With a simple tie-in to an existing data feed, a cool looking trinket becomes a dynamic connection between the fan, his/her nostalgia for a living legend, and a real-time connection to current Dodger team, all thanks to Mercedes-Benz.
Using data to interact with fans and drive promotions creatively is not limited to the traditional box score data and news feeds. SportTechie named Rana June, CEO of Lightwave, one of the 20 Innovators of 2017 for using biofeedback from athletes to create digital art in real time. This is an astonishing execution of the work June does at Lightwave, and bravo to SportTechie for recognizing it. She has, however, been at it for years, combining big data and entertainment. In 2014 Lightwave partnered with Pepsi to throw a Bioreactive Concert at SXSW. Through bracelet sensors on attendees, biometric data was tracked, real-time feedback was projected through visually compelling graphics to the audience and DJ, and as certain thresholds in activity and temperature were met rewards like cold Pepsi beverages were unlocked.
It is somewhat surprising that the Pepsi Bioreactive Concert has not been, if not replicated, then co-opted in some fashion by a brand and property on a larger scale. For example, in the college sports space, any number of research projects could be designed around crowdsourcing data from wearable technology. Whether exercise science students or another academic group design an experiment with a partner such as Under Armour or Dr. Pepper (both significant investors in college sports), having hundreds (sometimes thousands) of students gather in the same space for a few hours at a time, multiple times a semester, reacting to the same stimuli (on field/court action), serves the dual purpose of providing tremendous amounts of data for scientists and interesting opportunities for brands to interact with and reward their target customers.
Verizon took full advantage of the social media landscape to interact digitally with their target market when they crowdsourced a nightly lightshow on the Empire State Building leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII. In a first of its kind campaign, the NFL partner leveraged its relationship with “the shield” to maximize brand exposure and interact with fans the week prior to the Super Bowl at Met Life Stadium with the 2014 #WhosGonnaWin campaign. Opting to forgo spending $4 million per single static 30 second TV spot during the actual game, Verizon partnered with ESPN to ask daily questions during their coverage leading up to Sunday’s championship. Throughout each day, the question was promoted on ESPN’s various platforms, and fans voted via social media using the Verizon hashtag. At 6:00 ET there was a special online lightshow broadcast from the Empire State Building, culminating with the top of the iconic structure being bathed in either Broncos colors or Seahawks colors, revealing the results of the day’s poll. This campaign was so successful Verizon repeated it the following year in Phoenix for Super Bowl XLIX, netting more than 570,000 votes on social media and generating over 169 million earned impressions1. (That does not include the paid impressions from the exposure through the near week-long ESPN partnership.) For comparison, a single $4M paid TV spot would have generated a maximum of 168 million viewers during the Super Bowl broadcast.
In 2011, the Tampa Bay Lightning began gifting each of their season ticket holders a special jersey with their tickets allocation. Embedded in the custom sweater was an RFID chip that the wearer could scan throughout the arena for discounts on concessions and merchandise. This was more than a superficial marketing play by the Lightning, who were undergoing a rebranding that season. Not only would the arena be peppered with the new logo immediately, as fans would be incentivized to wear their new jerseys, the Lightning would be able to track behavior patterns of their most loyal customers and collect data over time to improve service and fan experience. Further, the organization could also leverage the chips to sell partnerships with other Tampa area businesses to offer discounts to anyone wearing the special jersey… just a quick scan, and the deal is done, no forms or additional discount cards to carry around. Since every jersey was assigned to a specific season ticket holder, the Lightning and their partner(s) have a head start on collecting additional consumer data and building a broader picture of their season ticket holders.
As access to live data feeds becomes more reliable and customizable, electronics become more refined and require less power, with solar and rechargeable options available at standard costs, and wireless and two-way transmission all but ubiquitous, brands and properties should be taking a long hard look at their promotional strategy. Simply defaulting to static, passive, disconnected promotional items that will get stuck on a shelf or tossed in drawer is not the ideal way to build brand awareness. Dynamic, interactive, experiential promotions which leave the consumer with a unique, memorable experience and/or a functional promotional item that connects him or her back to the brand and property for an extended period are all easily attainable within normal marketing budgets. Even traditional functional giveaway items, like cups and apparel, can be easily and affordably upgraded to add tremendous value to both the fans and the properties. The biggest challenge will be knowing how to capitalize on the incoming fan data on the back end.
1. Smith, Kerry, and Dan Hanover. Chapter 5 – Digital Plus Live. In Experiential Marketing: Secrets, Strategies, and
Success Stories from the World's Greatest Brands. Wiley, 2016.