In a recent AdWeek article, author Anthony Crupi talks about how NBC has already sold most of its Super Bowl spots for $3.5 million each – up from Fox’s $3 million price last year. While he points to the ever-growing popularity of the game and the commercials that surround it, Crupi fails to mention the most obvious explanation for the 17 percent increase: the powerful multiplier effect of social media and social networking.

Put another way, the full value of a Super Bowl spot is found in its ability to spark consumer action after, and in some cases before, its 30 seconds of airtime. Are viewers compelled to Tweet about it? Will they share it with friends on Facebook? Seek it out and watch it again on YouTube? All of these social interactions create additional exposure for brands. Better still, if the buzz is favorable, this exposure can do more than generate awareness, it can be a carrier wave for advocacy — and ultimately drive revenue.

Here are just a few examples of the benefits realized by brands that ran spots during last year’s Super Bowl:

  • E*Trade saw its number of Twitter followers increase by 151 percent. For GoDaddy, the gain was 73 percent.
  • The Facebook likers for Pepsico’s PepsiMax brand increased by 97 percent, while BMW enjoyed a 51 percent increase.
  • Volkswagen’s Little Darth Vadar commercial had nearly 22 million views on YouTube, more than 18K comments and roughly 100K ratings (98 percent likes). (Source:

In each case, the value of the brand’s owned media channel was increased – ditto the value of the related earned media. And when it comes to adding fans and followers, the value was increased permanently, not just temporarily. E*Trade, GoDaddy, PepsiMax and BMW all expanded their reach, engagement and potential influence – which means all future communications and promotions will benefit from the investment made in airing a commercial in front of 111 million viewers.

This leads us to the lesson all marketers can learn from a $3.5 million Super Bowl spot, though most of us will never buy one. Simply put, paid media has a new role in the band. It’s no longer a solo act or dominant member of the Media Trinity – paid, owned and earned. It is part of the overall mix of media options that work together to generate and sustain re-marketing by and among a brand’s key constituencies – especially the influencers.

Paid media can provide the spark that gets the fire going, but that’s just the start. When developing any modern marketing campaign, it’s imperative to leverage the power of social media and social networking. Do it right, and you’ll benefit from the multiplier effect both in the short term and the long term.