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The Super Bowl Playbook Hasn't Changed as Much as You Think


By Danny Nowell, Content Strategy Director

Here at French/​West/​Vaughan, Super Bowl season is always a busy time, and this year is no exception. While brands and their marketing partners are reconsidering their approaches to the big game, early signs from some of the biggest consumer brands indicate the importance of the moment hasn’t changed – indeed, if anything, the unusual demands on brands and marketers right now have made full-scope strategic thinking more important than ever. 

As our CEO Rick French noted in PR Week, brands like Budweiser are winning early by pivoting their traditional ad spends toward more values-focused campaigns. This aligns with a recent blog by our Vice President of Social Media and Influencer Marketing Abigail Quesinberry: Influencers, like brands and their broader audiences, are pursuing activations that highlight their values. This means the questions brands and partners face with the Super Bowl approaching is not who will run the best halftime spot, but what brands are doing to define their voices internally, and what platforms are they selecting to amplify those values?

These extra considerations mean that brands do need to be strategic in considering new channels and placements, but they must also hew closely to the best practices of telling human, engaging stories on a widely integrated number of platforms. At FWV, leveraging the excitement of the big game at every consumer touchpoint has become second nature.

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Last year, to support our client Wrangler, we partnered with Gronk Beach to outfit the legendary tight end in a custom-made Wrangler vest at the highest profile party of Super Bowl weekend. While in-person events of this scale aren’t an option this year, our approach to the Gronk Beach partnership rose out of a social-first content strategy. We wanted to build a partnership for Gronk that would reverberate as loudly on social and in media relations as it did on the ground. The results were a Gronk Smash” of a success: 272M+ impressions across platforms and $16.5M+ in PR value. 

Looking deeper, FWV has been a fixture at the Super Bowl since 1998. We have worked with NFL players like Pro Bowlers Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Simeon Rice, Arian Foster, Michael Vick and others, including Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Torry Holt and longtime Hall of Fame inductee Morten Andersen. Radio Row, the mass assemblage of broadcast media from around the country and the epicenter of the sports media world for five days each year, is familiar territory for us.

We’ve represented the legendary Leigh Steinberg, helping the superagent tell his personal story and introducing his players to the national media, including the reigning NFL MVP and current Super Bowl contender, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Our relationships on Radio Row extend from the major media networks like ESPN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, Sirius XM Radio and the NFL Network, to sports radio stations in major and mid-major markets coast to coast.

In prior years, the convergence of broadcast and internet media (some now refer to Radio Row as Media Row), has made it possible to reach more targeted audiences who find their sports, news and entertainment content online. Super Bowl viewership via streaming was up 20% in 2019, and statistics show that nearly half (49%) of all viewers ages 25 to 44 follow Super Bowl coverage on sports sites, news sites and other sites across the web. Radio and TV content is also found online, casting a wider net than ever before, making Radio Row” an unmatched opportunity for concentrated, multi-channel coverage.

Beyond Radio Row, we’ve supported and produced celebrity events, parties and promotional activations for a diverse range of clients. For Steinberg, we led media relations efforts for his iconic party in New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Houston. In Tampa, we provided yachts from MarineMax to CNN, CBS, Fox and ESPN. We’ve produced celebrity poker games for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, a fishing tournament with Justin Beiber, a film première for NFL star-turned-director Simeon Rice, hosted a magazine launch party and delivered the Super Bowl game ball by stagecoach for Wrangler.

Today, digital and social content is at the core of our integrated Super Bowl campaigns. In 2018, FWV worked with Yellow Tail wine to manage and promote a cross-country food truck tour hitting NFL markets en route to Minneapolis where Food Network star Jeff Mauro made the rounds on Radio Row. In 2019, we teamed up Morten Andersen and boxing legend Evander Holyfield with chefs from Certified Angus Beef®, serving steaks on Radio Row over two days. For each of these campaigns, it was the viral social media components working in tandem with traditional coverage that helped drive impressions, clicks, shares and likes well into the hundreds of millions, raising high-value awareness for the brands.

While this Super Bowl is requiring brands and marketers to get more intentional, strategic and creative than the big game often requires, omnichannel storytelling best practices and deep experience will always carry the day. While we’re setting our clients up for the biggest success possible in the current chaotic environment, we can’t wait to be back on the ground for next year’s game!

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