How brands use big events to reinvent themselves

Super Bowl Sunday is the ultimate showcase for agency-brand collaboration. In a number of prominent cases this year, brands partnered with new (or new-ish) agency partners in an attempt to stage a makeover in front of millions (and millions and millions).

How did they do?

“Presenting our brand: now with personality!”

A good creative partnership often involves shaking one another out of an establishing comfort zone. If your client isn’t, say, Budweiser or Chevrolet, pitching a $4.5 million spot may seem almost like a stunt. A 52-year-old glue-maker certainly isn’t one of the usual candidates, but the Minneapolis agency Fallon made a 30-second spot the cornerstone of its 2015 vision for Loctite. Based on the early return, it’s paying off.

“Loctite’s hilarious Super Bowl ad just put the company on the map,” tweeted Business Insider.

Fallon and Loctite enlisted comedy heroes/weirdos Tim & Eric to direct the spot, then used the “wait… this is for a glue company?” angle to their advantage.

“There’s an element of surprise in it that people won’t expect from a glue company,” said Chris Lawrence, director of account management at Fallon. Loctite credits its agency partner for thinking about the product in a new way.

It’s hard to step outside of your day-to-day and see your business or product with an entirely fresh perspective; that can become true for agencies working the same account year after year, too. Loctite’s memorable Super Bowl dancers serve as a reminder of the importance of a creative partner that will challenge assumptions. Who says that glue (or your own company’s product) can’t have every bit as much personality as Doritos and Bud Light.

“We have personality… but do we have to spend $4.5 million to prove it?”

While still nothing beats a Super Bowl ad for unveiling your brand refresh, you do have increasing opportunities to piggyback elsewhere. 90 percent of younger audiences are using second screens while watching TV.

And it’s not just the Super Bowl that offers this opportunity; DiGiorno made an irreverent name for itself while live-tweeting events like the Sound of Music sing-along, and now can be relied upon to provide pizza-centric jokes during seemingly any program you happen to be watching. This ongoing brand victory began as a happy accident; the pizzamaker’s agency, Resource, scored a hit on Twitter and then just sorta ran with it from there.

“It was absolutely spontaneous,” brand manager Brian Linz told Ad Age. “This was not an intentional campaign at all. It happened organically.”

If you want lightning to strike, give your partners a chance to take risks and react quickly.

“This event is popular and relevant. We are involved with this event. Therefore…”

By more formally aligning itself with a popular but seemingly unlikely TV event, brands can start to turn the tide of public perception.

“A relatively stodgy fashion brand like Mary Kay has been sponsoring Project Runway as well as rolling out their own eCommerce site to help consumers break away from the tried and true Mary Kay Lady,” says Jeremy Leonard, COO at the digital ad agency IMM.

Leonard adds that brands don’t have to stop with sponsorship; instead, original content can go a long way toward a successful rebranding.

“Why couldn’t Mary Kay support the same sort of ‘red carpet’ fashionista gossip information site around the big awards shows; TMZ-style information but repackaged with some level of decorum?” he asks.


Leo Burnett won “an agency shootout” and the prize was to shake things up for McDonald’s, at a time when sales numbers have been declining in the U.S. The fast food giant has been using the “I’m lovin’ it” slogan for years, but Leo Burnett is really emphasizing the love in its spots, which have shown archenemies burying the hatchet and, in the Super Bowl spot, customers winning food via random acts of kindness. It’s a good example of an agency knowing that a refresh doesn’t always mean starting from square one.

Of course, there was plenty of other activity in the McDonald’s universe, with DDB, The Marketing Store and Golin teaming up for a successful real-time giveaway during the Super Bowl that underscored the core spread-the-love message.

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.