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Avocados From Mexico and Pepsi most talked about brands ahead of Super Bowl LVI

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By Kendra Clark | Senior Reporter

February 1, 2022 | 10 min read

New Hootsuite data indicates that social media users are loving Super Bowl LVI’s big food and beverage brands right now. On the flip side, automotive brands like Nissan and Toyota are seeing higher-than-average negative sentiment, while some brands are failing to even make a splash. So what’s the formula for winning on social ahead of the big game?

Exclusive data from Hootsuite for The Drum reveals that Avocados From Mexico and Pepsi are among the most talked about – and most widely liked – brands ahead of Super Bowl LVI. But some brands, including tech giant Meta and automakers Toyota and Nissan, aren’t gaining positive endorsements from consumers online.

Can of Pepsi soda among orange chips and dip on table

Pepsi and Avocados From Mexico are getting delicious endorsements from social media users ahead of Super Bowl LVI

As the lineup of brands gearing up for the big game grows, so too does the hype surrounding the brands who will partake in the big day. Consumers are taking to social media to voice their thoughts on the brands and their Super Bowl plans.

Super Bowl LVI halftime sponsor PepsiCo, for its part, saw over 20,700 mentions on social media from September 1, 2021 through January 30 of this year, per the new data. And the sentiment behind these mentions skews positive; 39% of mentions indicated positive feelings toward the brand, while just 1% indicated negative feelings. The remaining 69% were neutral.

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NFL, unsurprisingly, has seen even higher numbers; during the same period, it saw 259,025 mentions on social media, with hashtags including #nfl and #sblvi gaining steam alongside #pepsihalftime. The league plans to participate as an advertiser in its own event this year. It has yet to release a teaser or any indication of its plans, though the brand has in recent years focused on boosting fan engagement and improving its brand image by helping to connect real players with consumers in fun, accessible ways through a range of media and fashion activations.

The surprising leaders and laggards of this year’s big game

Other developments are more surprising. Avocados From Mexico has, somewhat unexpectedly, outperformed most other brands when it comes to growing its rate of mentions and engagement on social media. From the beginning of September through January 30, the brand saw mentions jump from the low 2,000s to over 10,600. Consumer sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, with 64% of mentions implying a positive view of the brand, and none implying a negative view. 36% were neutral.

Dr Karen Freberg, associate professor of strategic communication at University of Louisville and social media expert, says the growth makes sense. “Avocados from Mexico has a tradition of positive associations – not only for creative ads for the Super Bowl, but the engagement strategies it has placed on social media, which have also helped item tremendously.”

She also points out that the consumer conversations happening on social media are often more valuable than the Super Bowl spot itself: “Twitter – and social media more broadly – is the place where the conversation happens with the community, and brands understand that the TV spot for the Super Bowl is the front door to the conversation, but social media is where the party is really happening.”

Meanwhile, mentions of Rakuten have spiked modestly since the e-commerce company revealed that Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddington will serve as the face of its Super Bowl push – though total mentions remain fairly low.

PepsiCo-owned Lay’s isn’t gaining mentions at the rate that might be expected (especially considering Pepsi is dominating the social media game leading up to the big game). While it is gaining a little bit of traction through the #laysgoldengrounds hashtag, which promotes its limited-edition chips made with potatoes grown in NFL stadium soil, its teaser starring Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd barely made a splash. The clip wasn’t mentioned in the top five recent tweets about the brand, and Rogen didn’t bother tweeting about it (Rudd is not on Twitter).

Still, it’s worth noting that food and beverage brands including Avocados From Mexico, PepsiCo and Lay’s are seeing fairly high positive sentiment in online mentions of their brands, while automakers Nissan and Toyota are not only witnessing very few mentions, but have also seen 11% and 10% of social media mentions, respectively, suggest negative consumer sentiment.

