Social Bowl: Social Media’s Winners And Losers Of Super Bowl 50

February 8, 2016

The Super Bowl is a weird event.  Last year, an estimated 114.4 million people watched the Super Bowl.  With a population of 318.9 million, that means that over one third of Americans were tuned into their television sets watching the New England Patriots take down the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFL is popular, but not that popular.  Probably half of that 114 million aren’t even football fans.  It’s just become such a cultural thing that really everyone watches—whether it’s because they actually want to watch the game, just because it’s something everyone else is doing and they want to join the party, or… of course… the commercials.

Everyone just looovvves the Super Bowl commercials.  That’s why a 30-second spot during the game can run a brand up to $5 million.  It’s insane.  Especially considering the fact that, nowadays, whenever someone is engaged in such a cultural event, they’re likely checking their social feeds to see the world’s commentary about what’s going on.

Of course the commercials are still important as part of the event—it’s what half of the social chatter is about anyway—but with the explosion of social, there has been a bit of a shift in recent years, with brands giving higher priority to their online activity.

Let’s take a quick look back:


Super Bowl XLV marked the first year that Super Bowl advertisers dipped their toes into incorporating social media into their campaign: this was done by including #hashtags in commercials.


Total number of tweets: 1.8 million


Super Bowl XLVI was dubbed the first “Social Media Bowl”, this Super Bowl had most of its advertisers carrying out a complementary campaign on social media, i.e. incorporating a social media advertising strategy into their traditional advertising strategy. Madonna‘s halftime show also generated more than 862,000 social-media comments, while there were 985,000 social-media comments specifically related to Super Bowl commercials.

Total number of tweets: 13.7 million.


With Super Bowl XLVII, affectionately known as “The Blackout Bowl” due to the infamous power outage at the Superdome, came one of first instances of clever viral marketing on social media. During the 34-minute blackout, Oreo famously tweeted its “You Can Dunk In The Dark” tweet—drawing over 15k retweets.

Total number of tweets: 24.1 million


If you build it, they will come” would be an appropriate motto to sum up Super Bowl XLVIII. Following the viral sensation Oreo delivered on Twitter during Super Bowl 47, many brands were out to try and capture that same viral magic. Some top moments included JC Penny’s many misspelled tweets and Hillary Clinton’s sly dig at FOX, earning over 50,000 retweets.




Total number of tweets: 24.9 million


Last year’s Super Bowl  was the year that brands and advertisers quickly learned the importance of having a social media strategy going into the Super Bowl.

Being a year where many brands tried to pull emotional heartstrings, we all remember the unforgettable Nationwide ad receiving serious backlash on social media that the insurance brand was completely unprepared for. Rival State Farm brilliantly counteracted by opting to run a promoted tweet in Twitter users’ streams, touting fire safety and prevention tips.

Total number of tweets: 28.4 million

This year…


Prepped to be the biggest year ever on social, brands had a lot of noteworthy trends to take into account:

With the above in mind, here’s a quick look at some of the big winners and losers on social media leading up, during, and after the (surprisingly boring) game, that all-American institution that us red-blooded, true patriots call the Super Bowl:

Winner: Mountain Dew.

Anyone (aka everyone) who tuned into last night’s broadcast knows that #puppymonkeybaby won the night.  What in the world was that thing?  Not only was the commercial a home run, but the surrounding social was what really helped knock it out of the park.

Before the game even started, #puppymonkeybaby’s teaser on Facebook had already generated up to 11 million views.  Once the spot dropped and generated over 50,000 tweets in the first half of the game alone, Mountain Dew came prepared to milk the hell out of it:

Weird wins.

Winner: Esurance.

Esurance showed us that simplicity can still be king and that you don’t necessarily have to overthink it to make some serious impact.

Literally all they did in their 30-second first quarter spot was tell viewers that they could win up to $1 million by tweeting the hashtag #EsuranceSweepstakes.

The result? 375,000 tweets in the first quarter alone.

Simplicity is king, but cold hard incentive is key.

Loser: Facebook.

Facebook knows that Twitter is where every goes to tune into the conversation surrounding these types of event, sports especially, so what did they do?  Launch Sports Stadium to try and compete with the rival platform.

Did anyone use it? Nope.

And ironically, everyone went to Twitter to air out their thoughts about Facebook’s flop.

Winner: Budweiser.

After winning Super Bowl 50, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said in, not one, but two separate post-game interviews that he was “gonna drink a whole lotta Budweiser tonight.

Everyone watching, of course, blew up Twitter with their concerns that the beer company was paying him to say it. But according to NFL league rules, active players aren’t allowed to represent alcohol companies.  So did they pay him?

Nope.  Earned media, baby.

Loser: Doritos.

Doritos learned the hard way through their weird pregnancy/abortion-related spot that, because of social media, you should really just stay away from anything that could even relatively be perceived as controversial.

Abortion folks from both sides were not pleased on the Internet last night.  Neither were people who were just generally grossed out from the scene depicted.

Winner: T-Mobile.

Not only did they quench the viral meme thirst of the Internet by dropping their “Hotline Bling” commercial into our Twitter feeds days in advance, but they made the Internet go crazy again with their Steve Harvey commercial, in which he pokes fun at his own flops (Miss Universe, anybody???).

Twitter loved it when it aired, and Instagram loved it even more when it aired, in its entirety, as a full 30-second sponsored post in our feeds.

Loser: Donald Trump.

The ever-controversial Donald Trump is great on social in some ways, but other times he is clearly obnoxious.  Last night, he was the latter.

Don’t be a buzzkill.  Not everything needs to fit into your political agenda.

Winner: Beyoncé.  Duh?

Aren’t we all?

Overall, brands played it safe this year, opting for celebrity endorsements to grab your attention over creative, clever, or thought-provoking ads, which in my opinion made it easier for the latter to stand out.

A large majority of the ads seen on television were created with social media share-ability in mind and the number one winner of that was obviously Esurance with the straightforward approach of “tweet to win a sweepstakes.”

The overall winner of everything else was Beyoncé. She won the Super Bowl.