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Crashing the Party: How Brands Engaged an Audience of 33 Million at the College Football National Championship

People always want to be invited to the biggest party. The parties with the “In Crowd.” It’s human nature. These days, they call it “FOMO” – Fear of Missing Out. But it’s more than that. It’s the desire to engage with others. It’s the desire be accepted by your peers. Because if you’re not in, then, well – you’re out. This year, for the 10th year in a row, I failed to receive an invitation to HBO’s Golden Globes after party. While I was a little bummed, I understood why I didn’t make the cut. I don’t work in Hollywood, I don’t personally know anyone who attended and I didn’t even watch the Golden Globes (or realize they were happening). Still, it stung a little. I could have made some great connections and maybe even drummed up some new business. But alas, there will be other parties.  And now that we’re living in the digital age, invitations are no longer needed to get in to some of the biggest parties of the year.

Take the NCAA football National Championship between Ohio State and the University of Oregon. 33.4 million people tuned in on Monday night to watch Ohio State take home the title. That’s a BIG party. And everyone was invited. Through the magic of social media, anyone with an Internet connection or a smartphone could join in on the fun. Whether it was OSU and UofO fans taunting each other, people taking issue with some of the referee’s calls or talking heads tweeting out stats, everyone was in on the conversation. It wasn’t just individuals at the party. Lots of big brands – and plenty of smaller ones – were in attendance as well.

Today, brands must engage their customers and potential customers in order to survive. The numbers of choices consumers have for each product is staggering. Brands must now go to where the consumers are instead of the other way around. Brands have to be at the party. During the National Championship, they showed up in droves.  AMC Theatres and Marvel Studios were there; reminding everybody how awesome the new Avengers movie will be, after debuting its first trailer at halftime. Nike – a massive Oregon benefactor – was actively chatting up the crowd (and reminding everyone that they sponsor Ohio State as well). CNN, among many others, noted that the lead referee was an uncanny Bob Newhart doppelganger. Bob Newhart himself (still alive, still funny) even joined in on the fun, tweeting a joke in response. Macy’s showed off their Oregon and Ohio State tee-shirts, and Butterfinger – always quick with a joke – capitalized on their name and the unusual amount of fumbles by tweeting this picture. Even small brands, like Garden and Gun – a lifestyle publication from Charleston, SC – got in on the fun, offering up game time recipes.  Everyone – save Oregon fans – had a good time.

The sheer volume of brand engagement during the game – and the witty, personable voice of those brands – is a testament to the effectiveness of customer engagement in the digital age. And though the communication feels off the cuff and natural, it’s part of an all-encompassing branding strategy to reach and engage with customers, no matter what party they’re attending.

If you’d like to learn about how your brand can engage customers, fill out the form to the right and let’s chat!

San Diego Branding Agency | Jacob Tyler

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