How Esurance Won The Social Media Conversation at #SB50, But Dropped the Ball

Esurance was tweeted about nine thousand times every minute during Super Bowl 50 without even airing an ad during the game — after a statement like this, most postgame headlines go on to say that Esurance “won” the Super Bowl. This one won’t — instead of being a brand with a story, Esurance became just a name with a hashtag.

The price of a thirty second primetime Super Bowl has risen 75% over the past decade; this has led big brands on a desperate search for ways to rationalize their now exorbitant early February advertising budgets. TV viewership is a good place to start, but what do “eyeballs” actually get your brand? How can we quantify the ROI of eyeballs?

Many brands, as a result, have latched onto one of the only quantifiable spaces that exist during the Super Bowl, social media conversation, and, in the process, have started misattributing Likes, Retweets, and Mentions as an ROI, overlooking the true power of social to extensively broadcast inspiring story.

Oreo’s “blackout” tweet at the 2013 Super Bowl and the dramatic rise in popularity of split-screen viewing of live events, among other things, have made the analysis of social media engagement a staple of the Super Bowl postgame analysis. This has ultimately led to the association of high social media volume with marketing success.

This year, the king of the social volume was undoubtedly Esurance with 835,101 tweets and 2 million mentions across social channels driven by its 1.5M$ sweepstakes giveaway that gave people a chance to claim a portion of the winnings by retweeting their hashtag. Not only did Esurance win the social media mentions battle, they dwarfed the rest of the ad field in the process (Doritos was a far off second with 235,000 tweets).

So, what did this strategy help Esurance gain at this year’s SuperBowl?

The answer: 9,000 tweets every minute. Esurance was incredibly successful at getting people to use their hashtag and becoming top of mind for thousands of people for four hours. It also put them in the press during the post game extending the conversation about their brand for days to come.

But, what did they lose by opting to measure their success in Likes, Retweets, and Mentions?

The answer to this is simple: they lost the opportunity to wield social media as the powerful storytelling tool that it can be to inspire the largest captive audience of the year with their brand story — specifically, an audience of 111.9 million, the third largest in Super Bowl history.

In other words, instead of being a brand with a story at the Super Bowl, they became just a name with a hashtag.

Colgate will be left off many short lists of those who “won” the Super Bowl because they weren’t mentioned anywhere close to 2 million times. They did, however, seize the moment to tell the story of the lives that could be transformed in a world that saves 330 billion gallons of fresh water every year. PayPal will also likely be left off many of these lists — but they took this opportunity to tell the story of a progressive and innovative future, and the role they’ll play in it.

These are the stories that people will remember. Most people, for example, don’t remember that Esurance ran the exact same campaign at last year’s Super Bowl.

Hashtag campaigns do have a place in the social media advertising world; name recognition for Esurance will be positively affected by this massive campaign. The Super Bowl, however, brings together the largest captive audience of the year and with that comes the power to tell brand stories that move people to tears, create meaningful conversation, and allow you to laugh with your family— in this respect, Esurance didn’t win the Super Bowl at all, they dropped the ball.

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