Inside the brand events and activations surrounding the big game, from warming lounges to virtual reality to a stadium sleepover
Temperatures may have been in the single digits for Super Bowl LII on Sunday, Feb. 4, but that didn’t stop football fans from getting out and engaging with brands at events across Minneapolis, including Super Bowl LIVE, the big game’s annual free festival. Here, we take a look at some of the best experiential marketing (shout out to the Minnesota-based brands who came out in force) surrounding the biggest football event of the year… go long.
Sleep Number Activates a VR Field of Dreams
Minneapolis-based mattress brand Sleep Number didn’t get much rest in the days leading up to the big game. For starters, the brand became the official sleep and wellness partner of the NFL, inking a multi-year partnership with the property. Through the partnership, every player in the NFL will be offered Sleep Number’s 360 smart bed featuring technology that offers insight on how a person sleeps best.
The highlight of Sleep Number’s Super Bowl LII presence, however, was its virtual reality experience at the Super Bowl LIVE fan festival—the biggest multiplayer VR football game ever created. The engagement, which aimed to illustrate how everyone from parents to pro athletes are achieving their goals with quality sleep, began at the virtual 50-yard line, where fans had 60 seconds to throw as many passes as possible to targets down the field. The further away the target, the more points they earned. The second half of the game became more challenging, simulating what the experience would be like after having a poor night’s sleep. Even onlookers could get in on the action thanks to a 30-foot video wall displaying a spectator view of the experience. Meanwhile, a leaderboard revealing daily and all-time high scorers kept the competition fierce.
Sleep Number also treated music fans to a pop-up concert featuring country superstar Braid Paisley at its location inside the Mall of America. But before Paisley took the stage, he stopped by the brand’s VR experience at Super Bowl LIVE to test his skills on the gridiron. Agency: Groove Jones, Dallas (virtual reality).
Check out the biggest multiplayer VR football game ever created:
Free Transportation: Ford Sleighs All Day
Ahhh… there’s nothing quite like a whimsical sleigh ride through—downtown Minneapolis? Yep, the official truck of Super Bowl LII and the NFL took pigskin fans on complimentary Built Ford Tough Sleigh Rides to local destinations throughout the Super Bowl LIVE fan festival. Each sleigh, which could fit up to 18 (probably frozen solid) people, was pulled by a 2018 Ford F-150. To sign up for the wild ride, fans could register at sleigh stops on 8th and 12th streets.
In addition to registration, the 8th St. location featured a full lineup of Ford trucks, as well as special appearances by past and present NFL players including Randall McDaniel, Jerick McKinnon and Patrick Elflein. At both locations, fans could also enter the Toughest Ticket Sweepstakes for a chance to win 2018 season tickets to their favorite NFL team’s home games.
Nostalgia Marketing: Pepsi Goes Back in Time
Ever the nostalgic brand, the soft drink giant celebrated its Pepsi Generations campaign with an interactive pop-up experience at Nicolet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis. The evening kicked off with “Extra” host AJ Calloway, who interviewed past Pepsi partners including super model Cindy Crawford and her son Presley Gerber, and NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon, who shared their memories of the brand (still no word on why Crawford hasn’t aged in 26 years). Then it was time for Pepsi Trademark vp of marketing Chad Stubbs to present the brand’s new “This Is The Pepsi” commercial, and break down key cultural moments in Pepsi history.
Wrapping up the presentations were Calloway and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who presented the 2017 Pepsi Rookie of the Year award to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara. Next, pop duo LOCASH hit the stage, performing several of their hits and honoring Minneapolis native Prince with their rendition of “Purple Rain.”
Throughout the evening, attendees were treated to passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails as they took in activation elements like the Canstruction wall, an installation featuring different versions of the Pepsi can throughout the years, and various vignettes showcasing crucial moments throughout the brand’s history.
The focus of the pop-up event, however, was the nostalgia-driven “Pepsi Go Back” virtual reality experience designed in partnership with Google. The experience paid homage to two of Pepsi’s most memorable tv spots (and yes, we’re probably dating ourselves, here): a 1992 ad featuring Cindy Crawford and two young boys gawking not at the super model, but at her can of Pepsi; and a 1998 spot featuring Jeff Gordon speeding around a racetrack as he reaches for a can of Pepsi inside his car. Through the VR engagement, attendees could insert themselves into the ads from a first-person point of view, allowing them to hop into the driver’s seat of Gordon’s car, for example. An interactive WebVR version of the experience was also available to digital fans. Agency: iHeartMedia, San Antonio.
