Sabrina Sanchez
Feb 08, 2021

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

Second-screen activations included influencer partnerships and social media sweepstakes

Image source: Getty Images
Image source: Getty Images

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 unlikely to watch the live broadcast of the Super Bowl on CBS on Feb 7 (won by the Tampa Bay Buccanneers), 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 have 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, is running 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, are skipping the $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 are partnering with influencers and creating sweepstakes for users to engage with during the game.

Frank’s RedHot, for example, is partnering 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 tweet the hashtag “#FranksBigPour” 100,000 times, Manning will pour 100 gallons of hot sauce on Dobrik, and Franks will donate $100,000 to Tackle Kids Cancer.

Corona Beer, for its part, will call for auditions on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to temporarily replace Tony Romo as theCorona Hotline Operator,” with the hashtag #RomoReplacement. Romo will choose his favorite submissions and upload 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 else is running digital campaigns?

Here’s how other brands are connecting 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 will feature Queen’s song “I Want To Break Free.”

Starting Feb. 6 TikTok users can 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 have already tried the challenge.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines, which is advertising in the Super Bowl for the first time in 25 years, will run an #AlaskaSafetyDance sweepstakes on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook during the game. Through Feb. 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 will host a live stream crafting marathon on YouTube during the game.


Facebook and the NFL are launching a collection of AR filters on Messenger, including an Endzone filter, that lets fans picture themselves as a Bucs or Chiefs player with helmets, shoulder pads, and jerseys. Fans who search for or click the #SBLV hashtag on Facebook will be driven to a feed of popular Super Bowl content on the platform.

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


In an extension of its 30-second spot during the game, M&M’s is targeting Gen Z with an AR filter on Snapchat that lets them dance with their favorite M&M characters using body-tracking technology. The brand is also partnering 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 is bringing 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 can tune to Ocean Spray’s live feed on game day with the hashtag #DoggFaceDanceVibes.


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


Verizon is building a 5G stadium in Fortnite where fans can 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 is giving fans free pizza if the score reaches the first three digits of pi (3.14) at any point during the game. If the score reaches 3-14 or 14-3, DiGiorno will tweet a link where fans can enter for a chance to win.

Super Squares

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


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

(This article first appeared on and was published before the SuperBowl won by the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.)

Campaign India

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