Running a Super Bowl ad is about the biggest marketing investment a brand can make. But some have found a new way to circumvent the high costs of buying Super Bowl ad time: sharing it.
Several brands teamed up to run Super Bowl spots together this year. Perhaps most notably was Bud Light and HBO, which placed a Game of Thrones dragon and the show’s theme song at the end of a commercial in Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly universe.
In Bud Light’s shared spot with HBO, the scene starts out as one out of the beer brand’s medieval world, also known as the land of Dilly Dilly. The king and queen prepare to watch a jousting match with the one and only Bud Knight on the field. However, the match ends up being the Bud Knight’s downfall, as it’s revealed that he’s battling The Mountain from Game of Thrones, who dominates his competition, killing the Bud Knight. As The Mountain crushes his head, a dragon flies over the scene with the show’s iconic theme playing in the background.
“We love that we were able to finally bring together two of pop culture’s most iconic medieval realms to deliver an unexpected surprise at Super Bowl LIII,” said Andy Goeler, vice president of Bud Light marketing, in a statement. “Our ‘Dilly Dilly’ universe takes inspiration from Game of Thrones, so it made perfect sense to join forces for this unforgettable Super Bowl moment.”
The Game of Thrones crossover was just one of several Bud Light ran throughout the game, with its parent company Anheuser-Busch purchasing over four minutes of ad air time spread across brands including Bud Light, Stella Artois, Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer and Michelob Ultra. Though several of Anheuser-Busch’s spots were among the night’s most memorable, the Bud Light and Game of Thrones mashup managed to fuse the brand’s Super Bowl moment with one of the most hotly-anticipated pop culture moments of the year.
“What HBO and Bud Light did with their combined advertising effort was surprising, innovative and most certainly memorable,” K.B. Reidenbach, managing partner at digital marketing agency Levelwing, said in an email to Adweek. “Bud Light had a great night overall, [and] integrating their medieval narrative with HBO’s Game of Thrones was co-branding at its best.”
T-Mobile used two of its four Super Bowl ads to tout its partnerships with Taco Bell and Lyft as well.
T-Mobile’s approach to a brand integration was a bit different. Each of the mobile service provider’s ads featured a texting conversation, one of which was about a man who was craving tacos while another was a humorous exchange between a person and their Lyft driver (the conversation was inspired by a Twitter meme that Lyft licensed for the Big Game). At the conclusion of each spot, T-Mobile announced a new promotion: free tacos on Tuesdays and free Lyft rides for the week of the Super Bowl.
“I think that the Super Bowl is still a phenomenal place to gain customer attention,” said Nick Drake, T-mobile’s evp of marketing and experience. “In this age of fragmented media, I think this is one of those tentpole moments where people really care about what brands are saying and are really dialed in, unlike any other time in the year.”
However, there is a risk that by joining forces with another brand, particularly one with a lot of star power like Game of Thrones, you can eclipse your own moment. According to Google Trends, that seems to be the case for Bud Light on Super Bowl night, with Game of Thrones receiving four times the search traffic as Bud Light did when the ad aired.
But if it gets people talking about your brand’s commercial, even if you have to share the spotlight, it still may be well worth it.