How the Super Bowl Shortchanged the Web
Super Bowl XLVI seemed like a game lost by the bigger mistakes rather than by the smarter moves. But for those who watched the streaming version, it was clear that NBC and the NFL had moved from learning curve into basic ineptitude.
Never has such a huge marketing opportunity—the first streamed Super Bowl—been turned into a demonstration of how not to manage an online event. If you have online aspirations for your business, then make sure you avoid these four critical errors.
1. Shortchange the audience
People don't like inferior deals. Force them into one, and you create future bad marketing karma. That's what NBC and the NFL did with the streamed version of the Super Bowl.
Decades have set consumer expectations for clever ads and a spectacular half-time show. So what did the network and league do? Strike both. Instead of pithy commercials, a box at the bottom of the game window read, "Watch all of the Super Bowl commercials right here after they air. Commercial will appear here shortly."
Only, none of the commercials appeared in that box. Was a viewer supposed to click it and get whisked away? Who wanted to take the chance of missing the game itself?
Instead, the same handful of ads played over. And over. And over. It got to the point in our household that we muted the commercials and swore to heartily dislike Chevy and its spokesman Rainn Wilson, Budweiser (quick, change #makeitplatinum into #makeittastelikemetal), GE, and the movie "Act of Valor." And even Madonna's performance, which got mixed reviews, had to be better than the dull mix replacing it.
2. Use your B (or C) team
In addition to shortchanging consumers, the NFL and NBC didn't bother to send its A team. For example, during pre-game coverage, there were two cameras you could switch between. A smart move—except that one of the cameras wildly swung about, focused on people's knees and elbows, and kept going in and out of focus. It was as if someone's stoner of a kid got the job.
The halftime replacement for Madonna included two talking heads who could have put you to sleep. Why not just let some of the highly-paid major commentators do a bit more work? Doesn't NBC pay them enough for it? Even the technical execution was iffy, with two people sharing one mic and uneven sound levels. You'd think that NBC might have been at least able to scare up a couple of lavalier microphones.
3. Forget that social network means social
One of the big ideas of social networking is to integrate online and real world experiences. So what did NBC and the NFL do? Put the streamed version on a 30-second delay.
If you watched online, you could make pithy comments after everyone else had already covered the same ground. You could only really wade in with others if you watched through a traditional television provider.
4. Excuses, excuses
It seems impossible to believe that between both the NFL and NBC, someone didn't realize at least some of the potential problems this online experiment would generate. And company employees probably did.
However, what likely happened is that executives, worried about protecting the traditional TV experience and the high accompanying ad prices, decided to hamstring the streamed version. That is incredibly foolish. If you need to transition to accompany changes in your fundamental markets, then do it smartly and refuse to embrace your inner dinosaur.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.