Monday, January 27, 2014


With the big game coming up, its time to discuss how to create a successful marketing effort during the most cluttered event in America.  In The Surfer's Guide To Marketing, we devote an entire chapter called Big Waves to marketing efforts that are developed and activated around the most competitive environment.    Retail during the holidays, travel during the summer, and of course trying to promote your product or brand during the Super Bowl.

Just like last week's contest at Mavericks that featured a record swell, the bar is raised when the world is watching.  With 40-foot faces crushing surfers, it is not for the weak or those who are fearful.  The big stage is only for those with the skills (and guts) to drop in on a wall of water four stories tall.
Even Laird Hamilton doesn't 
always win on Big Waves

This year, with the game in New York, it's shaping up to be an interesting experiment.  The biggest stage in the biggest city in the world.  And with bad weather looming, there is a significant chance that the elements might make for a marketing disaster!  And it wouldn't be the first time.

Several years ago, when the Super Bowl was in Dallas, we were challenged with creating an interactive consumer experience for AT&T and ESPN.  We accounted for huge amounts of traffic, excited fans wanting to participate, star-power with celebrities, and we ensured we had everything we needed to make our clients happy.  But as I say in the book, sometimes it isn't IF something goes wrong, but WHEN!  And the Case Study below is taken from the book and just goes to show that even on days with Big Waves, where the stakes are high, the competition fierce, and Mother Nature is ready to throw you a curve, you can utilize the proven marketing tactics in the book to avoid a wipeout.

The Big Game
The biggest event in the United States every year is the Super Bowl.  As a marketer, it’s the big leagues in terms of scale, cost, and exposure (see the chapter on Big Waves).  Ad time in the game costs seven-figures for a thirty-second spot and sponsorship of various official Super Bowl elements are a huge investment.  So creating your own Super Bowl event that cuts through the clutter and stands out among literally hundreds of events is a costly and extensive undertaking.
So when our client wanted to be part of the action of the Super Bowl, they approached us with the ultimate opportunity to demonstrate our Barnacle philosophy and latch on to someone else’s huge efforts.  For Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, our mission was to create a presence for our client at the big game in Big D…. but without the hefty price tag or reasonable lead time.  After all, creating an engaging experience that competes with the biggest spectacle in sports without all of the pesky budget or months of preparation is what every marketing veteran lives for, right?  But as the saying goes, “Go big or go home.”
When our client’s major sports partner announced that they were going to be broadcasting all of their television and radio shows from a local mall in nearby Fort Worth, including all of their talent-filled programs, we took this as an opportunity to drive awareness and branding without having to reinvent the wheel and create the event itself.  This weeklong festival would attract hundreds of thousands of passionate fans and it was simply our job to carve out a place on the reef to get our share of plankton.  
So in an expedited manor, we secured space and created the Digital Living Room activation that accented the various broadcasts and events throughout the week.  Our interactive booth would allow fans to experience our outdoor living room complete with sofas, tables, chairs, rugs, multiple flat screens showing the network’s programming in HD and 3D, broadband displays, and tons of branded premiums all promoting how our client and its partnerships were the only option for sports fans.  Add to that our beautiful Brand Ambassadors and Starfish appearances from Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson, former All Pro RB Christian “The Nigerian Nightmare” Okoye, and three-time Super Bowl Champion Roger Craig and we had an attractive booth that held it’s own with the existing large-scale production.
While some brands spend millions creating their own Super Bowl event including the Bud Light Hotel, DIRECTV’s Beach Bash, and more, we were able to reach thousands of passionate Super Bowl fans attending the shopping center’s events as a complement to the host network.  While our Digital Living Room was a component of the bigger picture, we served as a supporting actor to the main event and even provided value-add to their experience.   And in so doing, saved our client significant dollars playing the role of the Barnacle attaching to the existing event and the crowds they generated.

Editors Note:  As mentioned previously, surfers are the ultimate optimists and make lemonade whenever presented with lemons.  So when the 2011 Dallas/Ft. Worth Super Bowl week was hit with “the storm of the century” including wind, snow, and -5 degree temperatures, our outdoor living room seemed like a disaster in the making.  But, a few quick adjustments (and several large space heaters later) our virtual living room became a shelter from the elements for the crazy fans that still braved the cold.  While we had to endure some good natured ribbing for the unfortunate circumstances (including comments that our living room was “just like the fan’s own homes…only with five inches of snow inside”, or people wanting to tell Christian Okoye to change his nickname to “The Siberian Nightmare”, we still exhausted our inventory of client literature and branded premiums representing the maximum quantity of impressions we were targeting!