Super Bowl Ads Never Die on YouTube

photo cred Elvert Barnes

After a dramatic, game-ending interception to close out Super Bowl XLIX, die-hard football fans quickly faced a cold realization: they must now face seven long months without professional football. Yet, for anyone looking to keep the party going during the off-season, YouTube is where they’ll find decades worth of video content to engage with. From the biggest plays to the funniest commercials, YouTube is where the usual conversations around the water cooler extend far beyond the day after the game. The NFL itself just launched their official YouTube channel, and it’s already racked up over 10 million views in its first two weeks alone, up from 3 million views just after the Super Bowl. You can expect that number to continue to climb as the league adds more highlights, clips, and content to their brand new channel.

For brands, the biggest question is whether they are prepared to reach all these fans after the final whistle. At ZEFR, we’ve already talked about some YouTube strategies that are available before the game and during the game, but after the game is when some of the biggest opportunities for brands exist to either extend the lifespan of their enormous Super Bowl ad spend, or play off the continuing post-game buzz to draw views.

So, to better understand the opportunities for brands on YouTube, we’ve looked into some of the best ad campaigns and fan video trends around the big game, along with some numbers to start measuring their impact.

Trend Alert: Fan-Reaction Videos

First, before we get to the best Super Bowl campaigns on YouTube, it’s essential to focus on what makes social video so unique and engaging. At ZEFR, we are constantly on the lookout for trends happening on the platform that highlight the people who put the “You” in YouTube: fan-made videos.

Whenever a dramatic moment is about to go down, fans smartly turn on their cameras and start recording. The results are highly authentic “fan-reaction videos,” and the final play of Super Bowl XLIX did not disappoint. (Beware: explicit language):

That video of pure Patriots joy and demoralizing Seahawks heartbreak has over 2 million views in one week. Compare it with this reaction compilation from Seattle’s incredible comeback win against the Packers for the NFC Championship, and you can see a trend emerging:

And there’s plenty more to discover. So, we ran a search to see how these videos have performed over the past week:

Super Bowl Fan Reaction Videos

As these compilation videos suggest, there is a large audience for this kind of content. And, it’s not just for football fans, as we previously explored in our analysis of fan-made Game of Thrones content. Capturing real emotions in the moment is about as authentic as you can get and it’s unique to YouTube. While a Twitter stream or a well-written recap of the event might be informative, only video can deliver the engaging, absorbing content we see regularly on YouTube.

Super Bowl Ad Campaigns: By the Numbers


Note: this data is only for “officially sanctioned” videos, which mostly includes either videos uploaded to official brand channels, or in some cases partnerships with other YouTubers. It does not include all fan content.

Looking at officially sanctioned videos only, we wanted to see which brands had the best performing overall Super Bowl ad campaign across all of YouTube so far this year. This means we included any official videos beyond just the full, original ad that was broadcast live during the game. From teasers, to behind-the-scenes footage, to collaborations with YouTube stars, and extended versions, YouTube is a place to give fans plenty of content so that they can continue to engage with brands long after the game has aired.

Overall, the key takeaway is to recognize that digital video isn’t what you would call “appointment television.” Instead, the growth in viewership can happen over a long period of time, making YouTube a unique destination for brands to align with culture.

With this in mind, here are two different strategies to keep in mind for next season.

Always’ #LikeAGirl: The Repurposing of Viral Videos

This year, we saw a handful of brands engage in a strategy that will likely be emulated next year and beyond. Rather than risking $4 million plus on a Super Bowl ad that has never before seen the light of day (we’re looking at you, Nationwide), brands like Always, Loctite, and Dove Men turned previous online viral hits into repurposed spots for the big game. Here is the original #LikeAGirl video that went viral last summer:

When you allow a platform like YouTube to tell you what works and what doesn’t, it creates a strategy that can be called “flipping the stack.” Rather than spending and focusing on TV spots first and then repurposing assets for digital, brands can focus on digital first, see what takes off, and then use that as guidance for what will work for their TV spend.

Adweek gave Always’ #LikeAGirl the top spot on their best-of list for this year, saying, “Yes, a longer version already went viral online last year (to the tune of 54 million views). But 100 million more saw it last night, and deservedly so.”

Nissan’s #withdad: Leveraging the Power of YouTube Influencers

Listening to some commentators, Nissan’s official Super Bowl commercial is being lumped in with Nationwide and a handful of other spots as not just ineffective, but even depressing. And yet, both Nissan and Nationwide did fairly well based on our ranking above. Is this simply about the old saying “there’s no such thing as bad press” or are viewers flocking to the clip to see for themselves whether the ad worked or not? Either way, the views are stacking up on YouTube, and what might have been originally perceived as a real-time bummer, seems to be finding new life on the platform.

At least for Nissan, the high view counts can be attributed to a more positive strategy, and that’s the partnerships it made with top YouTube influencers leading up to the big game. Here is an official playlist of all the videos:

As seen above, Nissan joined forces with six different YouTube creators to highlight top moments #withdad: prankster Roman Atwood, CGI specialist Action Movie Kid, trick-shot heroes Dude Perfect, food fanatics Epic Meal Time, dance crew Jabbawockeez, and the always absurd Convos With My 2-Year-Old. Coordinating these six different YouTubers for one campaign guaranteed a diverse audience that was well prepared for the official spot by the time it aired on TV. Unfortunately, based on early reviews, it appears that perhaps Nissan should have taken a lesson from the simpler, low-budget fare created by the YouTubers.

Although next year’s football season seems light years away, you can take advantage of this time by creating a presence on YouTube that can extend beyond a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. You have to look no further than this year’s winners and losers to help build your brand’s successful ad playbook for next year.


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