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The 2013 Super Bowl Blackout and the Rise of Real-Time Content Marketing

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Did you see what happened during the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII last night? No, not the electrifying 108-yard kick-off return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones. Instead, I'm talking about the world debut of real-time content marketing. Shortly after Jones's romp to the end zone, half of the lights in the New Orleans Superdome went out, leaving players, coaches and fans alike with an unexpected 33 minutes to mill around.

Seeing an opportunity, advertisers and media outlets alike swept in with content developed just for this moment, when they knew millions upon millions of people would be looking for something to fill the time so they wouldn't have to listen to the CBS sports crew try to improvise.

Oreo and Tide get props for being and incredibly creative and fast on their feet, but there were others. And new media companies like Mashable and BuzzFeed -- who are more accustomed to the pace at which the world moves today -- were all over the place, and not just during the blackout, but during the entire game. My phone was lighting up with Google+ updates from Mashable all night and BuzzFeed was awash in Twitter trend summaries and Illuminati speculation.

The collective reaction proves what content marketers have been told for a while now: to make an impact, you have to be there with relevant content when there's an audience ready to consume. Oreo had the great (but expensive) whisper fight commercial teed up last night. But what's bringing them the most attention this morning? A cheapo jpeg created and approved on the fly.

Now, admittedly, most of us don't have social media mission control rooms filled with creatives and executives gathered for the sole purpose of capitalizing on a huge ad spend. But the principle remains the same: Know your audience, seek opportunities to create content that's interesting to them and provide it at just the right moment. Like Audi did in its very funny tweet that poked Mercedes-Benz, its competitor that holds the naming rights to the Superdome:

What's the right moment? Keep your eyes and ears open and you'll know. In the meantime, be prepared, be nimble and be smart. To the quick-draw content marketer goes the spoils.


A version of this post originally appeared on Social Well.

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Matt Cyr is the Director of Digital Strategy for Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies. Prior to that he was the Content Director and Managing Editor at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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  • by Mike Merrill Mon Feb 4, 2013 via blog

    I think what's really interesting is the impact this will have to agency/brand teams. Now these teams will have to plan to be working during these type of events and plan a content strategy around it. Digital strategists won't be able to really enjoy the superbowl anymore.

    Either way, it's an amazing shift.


  • by Ann Handley Mon Feb 4, 2013 via blog

    I think this was my favorite example of real-time content/newsjacking. Via @pbs on Twitter:

    @PBS This might be a good time think about alternative programming. #SuperBowlBlackOut #WeHaveDowntonPBS

    Loved it!

  • by Matt Cyr Mon Feb 4, 2013 via blog

    That is great, Ann. It seems that the only ones that didn't get in on the blackout action were the puppies from Puppy Bowl...they could have gone with something like, "Dan Marino isn't the only dog working today. Check out the Puppy Bowl while you wait for the lights to come back on."

  • by Ann Handley Mon Feb 4, 2013 via blog

    LOL! True! Also would've been great to see more snack brands jump in -- "Now would be a good time to make more nachos." (Or possibly this happened, and I didn't stumble into it!)

  • by Brigid Demko Tue Feb 5, 2013 via blog

    I'm studying Social Media and Practice with @Dr4Ward at @NewhouseSU and this was a hot topic this week in our class. It's a wonderful example of taking advantage of consumer needs right when the need is present. It really shows the power of social media and hopefully agencies will learn a lesson from 360i. This is the kind of thing that makes me excited to get into the industry.

  • by Matt Cyr Wed Feb 6, 2013 via blog

    Hi Brigid,

    I couldn't agree is an incredibly exciting time to be doing what we're doing. The opportunities for creativity and business development are nearly endless. Good luck finishing up your degree!


  • by AshlieT Wed Feb 6, 2013 via blog

    I agree. I'm sure that all major brands running advertisements at the Super Bowl or other high-exposure events will now be prepared for a similar instance again. Kudus to those companies that were prepared and proactive this time around, though!

  • by Matt Cyr Thu Feb 7, 2013 via blog

    I think you're both right, although the stakes are significantly higher with an event like the Super Bowl, where there's a huge international audience and tens of millions of dollars flowing out of the pockets of advertisers.

    For smaller brands (or even companies so small they don't think of themselves as "brands") I doubt it will mean not enjoying the Super Bowl, but it will mean that hawk-eyed reps of those brands will have the opportunity to make a name for their company if they're paying attention when something relevant to their brand happens and they can respond quickly and effectively.

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