The H.J. Heinz Co.'s first Super Bowl spot in 16 years may not have won contests ranking the most popular spots, but it got people talking.
"I thought you were supposed to hit the side of the bottle of ketchup?" came a Tweet on Sunday from Michael Mauti, a former Penn State University line backer who now plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
Mr. Mauti was questioning why people in the commercial were shown tapping the bottom of glass ketchup bottles as they hummed, "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands." He and others on Twitter pointed out tapping the "57" on the neck is supposed to be more effective -- as the Pittsburgh food company's own website points out.
It might not have been the conversation the company's marketing team had planned for, but Heinz ran with it, responding to Tweets -- including retweets by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto -- with cheerful comments and putting up a post on Facebook a couple of days later asking fans their favorite ways to get ketchup out of the bottle. That post picked up almost 250 comments.
"What's exciting for us is all the conversation it generated around our product," said Josie Cellone, digital brand manager for the company that paid an estimated $4 million to show its TV commercial during the third quarter of the football game.
Long before the championship game started, the Heinz social media team -- and those of most other advertisers -- were developing plans to get as much traction as possible out of their participation.
"The reality of today is you can't just do a Super Bowl ad," said Ms. Cellone.
The game was later deemed the most-watched television event in U.S. history with more than 111 million viewers. The Heinz team said the company's spot aired during the highest rating 30-minute segment, based on data from the top 10 metered markets.
But in a time of tablets and smartphones, just focusing on TV viewers could miss a big opportunity. "Socializing" marketing means taking something like the 30-second Heinz spot and using it to get people talking about the brand whether on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or next to the proverbial office cooler.
Heinz had committed last fall to its first Super Bowl ad in 16 years, said Jason West, chief marketing officer. In December, the company launched an accompanying contest offering prizes to people who submitted photos showing their love for Heinz ketchup. So far, more than 58,000 images have been submitted.
On Sunday, the social media team settled in at the company's headquarters at PPG Place, Downtown, ready to take Heinz into real-time marketing by live-tweeting a big event for the first time.
They already had prepared a pile of visual images and potential copy based on the things that could be anticipated such as a kickoff and touchdowns. "We had a full stable of content we could use to react to in-game moments knowing that we would leave a majority of them on the cutting room floor," said Ms. Cellone.
They didn't want to overdo it. Unlike some others, they chose not to comment on the distinctive coat that Joe Namath, former NFL quarterback and Beaver Falls native, wore during the coin toss.
In the end, they posted on Facebook four times and on Twitter 14 times.
Their biggest moment came when the teams headed off the field for halftime with the scoreboard showing the Seattle Seahawks ahead of the Denver Broncos 22-0. The Heinz marketers piled on: "@Broncos Time to play ketchup" along with a picture of the score written in the condiment on two halves of a burger.
That won 745 retweets and was favorited 471 times.
The Heinz team also had an extended Twitter exchange with Mr. Mauti. It wasn't long before others were suggesting -- on Twitter, of course -- that the company should put him in a future commercial.
If that idea sounds appealing, it shouldn't be hard to track him down. His Twitter profile ends with, "For marketing opportunities contact..."
Teresa F. Lindeman: email@example.com or at 412-263-2018.