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Volume 21 No. 2
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How brands adapt marketing to the second-screen experience

The traditional viewing experience continues to evolve for sports fans. Gone are the days of experiencing the game as a static spectator. Instead, fans are gravitating toward social sites to enrich their viewing experience and cultivate a deeper connection with the games they watch.

Capitalizing on this shift towards a second-screen experience is essential for brands wanting to remain relevant, particularly with millennials. Surprisingly, many brands are coming up short.

While major sporting events, such as league championships, generate millions of viewers and spark massive amounts of social commentary, brands are continuing to segment their strategies. A brand may sponsor the event — with its logo on the field and its advertisements airing during commercial breaks — but its social strategy is either tactically different or missing altogether. This lackluster approach does little to consolidate the team’s fan base, let alone spark engagement from fans who are tuning in remotely.

Conversations surrounding these high-profile sporting events will occur on Twitter and Facebook, regardless of the brand’s involvement. This presents a huge opportunity. However, the challenge for brands is: How do we capitalize on these conversations while keeping our branding consistent and providing meaningful content for fans?

While very few brands have succeeded in creating this type of experience, during Super Bowl XLVI, Coca-Cola was able to effectively pilot this type of strategy. Coca-Cola fully understood that in order to execute a successful advertising campaign, it would need to incorporate an extended social experience for fans.

The company relied heavily on fan nostalgia and utilized the polar bears traditionally seen in their holiday advertisements. The approach was simple: The polar bears (one a Giants fan and one a Patriots fan) hosted a Super Bowl party named the Polar Bowl.

During the game the bears would react to plays, advertisements, tweets and Facebook messages, all in real time. All of the social and multimedia content associated with the Polar Bowl was easily accessible to fans at

Coca-Cola’s strategy not only engaged fans on multiple screens, but it also created a branded ecosystem directly connected to the Super Bowl. Coca-Cola was able to integrate its brand into an interactive experience for fans while capitalizing on the buzz already created around one of the biggest events in sports.

The campaign was a grand slam. Coca-Cola reported higher volumes of engagement over longer periods of time than it had originally anticipated. The company blazed the trail, and now it’s time for more brands to follow suit. The second-screen experience is the future of endorsements, particularly in the sports industry. However, this type of complex strategy must be executed properly in order to have the greatest amount of impact.

Opportunities for fan activation

The key to fully turning spectators into active participants is to establish a sense of inclusion. Fans must be exposed to the strategy from the onset, and their path to engagement must be clearly outlined. One way to execute this would be through a simple, branded hashtag.

Let’s paint a picture. Say a sports apparel brand recognized that many fans of a particular NHL team use a simple slogan when referencing their team. The brand then decides to capitalize on this opportunity and turn the slogan into a branded hashtag.

With the NHL and team’s cooperation, the hashtag, along with the brand’s logo, would be branded on the arena board lining the rink, as well as on towels and T-shirts given away to fans at the game.

In order to fully support the fan experience and further incentivize fans, there would also be a sweepstakes run on Twitter as well as on a customized app on the brand’s Facebook page. Fan participation would grant them the opportunity to win exclusive prizes.

Consistent branding

In the aforementioned scenario, the consistency is in the branding. Taking an endorsement strategy to a second screen presents the risk of sloppy or inconsistent branding. One solution would be to create a microsite to consolidate all of the socially endorsed experiences offered to fans.

A microsite, similar to the site used during Coca-Cola’s Polar Bowl, gives users a centralized location to access all the engagement opportunities the brand is providing. Moreover, it gives fans a more tangible location to discuss the game they are viewing, ultimately creating community feel.

Connection to experience

The benefit for brands executing a social endorsement strategy is the ability to connect with fans in real time. What’s more, sports fans develop a certain level of emotional attachment to their team and sport. By tapping into this connection, brands have the opportunity to link their brand synonymously with this emotional attachment. This is the connection brands should always strive to achieve when creating social endorsement strategies.

An endorsed strategy with social media sites as the catalyst allows brands to create a more personalized experience for fans. Moreover, activating these fans on social media gives the brand, as well as the endorsed team or event, a pulse on fan conversations. This critical information can then be repurposed and used to their benefit. By understanding what topics and mediums fans are most willing to engage on, brands and teams can then develop targeted content that they know will resonate with fans.

Creating a campaign that aggregates social endorsements in conjunction with traditional endorsements is the future. This strategy is the key to maximizing exposure and fortifying extremely high levels of fan engagement for brands. Targeting sports is the perfect segue for brands to begin piloting integrated social endorsement strategies using a second-screen experience as a catalyst.

Crystalyn Stuart ( is vice president of social marketing at IMRE Sports.