StubHub Takes Over Target Field With Football Experiences
The Super Bowl marks StubHub’s largest event of the year, an opportunity to transform the act of handing over tickets that fans have ordered to the big game into a brand engagement. Each year, StubHub is charged with leveraging a physical location at which fans can pick up those tickets (Super Bowl tickets cannot be shipped). And this year, the brand took over the Minnesota Twins’ home ballpark, Target Field, where it created a multi-level football fan paradise dubbed the StubHub Live: Field House. Agencies: Zag Marketing, Gillette, NJ; Mosaic, Dallas.
Courtyard by Marriott Hosts a Real (and Virtual) Sleepover
Sleepovers are fun. A sleepover in a Super Bowl stadium the night before the big game? It’s an experience of a lifetime. For the third year in a row, Courtyard by Marriott, the official hotel of the NFL, hosted its Super Bowl Sleepover contest, a chance for one winning football fan and a guest to wake up in the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday—this year, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The brand transformed a stadium suite on the ground level into the “ultimate” Courtyard by Marriott guest room with a field-level view, lounge chairs and gas-powered fire pit.
Courtyard hosted a contest from Sept. 1 to Nov. 3, asking fans to demonstrate their passion for the game through photos submitted on social media using hashtag #CourtyardSuperBowlContest. The winner, Courey Marshall, and a guest, enjoyed a night of customized in-stadium experiences, surprises and access to exclusive events through the weekend, culminating with tickets to Super Bowl LII. For this particular sleepover, the winners were surprised by Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller, who turned down their sheets; and then, Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott, who woke them up in the morning.
The winners of our #CourtyardSuperBowlContest had the time of their lives at Super Bowl Stadium in Minneapolis! (Including a few surprise guests). Check it out! #CourtyardNFL pic.twitter.com/Aesrr7ru6S
— Courtyard Hotels (@CourtyardHotels) February 7, 2018
The suite in the stadium was completely made over into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel room, from the beds to the lights to the blinds. The next day, the brand flipped the suite back to its original state so it could accommodate executives. The winners were then brought to a local hotel room to get ready for the big game.
To extend the visibility of the program outside the stadium, Courtyard by Marriott activated a 4D virtual reality dome at the Mall of America, Feb. 2-3, that replicated the sleepover experience. (The brand also activated the dome in Flatiron Plaza in New York City last September.)
Inside the dome, consumers were met with a Courtyard by Marriott-styled space with recliners to sit in for the viewing experience that included “waking up” on Sunday (with a voiceover narrating the experience), blinking your eyes and walking out into the stadium. Courtyard gave away two tickets to Super Bowl LII, to boot. Touchdown. Agency: IMG Live, Atlanta.
Time Lapse: Watch the “Ultimate” Courtyard by Marriott Guest Room Come to Life
Verizon Rewards ‘Up’ Customers With Warmth
Verizon, the official wireless provider of the NFL and the official sponsor of Super Bowl LIVE, the 10-day free fan fest for Super Bowl LII, offered its Verizon Up rewards members a respite from the frigid temps in a glass-walled lounge. The 24-foot by 40-foot activation helped drive buzz for Verizon Up, which rewards customers with perks for every $300 they spend on their monthly Verizon bill. Inside, Verizon Up customers could hang out, charge their phones and attend special events.
Fourteen NFL players (including Kirk Cousins, Kyle Rudolph, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., and more) visited the Verizon Up Members Lounge to surprise consumers and offer up prizes to NFL events, like tickets to Super Bowl LII. In addition, the Verizon Up Members Lounge served as a VIP viewing area for the Super Bowl LIVE concerts each night. Those concerts, sponsored by Verizon, took place on the adjacent Verizon Up Stage and featured artists like Rae Sremmurd, Syklar Grey and X Ambassadors. Verizon Up members were able to meet the artists in the lounge prior to their performances.
Leading up to the fan fest, Verizon was busy in the local community with NFL star Victor Cruz and NBA All-Star Karl Anthony Towns, who participated in a two-day effort to expose local kids to interactive technology experiences as part of Verizon’s $500,000 donation to STEM charities via the Verizon Innovative Learning education initiative of the Verizon Foundation. In Minneapolis, fans were the first to experience a new mobile learning lab before it embarked on a tour across the country. The mobile Explorer Lab combines 360-degree movie-quality video, special effects and hands-on educational gaming to “transport” students to simulated environments, such as outer space, giving them virtual experiences as scientists and explorers. Agency: Momentum Worldwide, New York City.
There’s No Place Like Home for Schwan’s Home Service
Enjoying a home field advantage, Minnesota-based Schwan’s Home Service parked a tailgate trivia truck tower in downtown Minneapolis to celebrate 65 years of food delivery service at the Super Bowl LIVE fan festival. The 70,000-pound installation was equipped with multiple screens displaying interactive trivia games for fans to participate in.
