Social media takes over the Super Bowl

YouTube ads, tweeting polar bears and game apps take the big game social

Remember the days when watching the Super Bowl meant eating lots of chips, hanging out with friends and, most importantly, being glued to the TV?

This weekend, fans will likely split their attention between the screens on their TVs, laptops, smartphones and tablets. They're just as likely to be chatting with their friends online as they are with the people in the room with them.

This year is a game changer. The Super Bowl, which will be streamed online for the first time, is going social. Since fans will be tweeting and posting comments about the game on their Facebook and Google+ pages, advertisers and the NFL are working to get in on the action.

Volkswagen's Super Bowl ad features a group of dogs barking out the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars.

"It's a new way of interacting during the game," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "I'm expecting this Super Bowl to give us some of the highest Twitter volume we have seen. We've got all the ingredients for it. It's expected to be a close game. There are big stars, two huge markets, a social-media savvy audience and the game is in prime time. It's almost like a social media perfect storm."

Fans for both the New York Giants and the New England Patriots took to social networks a couple of months ago, supporting their teams and rooting for them to make the Super Bowl.

Last December, the Patriots had 644,000 unique visitors to their official Web site, topping the Giants' 574,000 visitors, according to Nielsen Wire. But while Patriots fans made more visits, Giants fans were more engaged on their team's site, viewing nearly twice as many pages compared with their rivals.

Who is out there doing the most tweeting, posting encouragement to their teams and using trash talk?

Nielsen reports that Giants fans are posting 59% of all the social buzz about the big game. However, Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady is getting nearly double the online buzz compared with Giants QB Eli Manning.

According to an ETrade survey of 1,000 Americans, 22% say they plan to tweet, text and post on Facebook and other social media sites during the game. Of the 67% who say they'll be using a device during the Super Bowl, 34% said it will be a smartphone, 27% say they'll be on a computer and 6% say they'll use a tablet.

So how are companies taking advantage of this social networking?

A few advertisers, in a break with tradition, have launched their big Super Bowl ads before the big game, instead of during the three-plus hour event. Companies including Honda and Volkswagen are spreading their advertising dollars onto online sites.

Honda, for instance, took to YouTube about a week ago to run a highly popular takeoff ( on the 1980s cult movie classic, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, to advertise its Honda CR-V automobile. As of Friday at noon ET, the ad had been viewed more than 10 million times and had racked up nearly 28,000 "likes."

And Volkswagen posted a YouTube video called "The Bark Side," that features a group of dogs barking out the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars. It's been viewed more than 11 million times and has been "liked" more than 72,000 times.

Coca-Cola is bringing back its popular polar bear ads but with a social media twist. During Sunday's game, Coke will be running an online stream at of its animated bears, which will be wearing game colors and reacting to plays in real time. The bears also will be "tweeting" comments about the game and taking on users' questions. The bears will even have their own game day Twitter hash tag: #GameDayPolarBears

Super Bowl-focused apps also are popping up all over this year.

The Giants have their own mobile app that is designed to give users real-time stats, breaking news and access to game previews, Giants-related tweets and on-demand video clips. The app is available for iPhones, Androids and Blackberry smart phones.

Meanwhile, the Patriots app is set up to offer real-time stats, streaming video and audio broadcasts. It too is available on iPhones, Androids and Blackberry smartphones.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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