Super Bowl Experience

What do Midwestern dairy farmers, the world’s largest ice fishing competition, a state’s tourism promotion office and a restaurant’s rooftop have in common? During an ordinary month, not much. But February was no ordinary month. That’s when the Super Bowl rolled in to Minneapolis, and those four groups – and hundreds of others – all competed for a share of the millions of eyeballs focused squarely on Minnesota.

As disparate as they seem, those groups – all clients of the Twin Cities PR agency I lead – followed proven public relations approaches as they angled to grab the attention of Super Bowl revelers, Minnesotans eager to play a role in the festivities, and the 5,000 media that descended on the North Star State.

Here are four PR approaches these organizations embraced, all lessons you can apply the next time your company or client is faced with a similar high-profile opportunity:

Own your uniqueness. One of the key pieces of advice the mayor of Houston – which hosted last year’s Super Bowl – gave to Minneapolis was to make sure to involve the hometown crowd. And involve them, we did, by showcasing, celebrating and going all in on Minnesota’s “Bold North” culture. Visitors, including out-of-town media, were eager to experience everything our often bitterly cold state has to offer, and locals were excited to show off the things that make us, us. One client transformed its popular rooftop bar into an elaborate ice lounge and ice fishing experience, complete with frozen furniture, comfy ice houses and fishing experts, all to give visitors a taste of the Minnesota outdoors – without ever leaving downtown Minneapolis. The “cool” concept attracted a steady torrent of locals and visitors, and media from as far away as Germany.

The name of the game is activation. While immersive experiences like virtual reality still carry a lot of cache, they’re almost becoming table stakes to attract people to your booth or experience. For the Fuel Up to Play 60 presence at the Super Bowl Experience, the NFL’s interactive theme park, the Midwest Dairy Association layered on several compelling reasons to stop by: They combined a VR game that transported visitors to a virtual Minnesota farm and football locker room with current and alumni NFL player appearances, dairy-product sampling from a high-tech, interactive cooler and opportunities to meet and talk with real-life dairy farmers, including the family whose farm was featured in the game. Together, those elements provided multiple touchpoints to engage with people both at the booth and online.

Strengthen your online presence and photo-worthy visuals. It’s a basic tactic, but one worth repeating: Make sure your digital presence is on point; it will be the high-profile face of your content. Exponentially more people will experience your messaging through your owned and social platforms and media’s online channels than actually show up in person. The Fuel Up to Play 60 experience included signage with a hashtag that made it easy for others to share their photos. Plus, we provided a fun photo opportunity to increase the odds that the athletes would post their own photos, extending the client’s reach to hundreds of thousands of additional followers. Another example of the value of providing selfie-worthy experiences is ‘Sota Pop, an interactive pop-up gallery of shareable photo ops that highlighted Minnesota’s four seasons under one roof, each scene designed by a local artist. Client Explore Minnesota Tourism made it incredibly easy for both visitors and residents to pose in front of a vibrant, unique and attention-getting collection of some of the state’s coolest destinations and attractions. Throughout, make sure you’ve got a solid team monitoring and reacting to social media posts, to maximize engagement both proactively and authentically.

Get real. It wasn’t all clever re-creations of Bold North staples: A few days before Super Bowl mania cranked into full gear, actual, real, live ice fishing took center stage. National media in town for the Big Game – including ABC News and Sports Illustrated – were intrigued enough with an authentic display of Minnesota cold-hardiness to take a two-hour trip north of the Twin Cities to check out the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, the world’s largest ice fishing tournament. We took bundled-up reporters out on the frozen lake to experience this Minnesota tradition first-hand, complete with ice augers, numb fingers and thousands of real-life people to interview. Virtual reality is a great way to engage, but actual reality is as immersive as it gets.

With all the hoopla around the Big Game or other major events, it can be tough to stand out. But if you embrace what’s unique about your community, keep your activations strategic, strengthen your online and visual presence and stay authentic, it’s a super-sized opportunity for a major win.