Best Super Bowl ads weren't aired during game (w/video)

  • A commercial by Esurance aired just after the Super Bowl ended on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. The ad offered to give away $1.5 million. (AP Photo/Esurance)

NEW YORK (AP) — Brands have figured out how to get Super Bowl buzz without paying Super Bowl bucks.

Some of the companies that had the most success during the game were not official sponsors.

Newcastle beer created a hit online campaign spoofing the self-importance of Super Bowl ads. J.C. Penney generated attention on Twitter by posting nonsensical tweets during the game. And Esurance grabbed the spotlight by offering to give away $1.5 million in an ad that aired just after the game ended.

It's the latest proof that companies don't need to pay $4 million to capture the 111.5 million Super Bowl watchers. It's mostly the result of the growing popularity of social media to reach a large number of people who are watching the game on a big screen TV with another eye on their cellphone or tablet computer.

Advertisers really started realizing the power of social media last year after Oreo seized the opportunity when the Super Bowl game was interrupted by a 34-minute power outage. The cookie maker posted a pic of an Oreo that was partially in the dark and tweeted "You can still dunk in the dark." It was retweeted and mentioned on Facebook thousands of times.

"There's an opportunity created by social media for people to have conversation with the Super Bowl-watching consumer ... without having to pay the $4 million," said Kelly O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.


Newcastle created a pseudo "Behind the Scenes" video starring "Up in the Air" actress Anna Kendrick, riffing on being asked to star in a Super Bowl ad — the words 'Super Bowl' are bleeped out — by Newcastle. Then, the company backed out of the deal.

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