No Big Game Budget? Super Moments Marketers Can Learn From
The Super Bowl stands out as one of the biggest marketing events of the year, with brands bringing out their most creative ad campaigns to capture the attention of over 100 million viewers. But let's face facts, marketing budgets in the transportation and logistics industry rarely offer the opportunity to splash out on a big brand ad. And even if we wanted to spend millions on a 30-second spot, would doing so help us reach our goals? Probably not. But the "ad bowl" and the attention it attracts offers marketers a unique opportunity to peek behind the curtain at how big brands approach their moment in the spotlight. That's why today we're rounding up lessons any marketer can learn from the most notable Super Bowl marketing moments in history.
1. Think Outside the Box
Some of the most memorable Super Bowl ads have relied on thinking differently, whether it’s incorporating unexpected humor, taking creative risks, or finding unique ways to demonstrate their key messages. For example, Chrysler’s 2011 “Imported from Detroit” ad featuring Eminem created huge buzz by highlighting the grit and determination of a rebounded Detroit. Marketers should aim to capture attention by showcasing their brands in fresh, interesting ways instead of falling back on conventional tropes. Does your transportation or logistics brand have a unique perspective, have you conquered a challenge or broken out from the pack? Don't be afraid to show the industry how you're different. After all, if your audience wanted the same old solutions they could just stick with their current plans and avoid the friction associated with trying something new!
2. Pull on Emotional Heartstrings
The best Super Bowl ads don’t just highlight product features and benefits. They aim for viewers’ hearts by telling compelling stories that resonate emotionally. Coca-Cola and Budweiser frequently rank among the most popular game ads by focusing on themes like family, friendship, community and nostalgia. Marketing campaigns that genuinely move people and create a human connection tend to outperform those solely focused on selling. In our industry, trucking companies often see success with employer brand content when they highlight the real human stories behind their brands, but it doesn't have to stop there! In the B2B space, it can be easy to avoid emotional content, but we can't forget that "business-to-business" still often requires H2H (human to human!) connections.
Want a taste of something epic and emotional from the trucking world? We're big fans of the 2013 "Live Tests" series by Volvo Trucks including the "Epic Split" which was notoriously shot in one take. The Volvo Trucks brand captured hearts during 1998's Super Bowl XXXII with "Road Sage" and Super Bowl XXXIII with "Arm Pump" citing that owner-operators of big trucks usually stop driving to watch the game!
3. Don’t Neglect Your Brand Identity
While creativity and emotion matter tremendously in Super Bowl ads, the most effective ones don’t lose sight of their core brand identity in the process. For example, Nike’s classic #JustDoIt campaign told memorable stories while also reinforcing the brand’s aspirational image and “no excuses” ethos. Marketers need to find the right balance between an engaging narrative and a consistent representation of brand values. Even if you're not planning a big commercial production, it's never a bad idea to get aligned on your brand identity and make sure you have a strong base established to start from.
When Drop & Hook provides social media marketing services for trucking companies, we generally start with an initial strategy phase where we gather stakeholder feedback, conduct competitive research, and audit current performance, then build a strategy from the data and insights we've gathered. Getting buy-in on that strategy then let's us know which creative ideas to say yes to, and which tactics to select as we move forward.
4. Take Strategic Risks, But Be Prepared for Big Moments
Major Super Bowl advertisers expect significant payoffs for their multi-million dollar ads, but many make bold bets that could also backfire. Chrysler’s Eminem ad spotlighted a grittier, provocative vision of Detroit. 84 Lumber’s 2017 ad depicted a Mexican mother and daughter migration, wading into hot-button political issues. While calculated branding risks don’t always pan out, memorable marketing moments often require bravery, vision, and a willingness to spark controversy. During Super Bowl LVI in 2022, Coinbase famously garnered more than 20 million hits on its landing page in one minute with a bouncing QR code. The ad skyrocketed attention for the brand (and BitCoin in general!) but the tactic wasn't without controversy.
Ultimately risks can be worth it when you want to make a big splash, but no matter the size of your campaign, it's important for marketers to be prepared for significant events. This involves stress-testing your technical setup to ensure your systems can handle the increased load and planning ahead to collect accurate analytics from your activities. How many marketers have been asked to report on social media hashtag usage after an event, only to realize they didn't have the necessary tools in place to capture the data? Or here's another example logistics marketers might find familiar: have you ever attended a conference or expo only to realize after the fact that you have no way to value whether the investment was successful? It's crucial to prepare your attendees to capture lead data and have a plan for integrating it seamlessly into your CRM and marketing workflows afterward.
5. Don't Dunk In The Dark
Do you remember Oreo's famous “Dunk in The Dark” tweet posted during the 2013 Super Bowl? What looked to consumers like an off-the-cuff comment was actually the effort of a sophisticated social media "command center" where brand representatives and staff from multiple ad agencies collaborated on real-time responses.
While most transportation and logistics marketing teams may not require such an extravagant setup, it is still crucial to have a well-defined strategy and open lines of communication. These tools are essential for creating compelling on-the-fly content when those "viral" moments arise. It is important to establish your required review and approvals process in advance, and gain executive buy-in on your overall strategy and direction early on. Perhaps most importantly you have to be prepared to show up and have a presence in the spaces where your audience is most active and during the events or times when they will be available to engage. Pre-planning and a clear direction will allow you to keep your content moving at the speed of social during those significant events or campaigns.
Ultimately, the Super Bowl provides an unparalleled platform for brands to think big and take their creativity to new heights, but no one needs don't need a "Big Game" budget to be great. By blending emotion and storytelling with innovation and strategic risk-taking, marketers can aim for their own Super Bowl-worthy campaigns capable of cutting through the noise. The bolder and more inventive your content feels, the better its chances at owning the cultural conversation.