Sabrina Sanchez
Feb 8, 2021

How brands caught the attention of Gen Z during the Super Bowl

Second-screen activations included influencer partnerships and social media sweepstakes.

How brands caught the attention of Gen Z during the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is often described as the biggest branding stage in the world — but not if you’re trying to reach young audiences.

More than half of Gen Zers were expected to be unlikely to watch the live broadcast of the Super Bowl on CBS on on Sunday (February 7), according to a recent Morning consult poll. In general, Gen Zers are half as likely as millennials to watch live sports regularly, opting instead for gaming and esports.

So in addition to their multi-million commercial buys during the game, brands also opted to seize on the earned media buzz around the event with thumb-stopping campaigns on the platforms where Gen Zers spend their time.

Budweiser, which has opted out of a Super Bowl spot for the first time in 37 years, instead ran a digital campaign supporting Covid-19 vaccine awareness on social media.

Other brands primarily looking to reach younger audiences, including Frank’s RedHot, DiGiorno and TUMS, skipped the US$5.5 million in-game buy altogether to connect with fans on second screen platforms including Twitter, TikTok and Twitch.

“A lot of [younger] people watching the game aren't necessarily sports fans,” said Jim Johnson, VP of account planning at digital video platform “They’re just interested in some of the content surrounding the game. That's what brands should be focused on.”


As younger audiences divert their attention away from traditional cable, brands partnered with influencers and created sweepstakes for users to engage with during the game.

Frank’s RedHot, for example, partnered with Super Bowl champion Eli Manning and TikTok star David Dobrik to launch “Frank’s RedHot: The Big Pour,” an interactive Twitter challenge. If users tweeted the hashtag “#FranksBigPour” 100,000 times, Manning said he would pour 100 gallons of hot sauce on Dobrik, and Franks would donate $100,000 to Tackle Kids Cancer.

Corona Beer, for its part, called for auditions on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to temporarily replace Tony Romo as the “Corona Hotline Operator,” with the hashtag #RomoReplacement. Romo selected his favorite submissions and uploaded them as “Tony’s Picks.”

“[Younger audiences] want a little bit more than just a leanback passive experience when they're viewing TV,” Johnson said.

So who else ran digital campaigns? Here’s how other brands connected with Gen Z audiences during the Super Bowl.


To coincide with its spot “Flat Matthew,” Doritos created a branded filter on TikTok that makes users look 2D. The effect featured Queen’s song “I Want To Break Free.” Starting February 6, TikTok users could use the hashtag #DoritosFlatLife to showcase the ways they would break free in 2D. Influencers David Dobrik, Avani Gregg, JoJo Siwa, Nia Sioux and Adam W were among those who tried the challenge. 

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines, which advertised in the Super Bowl for the first time in 25 years, ran an #AlaskaSafetyDance sweepstakes on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook during the game. Through till February 13, people can enter for a chance to win round trip tickets to any destination the airline flies by uploading a video of themselves doing the Safety Dance and using the hashtag. Ten people will be chosen to win a pair of tickets.

5-minute Crafts

For those of us who don’t care about football (gasp!)  5-Minute Crafts hosted a live stream crafting marathon on YouTube during the game. 


Facebook and the NFL launched a collection of AR filters on Messenger, including an Endzone filter, that let fans picture themselves as a Bucs or Chiefs player with helmets, shoulder pads, and jerseys. Fans who searched for or clicked the #SBLV hashtag on Facebook were driven to a feed of popular Super Bowl content on the platform.

On Instagram, fans could use an AR filter called “Spike It” to add Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski to their photos and videos. DJ D-Nice also performed a pregame set on Instagram Live for fans, taking over the @Instagram account on Super Bowl Sunday. The NFL used Instagram Reels throughout the week showcasing highlights from the game.


In an extension of its 30-second spot during the game, M&M’s targeted Gen Z with an AR filter on Snapchat that let them dance with their favorite M&M characters using body-tracking technology. The brand also partnered with GoPuff to deliver free M&M’s to winners of a Twitter sweepstakes, and to allow TikTok users to send the candy to loved ones.

Ocean Spray

Ocean Spray brought back its epic collab with TikTok influencer Nathan Apodaca (@420Doggface208), announced through a teaser videos by Apodaca and Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes. TikTok users could tune to Ocean Spray’s live feed on game day with the hashtag #DoggFaceDanceVibes.


In a campaign called “Snap to Steal,” Cheetos gave fans who scanned a QR "Snapcode" of its Super Bowl ad featuring Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis a free bag of Cheetos Pop Crunch Mix. Users had 60-seconds on Sunday to snag a bag when the ad aired in the third quarter on CBS and on YouTube. Using the Snap camera, viewers could unlock a different AR filter to redeem their prize.


Verizon built a 5G stadium in Fortnite where fans could watch live streams and interact with their favorite NFL players in the week leading up to the ganme. 


Building on its 2019 Super Bowl social media campaign, DiGiornio gave fans free pizza if the score reached the first three digits of pi (3.14) at any point during the game. If the score reached 3-14 or 14-3, DiGiorno tweeted a link where fans could enter for a chance to win.

Super Squares

Super Squares, a mobile version of the traditional football squares betting game, hosted a virtual Super Bowl party on Twitch on February 7 featuring pro-football player Matt Birk and former ESPN commentator Mike Golic. The hosts played Super Squares with fans during the event, which attempted to break a Guinness World Record for the most people playing the game at once. Players were prompted to answer in-app questions about TV commercials for a chance to win prizes.


On February 1, Tums launched a Bingo sweepstakes on Twitter with the hashtag #TUMSBingoSweepstakes. When people tweeted about the brand or a “TUMS-worthy” moment, their TUMS bingo cards would automatically populate and enter them for a chance to win up to $55,000 in prizes.


Campaign US

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