For Marketers, the Road to 2014 Starts Now

While the Baltimore Ravens plan their victory parade, and water-cooler talk bubbles over  about Super Bowl ads, Beyonce, and game-changing power outages, it’s not too early to direct our attention to February 2014 and Super Bowl XLVIII.

The extended blast of Arctic air that has cast an icy spell over the Northeast is a frigid reminder that the next Super Bowl, the first to be hosted in the New York area and the first to be  contested outdoors in a cold weather climate, could be a teeth-chattering experience for fans and players alike. While many skeptics are chilled by the thought, sports marketers should be warming up to the prospects of a wintry week along the Hudson.

And while   the game itself may be a distant thought in the consciousness of fans who are now engrossed in the NBA, NHL,  Spring Training, the Grammy’s, the Oscar’s, etc., it should be top of mind with brands looking to engage and innovate around  an event that even for New Yorkers, will be oversized and larger than life.

So if you’re a leading brand with an eye on the coveted NFL fan, avid or casual, “Start spreading the news” and consider this as you begin to build toward Super Bowl 2014 over the next twelve months:

Location, location, location. The old axiom for business success still holds true and for the 2014 Super Bowl, the location affords an opportunity like no other destination for U.S. sports and entertainment marketers. Tickets to the game itself are always scarce, but the opportunities to engage with fans to enhance their experience will be plentiful. The ancillary events leading up to the game will scale larger and bolder than ever before and will be attractive not just to the locals but to the swelled crowds who will travel to New York just to inhale the vapor of the Super Bowl experience. So go big, with a long, wide runway to build equity in what will likely be the most anticipated Super Bowl in history. Nothing else will suffice in the Big Apple-Jersey corridor.

Weather the storm. The prospects of a Super Bowl played in bitter cold, wind and ice can actually be quite appealing from a marketing play. Yes, there have been Super Bowls played indoors (Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas) where Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the region. But brands that embrace the winter climate in their programming — think of ways to keep people warm (from mobile apps to pop-up stores to creative apparel) in mind and spirit; celebrate “old school” football, where weather is supposed to be a factor in February; help celebrate New York as one big winter carnival – will create a true point of differentiation from marketing platforms of Super Bowls past. Penguins, polar bears, and frozen commuters could be popular themes next year.

Keep an eye on the avid fan.  A recent survey conducted by the Taylor Brand Counsel Group revealed that nearly 60% of avid NFL fans agree “that they think more favorably of brands that sponsor the NFL (56%) and nearly 50% are talking to their friends about the brands that sponsor the NFL.” The Super Bowl, more than any event, appeals to the casual fan and marketers often cater their programming against this broad demo. But don’t shy away from the avid NFL fan, whose buying power and impact to the bottom line is second to none among U.S. sports consumers. Consider a consumer engagement strategy with an overarching digital and component that targets avid fans – male and female.

Avoid Clichés. Veteran adman Paul Venables recently told Adweek, “Do it because you love your craft and want to make something great,” when asked what advice he had for creatives embarking on their first Super Bowl spot. To that end, brands should leverage the long ramp-up to the Super Bowl by building a story around the biggest of American sporting events in what will be a very untraditional environment. Avoid the talking animals, frat-boy jokes and recycled celebrities (as well as former SNL stars). Let New York and the winter elements be your canvas and paint a full integrated campaign – not just a single 0:30 spot – that is bold yet original.

Be flexible, be social. As Oreo and other marketers demonstrated last night, you can make a big impact if you just go with the flow and engage consumers with breakthrough creative. A lot can happen in the months and days leading up the big game – as well as during the game. Perhaps the Jets or Giants make it to February (the former, only in the wild imagination of long suffering fans like me); that would dial up the hype to near hysteria levels. Ensure that your digital and social media, long term or short term, is built to leverage, among other things, the shifting tides of cultural trends, consumer attitudes – and weather in the Northeast.

Leave a lasting legacy. Brands that activate against a longer term strategy will build a greater equity stake with fans across the New York region as well as with NFL fans nationwide. Innovative programs built around philanthropy, for example, will resonate strongly with consumers. Legacy programs are common in Super Bowl destinations, but the scale of the New York area makes for a much stronger, lasting impact than afforded by other host cities. Consider events like playground builds and restoration projects for victims of Hurricane Sandy, legacy school programs that can enhance learning, and programs that give fans special access to many of the special events leading to the game.