How to advertise during Super Bowl 50 without a TV ad

When you decide to order pizza for your Super Bowl party, Pizza Hut wants to be top of mind. To spark your interest, it's creating a 24K gold-laden Golden Garlic Knots Pizza, which will go to 50 lucky homes on game day. It's even tapped Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate as its spokesperson.

But it's not buying a Super Bowl ad.

The company will try to latch onto Super Bowl buzz and drum up enthusiasm for its Golden Garlic Knots Pizza on digital devices and pregame TV broadcasts — but you won't see actually see Pizza Hut advertise on TV during the Super Bowl, which takes place Feb. 7. Pizza Hut's internal research team found out that Super Bowl pizza orders begin up to five days before the actual event, and the majority of game-day orders in the Eastern and Central time zones come in during the 4 p.m. hour.

"All the pizza we'll sell on game day, those decisions will be made ahead of game day," said Jared Drinkwater, vice president of marketing at Pizza Hut.

The company is one of a growing number taking advantage of the Super Bowl media blitz without committing the $5 million for a 30-second ad during the game. Instead, it's doing online advertising before and during the contest, and it's buying 10 commercials ahead of the game on CBS. It's also the official sponsor of the pregame show during the 4 p.m. hour.

One of the most memorable ads during the 2013 Super Bowl was not a TV ad at all — it was a tweet from Oreo reminding people "You can still dunk in the dark" during that game's blackout. Newcastle Brown Ale's "If We Made It" ad — a full campaign about what the beer company would do if it would have created a Super Bowl ad — allowed it to be one of the most talked-about Super Bowl advertisers of 2014, without having an actual presence during the telecast. Last year, Volvo's campaign was "The Greatest Interception Ever," which asked viewers to tweet #VolvoContest during other car brands' commercials in order to nominate someone to win a Volvo XC60.

"You can spend the money on a Super Bowl spot and create momentum, or you can create a digital campaign that creates a movement," said Nick Reed, co-founder of digital agency Shareability. "A movement can create real change. ... For a fraction of the cost of a Super Bowl spot, you can create a movement that captures and capitalizes on all the excitement surrounding the Super Bowl. That momentum can last long after Sunday."

The Super Bowl drew 114.4 million viewers on TV last year. At the same time, more than 65 million people were talking about the Super Bowl on Facebook. According to the social media company, 85 percent of Super Bowl TV viewers were on their mobile phones while watching the game.

"Eighty percent of our revenue is mobile," said Matt Idema, a marketing executive at Facebook. "It's significant and it's grown year over year. We are a mobile ad company."

The social network launched an ad program in August 2015 that's designed for companies that want to market to people during live events. Even some Super Bowl television advertisers are using the service, Idema said. For example, website development company Wix will run simultaneous ads on Facebook, Instagram and through various Google platforms, throughout the game and especially around the time of its TV commercial.

"The reach that mobile devices have, and the fact that Facebook and Instagram are two of the most important mobile platforms, means you can get a lot of reach and engagement on mobile even if you're not buying a Super Bowl ad," said Idema.

Visa Super Bowl 50 digital light show.
Source: Visa
Visa Super Bowl 50 digital light show.

Visa, which has been a sponsor of the NFL for more than two decades, also won't be advertising during the Super Bowl. Instead, it's taking advantage of the fact that it's based in San Francisco to host real-world, local events in an effort to show off its products.

"It's important for us as a brand to have the medium be the message itself," said Lara Hood Balazs, senior vice president and head of North American marketing at Visa. "It's about being everywhere you want to be, being available to consumers where they want to be and where they want to pay, in a (place) where physical and digital are converging."

Super Bowl host Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, has been equipped with almost 700 point of sale terminals that will allow mobile wallet purchases using Visa. In addition, attendees using the Super Bowl 50 app can order concessions using Visa's payment technology, and have it delivered to them at their seat.

In addition, Visa is sponsoring several events in the area of the game, including a nightly skyline projection art show.

"Clearly there's a way to be effective and extend your experiences beyond a 30-second television ad," said Hood Balazs.