The Super Bowl Goes Social, But Wasn't It Already?

Last Updated Feb 5, 2010 5:16 PM EST

As a prediction, it was a lay-up, but my fourth prediction for media in 2010 is coming true in spades -- witness, all, the first truly social Super Bowl, an event that is being status updated, tweeted, and blogged about with a voracity even I didn't expect and with the official parties involved. And it's stilll almost two days until kickoff.

The NFL has created an "official" hashtag, #SB44, and many other prominent players on the Big Game, such as Budweiser, have incorporated social into what they're doing. In the beer's case, it's through a Facebook page where people can vote on which ad they'd like to see. Coke is doing something pretty cool, by letting Facebook users get a sneak peek to one of their Super Bowl spots and donating $1 to Boys and Girls Clubs of America for each view, delivered via virtual Coke bottle gift. And that's just the beginning.

But in the midst of all the hype, what I really wonder, and can't predict before the game, is whether all of these efforts will have an effect on a couple of metrics that really matter: will more people watch the Super Bowl? And will there be more online views of the ads, making the huge Super Bowl ad investment more worthwhile?

The obvious answer, particularly to the latter question, would be yes -- but I'm not sure that's how this will map out.

The reason is that Super Bowl ads are a different beast than most other things that vie for our attention in the social-media sphere. You could argue that they were the first viral online media. I remember roughly five years ago when AOL became the first online platform to allow consumers to access every Super Bowl ad. The idea was dreamt up by former AOL marketing exec Len Short, who, as a former ad guy, understood like a lot of online media people didn't, the powerful traffic streaming those ads could bring. (Short left AOL in the wake of the infamous "wardrobe malfunction," but that's another story.)

Now streams of Super Bowl ads are a commodity. At this point, maybe dozens of sites, from Hulu to Yahoo, will carry the ads. Other socially-themed parts of Super Bowl hype have also been commoditized. Time was when USA Today was the definitive arbiter of Super Bowl ad popularity (full disclosure: my husband used to conduct and write about the AdMeter for USA Today). Now, everyone does that, too. That isn't new. This has been the case for the last several years.

The point is that even as this Super Bowl becomes perhaps the first to use social media tools so adeptly, much of the socialization of the Super Bowl has already happened, on more primitive platforms. It's truly great when companies, such as Coca-Cola, manage to tweak the social hype in such a way as to do something good with it, but as a meme the social Super Bowl is pretty much played out already.

Previous coverage of Super Bowl XLIV at BNET Media: