How the Savviest Sponsors Engaged Super Bowl Fans

tagged: activation  agency  best practices  marketing  sponsorship  super bowl 

posted on March 1, 2018


How can brands use Super Bowl Sponsorship to be Successful?

Football fans paid big money to be at Super Bowl LII, but sponsors go all out for game-time ads and onsite activation. The savviest sponsors connect with Super Bowl fans before they start to prep for the big game. Successful sponsors want the most out of their sponsorship activations, which requires a sponsor to get creative to captivate an audience. Sponsors think outside the box and pay for unique customer experiences, onsite or online. The unique fan experiences created by Super Bowl sponsors give brands unique insight into sponsorship.



Nickelodeon and the NFL partnered together during the Super Bowl to get families excited for the big game with kid friendly activities and special team coverage. Nickelodeon also expanded its sponsorship though additional onsite activations during the Super Bowl Week in Minnesota.

Nickelodeon maximized its Super Bowl association with the younger demographic, turning the game into a multi-day experience. The brand activated onsite in Minnesota at both the Super Bowl Experience and on the channel itself. There were three main components of Nickelodeon’s campaign:

  • An onsite interactive experiential marketing activation to engage fans going to the game at Super Bowl Experience
  • The “Superstar Slime Showdown at Super Bowl,” hosted on game day by Nick Cannon and integrating both current and former NFL players (including Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs)
  • Promotional period pre-game day reports from the Super Bowl city at various locations around the Twin Cities area

The “Superstar Slime Showdown at Super Bowl,” in addition to putting NFL stars in a more relatable light for young Nickelodeon viewers, had a cause marketing component to tie in with charity partners Special Olympics and PLAYWORKS. Both of those organizations work with Nickelodeon on its Worldwide Day of Play promotions and activations.

Nickelodeon also worked to integrate into existing and planned events through the NFL. At the NFL’s PLAY 60 experiential area at Super Bowl Experience, Nick partnered the league on Kids Day, Wednesday, January 31. The brand also host a kid-centric tailgate party in conjunction with its promotion of Worldwide Day of Play. Nickelodeon’s sponsorship with the NFL successfully gave fans the opportunity to watch athletes and celebrities in action with behind the scenes access.



Hallmark, a founding partner of Super Bowl LII, promoted a multitude of brands and campaigns. At Super Bowl LIVE, fans found the Kitty Bowl V ready to kick-off in the “Purrking Lot” and photo ops at the “Hissman Trophy.” A cause marketing tie was made possible by the North Shore Animal League. Over one hundred adoptable cats and kittens went to new homes - we’re not sure of the percentage adopted versus available, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone saying “No” to a kitten playing football.

Also at Super Bowl LIVE, fans were able to enter Hallmark’s social media contest to win a $500 Visa gift card based on photos submitted with the branded hashtag #TouchdownMomentContest. This activation was part of the Hallmark brand, and had an onsite photo op for attendees. “Touchdown Moments” was a fantastic example on engaging both an onsite and and an online presence.

Hallmark’s Crayola brand activated at the Mall of America with the “Crayola Experience,” and the flagship brand utilized its Twin Cities stores to promote its sponsorship as well - especially all things February: Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day. We’re not sure if your significant other wanted a Tom Brady keepsake ornament for as a Valentine’s gift, but at least it was possible to do so.



When we think of football and Super Bowl Sunday, we think of food. (It can’t be just us, right?) Luckily, Schwan’s was there onsite. (Even if we weren’t. How depressing.) Super Bowl LII coincided with the brand’s 65th anniversary, and it went all out to celebrate. First of all, fans were unable to miss the Schwan’s activation, as it included a 40-foot tower. The tower facilitated both brand messaging and fan interaction; trivia questions were posted on subjects all over the board.

Let’s get back to the food. (That’s really the most important part, right?) Schwan’s used its activation space to fill up fan tummies with samples of multiple products, including: chicken fries (see below), chicken egg rolls with sweet chili sauce, four-cheese penne pasta with prosciutto, and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Miniatures. If you know Schwan’s, you know these products. Food samplings were as the main component of Schwan’s version of the “Two Minute Drill” at the beginning of every hour. To cut down on fan disengagement due to lines (this was a food-heavy activation after all), Schwan’s was ready with a virtual engagement. Brand ambassadors helped fans in line create virtual bobble heads. Due to the social media sharing, this was an easy way for Schwan’s to capture both engagement data and leads for promotion.

Continuing the trend of cause marketing tie-in, Schwan’s opted to stick with what it knows. (I know, we keep coming back to food.) Schwan’s charity partner was the local Second Harvest Heartland. The food delivery brand worked with two current NFL players (one of which was Kyle Rudolph, who plays for the Vikings) to promote the brand’s commitment to donation.


Past Activations and Campaigns

Savvy sponsors not only create new experiences; brands also look to extend sponsorship reach during big events like the Super Bowl. Sponsors leverage their sponsorships by creating an activation plan that engages fans well before the big day. Doritos, a long-time Super Bowl sponsor, did just that through its “Crash the Super Bowl” contests. Eight editions of the commercial contest were promoted between 2006-2016. Fans were invited to create their own Doritos ad videos, and then the public voted on its favorites. Ten finalists were featured on the website and two air during the Super Bowl. This sponsorship did a great job of crowdsourcing and engaging fans before the actual activation. The best sponsorship opportunities have leverage plans that begin prior to the event and only end when people stop talking about the activation. It’s important for Super Bowl sponsors to engage both the contest participants and the people watching (taking advantage of FOMO); especially through social media channels, which can garner longer term impressions and engagement.


Super Bowl LI

Technology is changing fan’s experiences and the savviest Super Bowl sponsors are using this to their advantage. Verizon Wireless successfully captivated fans with its “Verizon Command Center” activation during Super Bowl LI. The activation displayed Verizon’s Smart Communities technology and how it is solving community’s unique technical challenges. In the fan zone area, Verizon provided fans the ultimate Super Bowl LIVE experience with its intelligent video cameras and lighting. In addition to the Super Bowl LIVE feed, fans were wowed by the 360-degree footage of the field at University of Phoenix Stadium. Verizon’s use of technology captivated Super Bowl fans, at the touch of their fingers fans had the ability to stream live and have full access leading up to the big game.

Verizon’s activation was so successful engaging fans because of the livestream and virtual reality (VR) elements presented during the activation. Livestreaming benefits big event sponsors because they can broadcast to a larger audience than attendees at single day sponsorship activation. When a sponsor does decide to fund livestreaming, it gives them promotional exposure and generates possible leads for the sponsor. In addition to livestreaming, incorporating VR into an activation allows fans to experience a virtual world. These technology activations are extremely versatile forms of marketing. The overall experience can be shared and teased across social media platforms.


Super Bowl Sponsorship Success is Attainable

Americans look forward to the Super Bowl all year. Those lucky enough to attend want the best experience possible. Engaging fans through Super Bowl activations means brands/sponsors can make a big impact on attendee memories. The Super Bowl is a great environment for experiential brand activations. Attendees are there to cheer for a team and immerse themselves in the best the NFL has to offer. This gives sponsors a captive audience wanting to be entertained; experiential marketing is one of the best ways for brands to meet those high expectations.

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