Restaurant brands take advantage of marketing's biggest stage

Feb. 3, 2014 | by Alicia Kelso

While the Seattle Seahawks' defense ensured a 43 to 8 Super Bowl blowout against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, a handful of restaurant brands were taking advantage of marketing's biggest stage before an estimated 111.5 million American viewers.

Leading up to the big game, Dunkin' Donuts flexed its Vine presence with three 5-second, animated, Super Bowl-themed videos that recreated the game's most iconic plays in history. According to AdWeek, the spots were promoted through the brand's Twitter account and ESPN's SportsCenter's Twitter account, as well as their Facebook pages. also showcased the videos on a "Dunkin' Replay" microsite. The iconic plays that were animated include the Buffalo Bills' 1991 field goal miss that cost them the game, the Chicago Bears' William "The Refrigerator" Perry's touchdown in 1986, and the Broncos' John Elway's "helicopter" QB scramble in 1999.

AdWeek opined that Dunkin' Donuts was able to garner "big-game buzz without actually buying a $4 million Super Bowl spot."

On game day, Pizza Hut and its sister chain KFC were all over the Fox network leading up to kickoff Sunday, with Pizza Hut even draping the broadcasters' booth with a branded banner.

KFC featured its new campaign, #HowDoYouKFC, with X Games Moto gold medalist Bryce Hudson doing a back flip while eating a KFC Go Cup of extra crispy tenders.

The video — originally intended solely for online placement — generated more than a half-million views within its first two weeks online, and reached No. 6 on Unruly Media's Viral Video Chart. KFC since transformed the piece into a full primetime television spot which aired up through Sunday.

Pizza Hut also tapped into a new campaign — "Go For Greatness" — which included a live audition of fans "showing off their greatness" in New York City preceding the Super Bowl. Those fans were offered a chance to appear in the commercial that aired Super Bowl Sunday, and included "The Grandma Drummer," who is actually Mary Hvizda from La Crosse, Wis., according to

Pizza Hut's spot featured a YouTube video of Hvizda playing her drumset while an announcer said, "Mary, you march to the beat of a different drummer. In fact, you are that drummer." Since her video was uploaded to YouTube in July, it has been viewed more than 5.1 million times.

Brands throwing big dollars behind ad spots during the actual game included McDonald's, which embraced the viral popularity of "Bad Lip Reading" for its commercial, humorously (and erroneously) lip reading a variety of NFL players' conversations in the heat of the game.

Bad lip reading has its own Tumblr page and has tackled movies, Beyonce and President Obama's inauguration.

Subway also leveraged the Super Bowl to introduce its new Fritos Enchilada Melt, with pulled chicken, enchilada sauce and Fritos on top. Consistent with its marketing M.O., Subway's commercial featured "Famous Fans" — or Olympians such as Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin — talking about the new offering and singing "Fritos on my sub."

According to Ad Age, Subway's decision to include a commercial in the Super Bowl rotation was last minute. CMO Tony Pace told the publication that the beginning of the month is "typically the new product and promotion window, so it made sense to promote the new product to a wide audience."

Other brands played it cheaper, relying heavily on their social media accounts to stay top-of-mind during the game. Domino's, for example, hinted at a new employee uniform introduction using the hashtag #Biggameuniforms.

Domino's also suggested fans order a "Beast Mode Pizza," in honor of Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch (whose nickname is "Beast Mode"). The pizza features pepperoni, sliced Italian sausage, extra bacon,"extra bacon again" and extra cheese.

Finally, Baskin-Robbins provided a glimpse of an April campaign that may have something to do with the Amazing Spider-Man 2. The brand posted, "We'll have an #Amazing surprise for Spidey fans in April. #hint #Scooperhero."

Read more about marketing and branding.

Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social

Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with, and has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine.
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