Real Time Marketing & the Super Bowl


Real time marketing is a brand reacting to an event with real time, on-the-fly responses. It doesn’t have to be a sports event; brands have recently been commenting on the Grammy’s, the finale of Breaking Bad and other current events.

However, on football’s biggest stage, everyone wants in on the action.

Real time marketing has been the newest buzz word in digital ever since Oreo debuted the following tweet during last year’s Super Bowl blackout.  

What ensued was hundreds of brands trying to replicate the popularity that Oreo had achieved during the Super Bowl. But, real time marketing is hard and being “the next Oreo” isn’t going to work for every brand.

What made Oreo’s real time efforts a success was a combination of the right people tweeting at the right time. During game time, Oreo had their internal brand team and two of their agencies, 360i and MediaVest, all in the room at one time, making it easy for ideas to quickly move from conception to approval. Planning may seem contradictory to something that is “real time”, but the Super Bowl Champions wouldn’t be so good if they just showed up on the day of. Taking into consideration what your goals are and what likely (and unlikely) scenarios are possible can help you prepare for the big event. The best examples of real time marketing come from those brands that prepare ahead of time, but don’t have canned one-liners waiting to roll out every quarter.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Real time marketing can be risky, but if it pays off, it really pays off. Let’s look at some of the real time winners (and losers) of this year’s Super Bowl.


DiGiorno’s success was largely based on their understanding of their target market. This strategy wouldn’t work for most brands, but it was extremely effective.

Real time marketing isn’t just for the brands anymore. What made Hillary’s tweet great (and incredibly viral) was the fact that it was personable. It was “on brand” for Hillary and her political views with a witty jab at Fox and still connected it to the Super Bowl.

Budweiser’s easily remembered TV-spot enabled them to extend the reach through Twitter. In this case, the Real Time Marketing was just one part of an overall strategy.


Granted, Pepto Bismol is a hard brand to create interesting and sharable content for, but what landed them on our list was the lack of creativity. Rather than reacting to a targeted moment, which would have been more successful, Pepto Bismol opted to try and gain traction through an overall comment.

Airbnb was hoping to capitalize on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ popular album, Californication, during the halftime show. Where Airbnb fell short was in making a meaningful connection between their brand and the event. The connection to the Red Hot Chili Peppers seemed too contrived and unrealistic. In the middle of the Super Bowl, who’s looking for vacation rentals?

The crucial part about real time marketing is that you’re reacting to events that have just happened. Yes, you can plan for half time because it’s an event that you know is going to happen, but what really put Papa John’s on our losers list was how forced it sounded. Much to the dismay of Broncos fans, it wasn’t close at halftime. It’s great to put time into your preparation, but there is such a thing as being over prepared.

We based our analysis of this year’s winners and losers on several social metrics including retweets and favorites. Without sharing across social platforms, real time marketing loses it’s “viral” edge that drives the success. 

There’s a very fine line between your one-liner connecting instantly to the audience and joining a collection of other tweets labeled #fail. What really counts is the data, but it’s not a proven science. What makes this year interesting is that, while it lacked some of the magnitude of the buzz that Oreo had generated in 2013, both Digiorno and Hillary Clinton’s tweets earned more shares and favorites than Oreo. Shortly before kickoff at this year’s Super Bowl, Oreo opted out with the following tweet:

Real time marketing requires a delicate balance of timeliness and wit. Only a small upfront investment is required, but a successful execution can potentially produce a huge return. However, approach with caution, missing the mark by stretching the connection between your brand and the event could be damaging to your overall image.