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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Social media boost Super Bowl commercials’ bang for the buck

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Even before the Super Bowl, Volkswagen’s commercial touting the new Chattanooga, Tenn.-built Passat sedan already had gone viral in the social media, highlighting the way the marketing game is changing in connection with television’s biggest sports event.

Not content to let a $3 million TV spot stand on its own in a program with more than 100 million viewers, Super Bowl advertisers are leveraging that expense by expanding their reach through such channels as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“”They’re trying to connect with consumers on a personal level,”” said Brian Evans, managing director of the Nashville-based FanLab, a sports-marketing research firm.

“”What everyone is trying to do is build relationships,”” he said. “”Once you’ve got that relationship, the cost of marketing decreases. If you have thousands of followers on Facebook, you can reach out to them instantly with very little cost.””

Volkswagen, the iconic German automaker that has built a new factory in Chattanooga, posted the Passat ad on YouTube at midweek, and by late Friday there had been nearly seven million views, said Brian Thomas, general manager of brand marketing for Volkswagen of America.

In the past, advertisers kept their Super Bowl spots secret until they aired during the game. But the lure of social media offers advertisers a chance to create buzz during a longer period, said Jeffrey Buntin Jr., president and CEO of the Buntin Group, a Nashville-based advertising agency.

“”It’s about getting a brand talked about, tweeted about, socialized,”” Buntin said.

Volkswagen made the decision to release its cute TV spot early showing a Darth Vader-costumed child testing his “”force”” around the house and finally getting a surprise when dad comes home in a shiny new VW.

“”The Super Bowl is expensive, but it is an extremely efficient way to reach a consumer base,”” said Brian Thomas, general manager of brand marketing for Volkswagen of America. “”Volkswagen has big ambitions. We’re building a plant in Tennessee that we need to fill.””

In addition to the Darth Vader spot, a second VW commercial, called Black Beetle, was scheduled to air in the fourth quarter of the game. It’s on YouTube as well, Thomas said, and has garnered two million views.

Shirley Brady, editor of, a website for marketing professionals, said advertisers face a choice between leaking their whole commercial or providing “”teaser”” snippets that can build anticipation for the actual spot.

“”Maybe advertisers like Volkswagen are bringing out their (full) spots in advance because they don’t want to get lost in the noise on Sunday”” amid a bunch of other high-priced commercials. Bridgestone, the tire maker based in Nashville, is running two spots in the game, as well as sponsoring the halftime show featuring the music group, the Black Eyed Peas.

It’s the company’s fourth straight year with a sponsorship deal for the NFL’s championship game.

“”It’s working for us, and we’ve just renewed the contract for five more years,”” said John Baratta, the company’s president of replacement tire sales.

“”Brand building takes time, but we have seen good sales increases each year after our Super Bowl advertising.””

The usual Super Bowl advertisers will be there Sunday, but automakers were expected to have an unusually heavy presence, including Chevrolet, which planned to run five spots during the game, each one for a different vehicle.

There also will be a Chevy Camaro awarded to the Most Valuable Player. Mercedes-Benz is advertising for the first time, and other carmakers with spots include Chrysler, Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Mini Cooper, Suzuki and BMW.

While Bridgestone and Volkswagen are giving Tennessee visible representation in the Super Bowl, Franklin-based Nissan North America is sitting out, spokesman Steve Parrett said. “”It’s a crowded environment that isn’t a good fit for us at this time,”” he said.

Nissan has, however, purchased a four-page spread in the annual swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, in which bikini-clad models are associated with various Nissan vehicles.

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