Super Bowl advertisers strive to get their ads to stand out from the crowd in the most watched event of the year. The need to maximize exposures to recover the $7 million investment in a 30 second ad has led to most brands teasing the ads and/or pre-releasing them prior to the Big Game. This year, Ferrara Candy Company’s NERDS brand has taken an innovative approach to teasing and running its Super Bowl ad that is generating a huge volume of exposures for the brand along with cross-generational appeal.

The teaser for the ad (see above) features singer/actress Addison Rae using her dancing skills to help train the mystery star of NERDS’ Big Game ad to the tune of Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling.” Rae represents an excellent choice for the ad given her huge social media following that skews to Generation Z, the core target market for NERDS. With 88 million TikTok followers and more than 30 million Instagram followers, Rae’s social media opens the door to high exposure for the teaser teaser. Meanwhile, the choice of “What a Feeling” from the widely viewed 1983 movie Flashdance allows for cross-generational appeal.

Magen Hanrahan, Senior Vice President of Ferrarra’s 1908x Marketing Center says choosing Rae as talent was an easy one. “While most everyone loves NERDS, our core consumer is Gen Z, so we wanted to connect with them through a recognizable talent who is active on the channels where they are most engaged. Additionally, what also drew us to Addison Rae is her authentic love for the brand combined with her background in dance.”

Using Rae in the teaser has already paid off for NERDS by capitalizing on the power of influencer marketing in conjunction with running a Super Bowl ad. Data collected by social media experts Sprout Social shows that during the first week the teaser appeared it received more than 459,000 engagements and 605.5 million potential impressions. In addition, Addison Rae’s own post has seen 4 million views, 232,200 likes and 500+ comments. The NERDS post has seen 8,700 views, 600 likes and 30 comments. These results make sense in light of the importance of influencer marketing in social media strategy. As reported in a recent survey conducted by Sprout Social, 81% of social marketers say that influencer marketing is essential to their social media strategies.

NERDS’ in-game ad, slated to run in the second quarter, is the first in the brand’s 40 year history. The spot introduces Gummy, a brand character made in the image of the brand’s Gummy Clusters product. The character personifies the unique product combination of “crunchy and gummy” in the same piece of candy. The ad then circles back to Rae who is shown happily eating NERDS on a coach late in the ad. With its audience of more than 100 million annually, the Super Bowl is a good place to build awareness of the brand character. Notably, at least three other brands, Drumstick, Popeyes, and Starry (Pepsico) are introducing brand characters in this year’s Super Bowl ads.

For NERDS, Gummy is the first new character since 1983 when the brand launched its original purple, pink, orange, and red NERDS characters (who were later joined by similar blue, green, and yellow characters). Gummy is meant to contrast with the existing characters but also complement them. The ad also gives the exisitng characters, who are also given an updated look, including a 3D glow-up which will allow the characters to have exhibit more expressions and personality along with an air of playfulness.

Greg Guidotti, Ferrara’s Chief Marketing Officer descirbes that ads objectives as follows: “With more than 115 million people anticipated to view the Big Game, we see the household penetration opportunity. And, given the success of the brand, we know that IF consumer try, they will repeat. We’ll consider our spot a success if we’re able to get even more people to try and fall in love with our portfolio and NERDS Gummy Clusters – and, of course, by NERDS continuing to maintain its growth trajectory and leadership position in the Sugar Candy Category.”

Guidotti further describes the decision to run a Super Bowl Ad as a celebration of the brand. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that consumer love for NERDS Gummy Clusters has catapulted the brand to be the number one item in the Sugar Candy Category growing from $50 million to half a billion dollars in retail sales in just five years,” he says, “We wanted to celebrate this growth with fans at the Big Game, showing up for them bolder and louder than ever before, and introducing them to NERDS Gummy, a new character made in the likeness of their favorite candy – NERDS Gummy Clusters.”

Acknowledging the social media goals of the campaign, Hanrahan states: “We want to keep up the brand’s momentum and status as a pop culture icon – we want people talking about NERDS. We see everyday fans, celebrities and influencers alike show their love for the brand, especially fan-favorite NERDS Gummy Clusters on social.”

Hanrahan adds that the ad will be supported with a 360-marketing campaign that will extend across retail, owned channels, PR and paid channels. This will include analyzing results public relations, shopper marketing, paid media across social and digital channels (TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube, etc.), Linear TV (ABC, CBS, ESPN, Comedy Central, TBS, etc.) and Connected TV (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc.).

Clearly, NERDS’ is making an effort to combine the potential impacts of influencer marketing and Super Bowl Advertising. Guidotti emphasizes the opportunity for the brand to both reach potential new buyers while also encouraging repeat purchase among current buyers, asserting:

“We know that nearly 2 in every 3 buyers (~64%) repeatedly purchase NERDS products – with 1 in 4 buyers (22.4%) purchasing NERDS six or more times this past year. This level of repeat purchase across any category is unheard of. We’ve been able to drive this unprecedented NERDS success with just 16% of household penetration, meaning there are 84% of households who have not tried the product yet. Of the major sugar candy brands, NERDS is the only one to have grown household penetration in a significant way this past year. And, given the massive size of the Big Game audience, we know now is the right time to make this bold move.”

From the outside, NERDS’ campaign appears to be effective. Rachael Goulet, Director of Social Media at Sprout Social characterizes NERDS’ effort as being a good example of strategic influencer marketing. She states:

“Using Addison’s TikTok and Instagram platforms to tease a mysterious revelation for the brand’s big moment on February 11 is an excellend way for NERDS to not only reach a massive new audience, but boost engagement, drive conversations, and create excitement ahead of the game. And with the Tiktok star appearing as dance coach in the tease it feels authentic and true to her brand so it resonates with her audience. In addition, with the teaser getting over a million views and one hundred thousand-plus engagements with hours, NERDS can tap into this wealth of social data to see how consumers are reacting, discover trends, understnad what’s resonating and what’s not, and make any adjustments in real-time to maximize their marketing dollars.”

This year’s Super Bowl is seeing more tie-ins with influencers with large followings, including Lionel Messi for Michelob Ultra and Kris Jenner for Oreo cookies. Such Such links make a great deal of sense in today’s media environment given the need to reach a wide audience with Super Bowl ads. NERDS’ strategy of using an influencer/celebrity with a large social media following among Gen Z to gain exposures prior to the in-game spot allows the ad to reach both its core and broader target audience effectively.

Credits: GOLIN & Ferrara developed the concept for the NERDS teaser and UNIT9 Films produced the creative. Mindshare handled paid media and AUC handled retail. Digitas Chicago developed the game day spot concept and characters with production led by Biscuit Filmworks and animation by Framestore, with contributions from UNIT9 Films.

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Mindshare led the Big

Game media buy and developed the paid strategy, campaign, and execution.

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Advantage Unified

Commerce developed the brand’s shopper strategy and execution.

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