When it comes to advertising, New England-based Nutri Ninja, which makes professional blenders, is mostly known for its infomercials. But after finding out that New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is a fan of its products (and has had viral success on YouTube himself), it tapped him to create a digital video in which he whips up a smoothie.
As luck would have it, the Patriots are in the Super Bowl this Sunday. With a convenient spokesperson already on its roster, Nutri Ninja tapped Edelman to make another video—this time he blends a Best Friend Smoothie with fellow Pats Shane Vereen and Ryan Allen—to promote online during the Super Bowl.
"We're certainly not sitting in a position with a ton of marketing dollars to play with on the global stage with the Super Bowl," said Tammy Hegarty, Nutri Ninja's vp of global digital strategy. "For us, this is a really interesting way to test digital programs and activities in social."
Digital media has made it easier and, more importantly, cheaper for brands to advertise during the Super Bowl. Instead of having to shell out $4.5 million for a 30-second ad, more marketers are making their presence known online, using a connection to football, poking fun at Super Bowl advertising itself, or responding in real time to game events to hijack attention from fans.
"What digital media has allowed is every brand to become part of the Super Bowl," DXagency partner Michael Dub explained. "Digital and social media is much more attainable and affordable, and it can be more meaningful now that anyone can tap into that conversation."
Newcastle took center stage among Super Bowl advertisers last year with its brilliantly constructed campaign "If We Made It." Without actually making a Super Bowl ad, the beer brand explained what it would do if it had the money to buy a spot, including teaser clips, storyboards, parodies of Super Bowl ads and written advertorials, mocking the idea of no-expense-spared, balls-out marketing during the game. While it still won't be a national advertiser in 2015, Newcastle did buy some regional air time but continued with the satirical tone.
"Brands are utilizing messages from the corporations that can advertise on the Super Bowl and playing on that to sell their products," marketing agency Power Moves Inc. founder Shawn Prez said. "Digital media is making it 100 percent easier."
This year, Volvo is using not being a Super Bowl advertiser to its advantage. Its campaign, "The Greatest Interception Ever," will encourage people to tweet #VolvoContest and nominate someone to win a Volvo XC60—during other carmakers' Super Bowl commercials. Also taking advantage of the Big Game without advertising in the Big Game is EA Sports, which will hold its annual Madden Bowl video game tournament on Thursday night in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Wall Street Journal reported that GMC, McDonald's, Ford, Kellogg's and Paramount have all signed on to advertise during the event, which will air on Twitch.
But Prez warned that brands shouldn't try to artificially insert themselves in the conversation. With so many people trying to recreate the success of Oreo's famous, timely "dunk in the dark" tweet during the unexpected blackout at the 2013 Super Bowl, Prez pointed out that being too enthusiastic about this tactic can annoy viewers.
"You do more harm than good trying to force your way in, rather than being organic, authentic and well thought out," he said.