Small Businesses Can Also Score with Super Bowl Marketing

Michael Essany Headshot by Michael Essany on January 31, 2011
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As Super Bowl XLV rapidly approaches, the marketing gurus behind the world’s most iconic brands are feverishly readying what amounts to an attraction every bit as highly-anticipated as the game itself — the 2011 slate of Super Bowl commercials. Of course, if you’re a small business owner lacking the estimated $2.5 million needed to score such prestigious ad space, Super Bowl Sunday is just another Sunday.

But it doesn’t have to be.

The Super Bowl, instead, can be viewed as the great American promotional event from which no marketable business — regardless of size — is excluded. Although the marketing leverage provided by the Super Bowl is widely thought to be the exclusive province of the globe’s biggest brands, there’s ample opportunity for small businesses to take advantage of the big game.

But where and how should a small business begin in that endeavor? By focusing on the social aspects of the occasion, says Jerry McLaughlin, founder and CEO of Branders, the world’s first online promotional items company and, today, the largest. According to McLaughlin, Super Bowl Sunday gives every business a starting place for a conversation that everybody understands.

“Small businesses can’t compete with big business in the media,” says the Branders boss. But small businesses have a “secret weapon” that the big boys don’t possess — personal contact.

“The Super Bowl brings groups of people together,” McLaughlin observes. “Take advantage of that to deliver your message. Imagine if all the cups at Super Bowl house parties in your neighborhood had your message printed on them? Local Super Bowl revelers are going to see your message on those cups more times than any ad on TV.”

To claim your small slice of the Super Bowl’s promotional pie, you don’t have to break your neck — or the bank — by rolling out an elaborate campaign that closely mimics what major advertisers are doing. Instead, McLaughlin has witnessed clients achieve great success simply by capitalizing on the socialization that defines Super Bowl Sunday.

Says McLaughlin, “Many of our customers have planned events and promotions tied to the Super Bowl theme. For example, one small business we work with helps its clients find new jobs. This year, it’s giving past clients stadium cups to hand out at their own Super Bowl parties. Our customer’s aim is to get people thinking about pursuing a better job, and to kick off that conversation in a fun, social setting where the idea can be talked about with friends.”

The use of humor in promoting one’s business during Super Bowl season is also vital, McLaughlin notes, recommending one clever marketing tool that is a perennial small biz Super Bowl hit: a customized tote bag for “football widows.” Just be sure to have fun with it, McLaughlin encourages, advising a humorous message like “He’s watching football… I’m here,” along with your brand’s logo or message.

Ultimately, while the Super Bowl presents small business owners with no shortage of rich marketing opportunities on a highly personalized level, it’s critical to protect your own brand — and its products or services — from getting lost in all the football hype.

“The focus should be on the business owner’s brand, not the Super Bowl itself,” McLaughlin concludes. “The Super Bowl’s power is bringing people together; it’s those groupings that matter, and it’s your message that counts. The product you choose should be the one that your customers and prospects will use and enjoy, and that makes sense for your business, your message, and your budget.”

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