Hootsuite social engagement specialist Trish Riswick is somewhat surprised about Nissan’s numbers. “Nissan has Captain Marvel star Brie Larson attached to its Super Bowl ad, and I’m surprised that isn’t gaining more mentions or attention,” she says, pointing out that Larson starred in Nissan spots last year, too.

When asked why Nissan and Toyota are both failing to gain love from consumers – especially in comparison with food and beverage brands – Riswick says we’ll need to wait and see. “Right now, the data doesn’t give us clear reasoning why automotive negative sentiment is high.” She points out, however, that in her past research, some automakers have released Super Bowl ads with political undertones or messages that “do not sit well with Super Bowl fans” – whereas snack and beverage brands seem to keep things light, which may be “easier to digest,” for viewers, no pun intended.

Robert Passikoff, founder and president of market research firm Brand Keys, for his part, however, doesn’t think that going with a charged subject matter or feeling necessarily spells bad news for brands. In fact, in 2021, Toyota’s heartstring-tugging tale of paralympic swimmer Jessica Long was widely well-received. “The big brands that are able to advertise on the Super Bowl have become category placeholders – known, but not known for much else other than occupying a space in the category, hence the negative or neutral evaluations [by consumers online]. You need to stand for something – hopefully something emotional that will engage.”

Social as the next-biggest playing field

Meanwhile, tech giant Meta is garnering mentions – but not necessarily good ones. The brand saw more than 3,800 big game-related mentions between September 1 and January 30, many of which were attached to hashtags including #superbowl, #NFL and #superbowllvi. However, 10% of these mentions held negative consumer sentiment, while only 7% held positive sentiment. The remainder were neutral.

Then there are a handful of brands who have yet to make any kind of notable impression online. Super Bowl advertisers including General Motors, Pringles, Squarespace, Wallbox and WeatherTech, have seen fewer than 50 total Super Bowl-related mentions on social media during the same time period. Low engagement may be the result of a number of factors, including how recently a brand announced its participation.

However, University of Louisville’s Freberg points out that another key factor is almost certainly a given brand’s existing social media strategy. She says that brands that don’t regularly engage with their communities online aren’t likely to gain attention on social media overnight. A quick peek at WeatherTech’s Twitter page, for instance, reveals that the brand hasn’t tweeted since 2020. “Brands that do not have a positive sentiment on social media for the Super Bowl have either not had the tradition of engaging on social with their audiences,” says Freberg. “These brands have had more of a push-message strategy [where they] publish content and don’t respond to comments or inquiries from audiences, or they have had [public relations] crises recently that may have tarnished their overall brand with audiences.”

She also points out that, because social media is a proving grounds for many brands, there are sure to be Super Bowl and Super Bowl-adjacent stunts from brands who may or may not have a game time spot (which this year ring in at around $6m for a 30-second ad), but will be gunning for attention amid the excitement. “Brands that do have a highly engaged audience and community and brand presence may want to position themselves for a viral moment on social to take away the spotlight from [big game day advertisers]. They may not have the Super Bowl commercial budget, but you can do a lot on social media without one,” she says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see brands that have a very positive, highly engaged community – think American Aviation Gin, Oreo, Sour Patch Kids, Burger King – to [take the] digital spotlight away from these brands.”

The strategy has proven effective – last year, adland darling Ryan Reynolds teamed up with soccer star David Beckham and hip-hop legend Puff Daddy ahead of the big game in a hilarious spot highlighting their effort to support bartenders and mixologists during the pandemic. Freberg says: “They were more successful than some of the other brands who paid $5m-plus for a Super Bowl ad. They were successful not just because they were creative and strategic in their messaging on social before the Super Bowl, but they were engaged and tied into their community well beforehand.”

Some major brands, including State Farm, have already announced that they’ll forgo TV spots at this year’s big game in favor of social media-focused initiatives.

How social media engagement and consumer sentiment concerning Super Bowl advertisers shapes up over the coming two weeks is sure to impact brand image, loyalty and even sales ahead of February 13.

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