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Big Games, Big Opportunities

Some of the biggest brands in America did some great advertising during the Super Bowl Sunday night. Clearly, they’re not just buying a 30-second spot in the big game. They’re buying the social media and PR potential that comes with a well-executed plan.

If I had their budgets, I may have been right there with them—or maybe not. There are some excellent examples of tapping into culturally significant moments without a mega-sponsorship or media buy, via well-timed and appropriately themed marketing efforts that can ride a cultural wave without the price tag of an official sponsorship attached. Call it guerrilla marketing, if you like, but if the idea is relevant, shareable and activated in real time, it’s really just effective messaging.

My company, Jockey, was delighted to participate in New Castle beer’s “Band of Brands” campaign this year, which was an effort to create the worlds’ first crowd-funded big-game ad. New Castle asked other brands to team up and make a statement that big-game advertising should be accessible to everyone, whether or not they can afford it.

Jockey also tapped into this year’s biggest baseball contest. As San Francisco worked their way through the playoffs, we identified an exciting opportunity to leverage pitcher Madison Bumgarner. His nickname is “Mad Bum,” a name that seems to be made for an underwear endorsement. We approached his camp with the idea that if San Francisco won it all, we would activate a real-time “Jockey Mad Bum underwear” marketing blitz, with a plethora of consumer touch points to help create a media frenzy. We meticulously prepared our creative and media outreach—sans any unfunded and therefore off-limits messaging about the series, itself—and the rest was up to the baseball gods. Fortunately, not only did San Francisco win, but also Madison Bumgarner was the star of the show, earning the MVP title.

Minutes after the win, Jockey put its planning into action. Digital outdoor billboards in San Francisco and Times Square lit up with the image of Jockey’s Mad Bum underwear, immediately grabbing the attention of fans pouring into the streets. Fans also were met with a street team that handed out a limited quantity (just 2,000 pairs) of collector-edition Mad Bum underwear, which created a firestorm of social media imagery and engagement. The $14 pairs of underwear were fetching almost $300 on eBay, perpetuating Mad Bum mania.

To goose things even more, we did a takeover, a tweet from The Associated Press’ official Twitter account (the tweet was one of the largest in history), an aggressive media outreach, and a Mad Bum lottery, in which a few more lucky fans could get their hands on (and butts in) the underwear. The media began to tell our story to the masses: Bloggers, news outlets, magazines and talk shows, including The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, helped Jockey garner almost 1 billion impressions. Our social media engagement was many times industry averages, and website traffic enjoyed a 50% increase during the effort.

While I’m still a big fan of big-game advertising, ultimately, a big idea gets big results, regardless of big budgets.

Dustin Cohn is the CMO of Kenosha, Wis.-based apparel brand Jockey International Inc.