I have a confession to make …

I hate football (sorry, Tom Brady)… and I’m not a fan of hot wings (sorry Buffalo Wild Wings). But, as a content marketer and a creative professional, I love the Super Bowl.

I look forward to the creative campaigns advertisers strategically devise for the big game spots, and I also marvel at how some fail to take full advantage of their ad budgets.

This year, advertisers paid 5 million dollars for 30 seconds of airtime to capture attention and draw interest. And with hundreds of millions of viewers watching, advertisers needed to find a way to extend their reach beyond their 30-second ad spots and make every second count.

Super Bowl is the one time of year consumers don’t fire up the DVRs to avoid commercials. So it’s a prime opportunity for advertisers to give it everything they got so they can land proverbial touchdowns for their products.

The winners are the advertisers who reach beyond the ad and take a holistic perspective without neglecting the principles of good sound content marketing.

From a content marketer’s perspective, the winners are the ads that …

1. Connect with viewers
2. Prompt action
3. Continue the conversation

Let’s take a look at some of the advertisers that used content marketing to score big points with all three.

Know Your Audience – Make the Connection

This year, my living room was surprisingly quiet during the commercial spots instead of being full of the typical knee-slapping laughter I remember from past years.

Advertisers focused more on heartwarming ads and took a nod from the current political and emotional climate, focusing on pulling our heartstrings rather than our funnybones.

Here is the Budweiser ad spot. Budweiser is notorious for creating the funniest ads of the SuperBowl. But, this year, the popular Super Bowl sponsor replaced puppies and Clydesdales with societal relevance. Its ad spoke to the social and economic issues facing our nation today.

Content Marketing Takeaway

Advertisers were either outspoken in their political relevance or they played it safe, yet they still pulled on our heartstrings. They understood the current emotional climate and capitalized on its volatility.

As content marketers, we can take a nod from this strategy and pay close, detailed attention to our audience and the people we service. Our goal is to connect, and one way we can connect is by understanding the emotions our audience may be feeling and speaking directly to them in a language they can understand and relate to.

Death to the Call to Action (CTA)?

As I was watching the big game and scoping out the room, I noticed that half of the people were more attentive to their scrolling Facebook, Twitter and Instagram news feeds than watching the Patriots’ epic 4th quarter comeback.

According to a TechCrunch study, digital engagement around the Super Bowl has increased year over year. In 2015, football enthusiasts tweeted 28.4 million tweets and shared 265 million posts, comments and likes on Facebook.

In addition, people are watching more ads on YouTube than ever before. And, according to Ad Age, mobile devices account for 50% of advertiser website visits during the Super Bowl.

The phones are in our hands ready to post, click and share. We have full access to the ads, even days and months later on YouTube. Why aren’t advertisers taking advantage of CTAs?

Out of all of the advertising spots for the Super Bowl, I only noticed one that prompted a call to action for user-generated content. It was from T-Mobile.

The phone carrier’s commercial featured Justin Bieber and a history of Super Bowl dance moves.

Justin Bieber getting “jiggy with it.”

T-Mobile started a dance contest and at the end of the spot, it prompted viewers to post their dance moves using the hashtag #UnlimitedMoves.

Here is the commercial in its entirety:

Content Marketing Takeaway

Don’t neglect the CTA. While it may not be a strategy used by Super Bowl advertisers this year, it’s important for content marketers. If you have great content to share, don’t forget to ask your audience to take action. If they like it, they will do it.

Get Social and Continue the Conversation

Even though advertisers neglected to add CTAs to their commercials, a good number used unique hashtags to prompt further sharing and engagement.

The smarter companies took the ads beyond their expensive 30-second spots and continued the conversation off the TV and away from the ads. They also engaged with their fans, before, during and after the game.

T-Mobile came out on top again with its clever use of hashtags. Did you see this T-Mobile commercial? It poked fun at NSFW-type content. Once published, a flurry of related hashtag posts blanketed the internet, more so on Twitter. Take a look at this noteworthy ad and notice the hashtag at the end.

The antioxidant drink Bai also used hashtags to further engagement. The brand created a clever spin on Justin Timberlake’s old N’Sync song “Bye Bye Bye” and replaced it with their brand name “Bai,” hence the hashtag #BaiBaiBai. The spot features Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken.

Avocados from Mexico was active on its social campaigns before, during and after the game. It launched this clever ad spot during the game:

Avocados from Mexico was promoting on Twitter during the game and shooting live videos to take fans on Facebook behind the scenes. Its hashtag #avosecrets spread quickly.

Content Marketing Takeaway

Continue the conversation with your content by encouraging sharing. If people love your content, they will want to share it with their friends and peers. Give them every opportunity to do so.

You may not have millions of dollars to spend on Super Bowl ads, but you do have the power to connect, engage and be a part of your audience’s conversation. If you need some assistance with this, Media Shower created this comprehensive guide to┬áthe 10 leading content marketing companies.

We compared 10 top companies and outlined what each offers and how they can help. We also provide you with 10 questions to ask a prospective content marketing company so you are prepared to make a wise and educated decision. Get instant access to this Free guide here. (Hint: That was a Call To Action. Just because the big brands forgot to use them doesn’t mean you should too!).