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#EsuranceSave30 vs. #BestBuds: Who Won the Super Bowl Showdown on Social?

That’s the question around the water cooler after every Super Bowl, right? Which ad was the best?

USA Today’s annual Ad Meter poll found that “Puppy Love” by Budweiser was the most popular commercial of 2014, but that begs the question: In a digital age, what constitutes success? As digital marketers, we’re all accustomed to measuring everything we can, not just sentiment, so I wanted to take a closer look at whether or not it was a clear “winner”.

Budweiser seemed to be the  winner according to critics, but Esurance made a critical play after the game was over that threw a wrench in the equation…but did it work?

We took a look at the aftershocks and effects each ad had on various social networks to find out which can be crowned the actual [early] winner.

Setting the Stage

One of the best ways to gauge success of an ad is the impact it had across social networks. This year, Marketingland’s annual Hashtag Bowl kept track of the social CTAs included in Super Bowl spots.

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I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a single ad with an Instagram CTA, considering the success Oreo saw last year.

Granted, Oreo’s “Dunkin in the Dark” Tweet and “Whisper” ad from last year’s Super Bowl are hard to beat. Even Oreo backed out of the action this year:

But this didn’t dissuade brands like Budweiser and Esurance from coupling strong social campaigns with their television spots. Since the majority of social CTAS came in the form of hashtags, lets take a look at the venue where the hashtag is most prominent: Twitter.

Budweiser: Puppies and a Salute to Soldiers

Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” ad drove some pretty incredible in-game engagement, driving over 58,000 mentions of their #BestBuds hashtag during the first hour.

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Budweiser also tallied the two most engaging brand Tweets of any advertiser, with successful promotion of each ad during the game.

Esurance: Flagged with a Late Hit

Esurance made a bold play this year. By purchasing the first ad spot after the game, Esurance was able to save $1.5 million over in-game advertisers. According to the ad, this was a “30% savings…which is about how much Esurance could save you.”

They then announced a contest using their hashtag #EsuranceSave30 to give away the $1.5 savings, a tactic that resonated like nothing else this year. Take a look below at the same engagement chart displayed for #BestBuds, but including #esurancesave30.

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In the course of 24 hours, Esurance’s hashtag racked up over 3 million Tweets, spiking at over 1.4 million in the first hour. Their message of “30% savings” hit home, and they paid the same amount as the in-game advertisers.

Lasting Effects

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Budweiser’s ad gained the beer brand over 3,700 new fans on the day following the Super Bowl. This growth rate was over 9 times higher than their average for the week, but immediately dropped back to normal growth.

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 Esurance gained over 143,000 Twitter followers the day after the Super Bowl. This growth slowed significantly as well, and the brand saw a decrease in followers on Thursday, but the impact was strong, growing the brands audience by nearly 25 times.

While Budweiser’s social accounts run into age restrictions, Esurance was free to promote and chase any user they wanted, with the added bonus of their $1.5 million offer.

The YouTube Effect

Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” commercial has become the most viewed Super Bowl ad on YouTube, with over 43 million views and 182,700 likes to date. This figure dwarfs the 53,000 views of the Esurance ad.

The disparity in views doesn’t surprise me. The two ads had very different goals and aesthetics. Budweiser’s puppy was intended to invoke emotion (I didn’t cry…YOU cried). Esurance’s offer of $1.5 million, on the other hand, was intended to invoke an action, not an emotion.

The prolonged exposure of a brand’s visual message has a strong subliminal impact. When we see clydesdales now, we don’t just think of horses and Montana…we think of Budweiser. But the next time I see John Krasinski sitting on a couch, I doubt I’ll think of Esurance.


To date, the hashtag #BestBuds has been used 551,298 times on Instagram, while #EsuranceSave30 has only been used 4,416. This makes sense. Esurance’s contest was exclusive to Twitter, so the value of sharing a post on Instagram is limited.

Conclusion and Take Aways?

Clydesdales may remind me of Budweiser, but this is after years of being stampeded by the message (“stampeded” was the best horse pun I could come up with). I loved their ad, and as a pure advertisement, it was solid. But the hashtag CTA begs us to examine the ad as a more integrated marketing campaign, involving social metrics and digital understanding.

Budweiser’s YouTube version of the ad racked up a ton of views, and was one of the most memorable commercials from the game. In that regard, it was a huge success.

On the other hand, Esurance leveraged their campaign for more than views, and did several things right:

  • Grew their audience (they have 240,000 more Twitter followers than they did before the ad), allowing for future engagement.
  • Engaged their audience (hashtag usage dwarfed that of other ads).
  • Promoted their core value proposition (Esurance saves you 30% on insurance).
  • Tied in multiple venues and a clear CTA with an end goal.
  • Promoted follow up content (The winner was announced on Jimmy Kimmel Wednesday night) that kept their audience engaged, and gave them prolonged brand exposure.

In the world of integrated marketing, this adds up to a win to me.

To measure and track your own campaign, be sure to sign up for a free Trial of Simply Measured, where you can track your brand profiles across nine major social networks, with the metrics that matter to your business.

Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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