On Sunday, the roughly one million British Columbians who watched Super Bowl ads pitching everything from pickup trucks to snack foods saw something else, too: a message promoting better schools for BC kids.
The ad, titled “Sharing,” came from the BC Teachers’ Federation, who worked with us on a very tight timeline to produce an ad intended to air just once. And the reaction was immediate: an outpouring on Twitter, and viewers flocking to YouTube to see it again or catch what they’d missed.
Events like the Super Bowl, where a huge audience focuses its attention on one thing, represent a huge opportunity. But getting a share of that attention (and making it work for you!) takes some smart, careful thinking… especially when your audience isn’t expecting to hear from you.
Here are five lessons communicators can take from the BCTF’s Super Bowl touchdown:
- Get your head in the game. Find a way to tie your message to the stories people are already talking about. “Sharing” is about a kids’ football team. And during the Academy Awards a few years ago, the BCTF aired “Most Devastating” – a mock award for the government’s record of cuts.
- Play to the crowd. Viewers were cheering on their favourite team and players, and imagining what was going through their minds. The ad let them cheer on these kids as well: a team of underdogs refusing to give up in the face of tough challenges. The spot’s humour and light tone resonated with the festive mood of the Super Bowl. And it gave us a chance to connect with an audience we don’t often get to reach.
- Move the ball down the field. The goal isn’t just to get people’s attention for 30 seconds; you want to deliver a message effectively. So while the game featured highly-paid athletes with the best training and equipment money can buy, “Sharing” showed a team of kids struggling to make do with an inadequate supply of makeshift gear. The message: whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, we need to provide the support our kids need to succeed.
- It’s a game of inches. An ad like this can’t be your whole strategy; it’s one play in a longer game. That meant keeping our goals realistic (to remind people of our message, instead of delivering a comprehensive treatise on public education) and the budget commitment in perspective. And it meant integrating with other tactics, like the BCTF’s Better Schools for BC website.
- Know how you stack up against the other team. Some of the most expensive ads in history air during the Super Bowl, and this ad had to compete for viewer attention with them, at a small fraction of the budget. But the talent and skill of illustrator Sam Bradd and animator Torrance Hurd meant “Sharing’s” production values stood up well against the competition, and brought our animated kids to life.