Each year, as millions of football fans across the country anxiously await the showdown between the NFL’s top two teams, event marketers are busy planning showstoppers of their own as they prepare to leverage the biggest sporting event of the year to elevate their brands. Indeed, the Super Bowl often inspires some of the industry’s best work, and Super Bowl LII in Minnesota was no exception. Brands came out in force to offer pigskin fans a host of unforgettable live experiences. Here’s a look at five activations that scored ahead of the big game.
Minnesota-based Target enjoyed a home field advantage this year, leveraging the 25,000-square-foot Target Plaza Commons as the setting of its Bullseye Lodge experience, which brought to life the Super Bowl’s LII “bold north” theme. Inside the venue, blazing fires, rustic décor and countless winter-themed photo opportunities, like authentic ski lift installations, awaited. There was also a fan pop-up shop featuring a limited edition collection of gear curated by local outdoor retailer Askov Finlayson and an opportunity for visitors to have their photo digitally printed onto an oversized marshmallow at the on-site Mug O’ Moose Cocoa Café.
Outside the lodge, fans could compete in games of jumbo bubble hockey or curling, take a seat by the fire or have their animated GIF captured catching a football or doing a touchdown dance. To boot, as if the single-digit Minnesota temps weren’t chilly enough, visitors could visit the Mountain Dew Ice Bar where all of the furniture was built from—you guessed it—ice. A chilly experience fueled by a hot strategy.
As official car and SUV of the NFL, Hyundai had a significant presence at Super Bowl LII, serving as sponsor of the league’s Super Bowl LII Experience driven by Genesis. In addition to displaying 275 of its vehicles at various sites in Minneapolis, the automaker hosted meet-and-greets with current NFL players, offered football-themed interactive trivia and contests and invited attendees to take a brand survey in exchange for a $5 gift card to the NFL shop.
Over at the Super Bowl LIVE fan festival, Hyundai provided free bites, live concerts and national broadcast activations. And then, the pièce de résistance—an ice-skating rink dubbed the HOPE RINK, in connection with the brand’s nonprofit organization, where attendees could skate for free and receive a Caribou Coffee beverage for filling out a survey. Rounding out the activation were a life-sized snow globe photo engagement and a sponsored warming bench that offered visitors a respite from the freezing Minneapolis temperatures.
Courtyard by Marriott
Think sleepovers are for kids? Think again. Marriott returned to the Super Bowl with its third consecutive Courtyard by Marriott Super Bowl Sleepover contest, which this year got a boost thanks to a partnership with the Manning brothers. The winner of this year’s once-in-a-lifetime experience was Denver Broncos fan and US Navy veteran Courey Marshall, who was informed of his win by Peyton Manning.
Marshall and a guest spent the night inside a stadium suite on the ground level of U.S. Bank Stadium that was transformed into a Marriott guest room featuring a field-level view, free bites and a gas-powered fire pit. The pair enjoyed customized in-stadium experiences, access to exclusive Super Bowl events, and tickets to the big game itself. If there’s one thing superfans want, it’s unprecedented access—and Marriott delivered.
For a company like Verizon, the official wireless provider of the NFL and the official sponsor of the 10-day Super Bowl LIVE fan festival, it was go big or go home. And the brand went big for its Verizon Up rewards members, who warmed up inside Verizon’s seriously cool glass-walled lounge, where they could chill out, charge up and enjoy special events.
In the days leading up to Super Bowl LII, 14 NFL players visited the lounge, surprising fans and dishing out prizes, including tickets to the big game. The space was also leveraged as a viewing area for nightly Super Bowl LIVE concerts sponsored by Verizon, which featured artists like Syklar Grey and X Ambassadors, who Verizon Up members got a chance to meet in the lounge prior to their performances.
Additionally, a charitable component of the program featured NFL star Victor Cruz and NBA All-Star Karl Anthony Towns, who participated in a two-day initiative to expose local kids to interactive tech experiences as part of Verizon’s $500,000 donation to STEM charities. And rounding out the campaign—a tech-fueled mobile learning lab that transports students to simulated environments. A little something for everyone.
Each year, StubHub takes over a physical location where customers can pick up their Super Bowl LII tickets, and cleverly leverages the temporary space to drum up some brand engagement. This year, the brand took over the Minnesota Twins’ ballpark, Target Field, to unleash a multi-level fan experience dubbed the StubHub Live: Field House. There, nearly 8,000 StubHub customers were treated to NFL player meet-and-greets and autograph sessions, oversized tailgating games, face painting and exclusive views of Target Field.
Fans also had the opportunity to toss footballs with former and current NFL players and have their photo projected onto the ballpark’s Jumbotron. And then, one of the highlights of the experience—an opportunity to check out the Twins Clubhouse, which was transformed into a football locker room stocked with branded gear for fans to peruse. Another great example of tapping into attendees’ emotions by providing them with access to the things they love most.
Super Bowl activations are, of course, all about fan engagement. Brand strategies that begin with the fans almost always end with great success. The challenge—and the opportunity—then, is to figure out exactly what fans want and deliver it to them in fun and unexpected ways. Surprise and delight, after all, has always been the name of the (big) game.
Check out brand activations designed and produced by Sparks here.