Why the Super Bowl lost and the Olympics won
By Nicole Santos
Whether a Broncos or Seahawks fan, a general consensus can be made that this year’s Super Bowl (minus the Bruno Mars “concert” during the Halftime Show) game was utterly disappointing to watch. Maybe that’s just my two cents, but something about this year was off when it came to tasting the real flavor of the Super Bowl experience – from the actual game, to the commercials, and even the hype on social media sites.
There could be some bias in retrospect to 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII. Of course there was Beyoncé’s stellar performance, as per usual. Then there was the infamous blackout during the third quarter, to which Oreo had so beautifully responded to via Twitter. Although that would have been hard to top, it might have been nice to see some type of interaction like that on social media sites during the actual game. That’s not to say that something like half of the entire stadium being in complete darkness had to happen.
However, there’s also the timing of this year’s game that could also explain how dry and lackluster the social media engagement was. Let’s not forget that this year’s Grammys was just a week before the Super Bowl. It was then that the world saw an overwhelming response to Pharrell Williams’ Smokey Bear-esque hat. Arby’s tweeted a cake topper: “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs” and was applauded by the likes of Pepsi and Hyundai USA. It even received a response from Pharrell himself. Up until game day itself, the Grammys seemed to be the buzz throughout the week after.
After Super Bowl Sunday, unless you were a sports enthusiast, the game was almost too embarrassing to even begin to discuss, and we can just leave it at that.
Another thing to take into consideration timing-wise: the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The opening ceremony and games aired just a week after the Super Bowl. With the chaos and anticipation surrounding such a global event, it wasn’t difficult to forget the less-than-uneventful Super Bowl. For example, the poor fifth Olympic ring that failed to expand along with the rest of the rings during the opening ceremony. Many turned to social media to humor the malfunction, associating it with a tribute to Bob Costa’s eye infection (causing his left eye to remain practically shut) for one. An Audi fan also created a viral “ad” off the malfunction with the tagline, “When four rings is all you need.” All in all, timing was, and will always be, everything. The Super Bowl was smacked right in the middle of two extremely difficult-to-compete with signature events.
If we delve deeper into social media’s role in all of this—let’s take each into perspective (as a bystander and as if you were manning the social media handles for your respective company). The Grammys recognize musicians that have become household names all around the world. The winter Olympics recognize athletes privileged enough to represent their home countries from all around the world in an ancient sporting tradition. We then move on to the Super Bowl. Although it might not be a foreign concept globally, the game just wasn’t as big a deal as its prime time competitors. Some might even say that the only reason the game sparked any attention at all, was because it gave New York an opportunity to shine (just because the event was held on home turf).
Bottom line, social media caters to what’s happening, what’s hot, and what people care about. It can be argued that social media users and advocates are “citizen journalists”, so they’ll tweet and post about what people want to be reading and hearing about, and Super Bowl XLVIII just didn’t cut it. What’s the lesson here? If you want to tie in PR and social media, there needs to be a healthy balance between what your target audience wants, and what your company wants.