Schwan’s also kept attendees on their toes by implementing its Two Minute Drill surprise sampling engagement at the top of each hour, dishing out snacks like chicken egg rolls with sweet chili sauce and its signature Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Miniatures. To boot, a virtual bobble head engagement helped the brand alleviate the pain of wait times for fans standing in line. Agency: Periscope, Minneapolis.
Bullseye Lodge is Right on Target for Football Fans
Target took Super Bowl LII’s “bold north” theme to heart, inviting attendees to cozy up at its Bullseye Lodge, where the brand combined everyone’s favorite wintertime activities to create an interactive playground. The “lodge” was, in fact, the site of the 25,000-square-foot Target Plaza Commons, a collaborative space for Target headquarters team members. But for 10 days leading up the big game, the space belonged to football fans.
The exterior of the Bullseye Lodge was brimming with bold north vibes. When attendees weren’t warming up by the outdoor fire, they could be found battling friends, family and even strangers in games of curling or jumbo bubble hockey. Fans could also have their animated GIF captured while catching a football or doing their best touchdown dance. The footage was then projected onto the light display at the top of the Target Plaza building for all to see. And then there was the option to grab a frosty seat at the ice bar, where the only drink served was Mountain Dew and each piece of furniture was made of ice.
Inside the lodge, consumers could thaw out and peruse gear at an RFID-powered fan pop-up shop featuring a limited-edition collection of apparel and accessories celebrating the north, all curated by local outdoor clothing company Askov Finlayson. There were also ski lift chairs that served as popular photo ops, a living room vignette featuring rustic décor and a roaring fire, endless GIF opportunities (powered by The Bosco) and an M&M’s and Skittles Sweet Shoppe.
For those seeking an extra layer of warmth, the Mug O’ Moose Cocoa Café was at the ready with hot chocolate. Before ordering the beverage, fans were invited to take a photo of themselves, which was then 3D printed onto a marshmallow, adding a touch of personalization to a simple cup of cocoa. Agency: Wasserman, New York City.
Cozy up to Target’s Bullseye Lodge:
Into the Woods With American Express
American Express brought sexy back with its Amex x Justin Timberlake: Man of the Woods Listening Experience. To celebrate the release of Timberlake’s fifth studio album of the same name, the brand created a rustic pop-up environment for Platinum and Centurion cardmembers, and influencers like Issa Rae, Ciara, Terrel Owens and Tiki Barber, at Paisley Park, Prince’s former estate. There, Ryan McGinley, an artist who appears on the album, and Timberlake, discussed the creative process, songwriting techniques and their inspiration for the sound, look and feel of “Man of the Woods,” in addition to previewing tracks from the new record. Footage from the conversation was live-streamed on Twitter to keep digital fans engaged.
The remainder of the event was dedicated to unique experiences inspired by the album, like vinyl-making, silkscreen t-shirt printing and a unisex make-your-own scent station. Attendees were also treated to a performance by Prince’s band, The Revolution. Bonus: all proceeds from the event were donated to the National Park Foundation. Agency: Momentum Worldwide, New York City.
Hallmark Makes ‘Moments’ Across Minneapolis
For its Super Bowl LII presence, Hallmark, a founding partner of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, set out to bring to life the brands under its umbrella with multiple experiential activations across Minneapolis. The ‘moments’ brand’s presence began with Kitten Bowl V presented by Hallmark Channel, which took place live for the first time in a custom “Purrking Lot” stadium inside the Super Bowl LIVE fan footprint. Signage commemorated past Kitten Bowl MVPs (like Tomcat Brady), while fans posed with a four-foot-tall “Hissman Trophy.” Adult cats up for adoption were also on-site for fans to visit. Some 10,000 fans personally experienced the Kitten Bowl, and 117 kittens were rescued because of it.
The brand also had a presence at Minneapolis’s Mall of America, where it activated a Crayola Experience featuring meet-and-greets and photo activations; Super Bowl-themed experiences in its Hallmark Gold Crown Store within the mall; and a three-day Valentine’s Day Pop-up Shop at agency partner Periscope’s headquarters. Agencies: Periscope (pop-up); Modern Promos (street teams), both of Minneapolis.
Featured photo credit: On Location Experiences
• Super Bowl LII: Schwan’s Celebrates 65 Years With a 40-Foot Truck Tower and Surprise Sampling
• Super Bowl LII: StubHub Transforms Target Field Into a Sports Fan’s Paradise
• Hallmark Spreads the Love at Super Bowl With Kittens, a Pop-up and a Social Media Campaign