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Brands skipping Big Game ads turn to TikTok

A car carrying an oversized football drives through the end zone of a football field as a hand holding a smartphone films it. Social media hearts float around the phone.

Illustration by Dave Cole / Getty / The Current

Hyundai joins several automakers this year in not airing a Super Bowl LVII ad, but that doesn’t mean the automaker is sitting on the sidelines. TikTok is one place football fans can find a large marketing push for Hyundai’s new electric Ioniq 6 campaign, in which Kevin Bacon and his daughter, Sosie Bacon, play up their father-daughter dynamic — something the duo has become known for on social media.

Hyundai joins several other Super Bowl darlings — State Farm and FedEx included — in turning to TikTok to capture fans around and during the game on secondary devices, instead of shelling out $7 million for a prime-time spot during the Sunday spectacle, where the Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

“We do love Super Bowl; it’s just these days, we have to think about being in a lot of places and how to spend our money efficiently,” Angela Zepeda, chief marketing officer at Hyundai, tells The Current. “It’s a heavy time of year for people being on TikTok. [Viewers] are on multiple screens because of the Super Bowl, and we just want to be there to be part of the conversation.”

Capturing second screens
The chance to grab viewers’ attention on second screens during the game is high. A 2022 study by mobile video ad network AdColony found that 59 percent of Super Bowl viewers keep up with the game on multiple devices. On top of that, 47 percent of survey respondents say they use their phone to text during the game, 43 percent browse social media, 25 percent order delivery, and 25 percent play games. Many sports fans in general are drawn to TikTok: According to a Suzy April 2022 survey, 57 percent of TikTok users watch sports content on the platform weekly.

When Hyundai first started on TikTok in 2019 for the Super Bowl launch of its 2019 Sonata, Zepeda says the brand was the first automaker on the platform. Since then, its following has grown to 139,000 people. The automaker kicked off its Ioniq 6 campaign on Jaunary 22 on ByteDance-owned TikTok through in-feed video placements, TopView — the first video users see when they open the app — and the platform’s premium ad unit Pulse. The campaign makes fun of the fact that even though Kevin Bacon is a dad behind the times, he’s still driving an electric vehicle.

A number of TikTok stars are also on board. Creators AngryReactions, Mona Swain, JaxWritesSongs, and Zeth (all with millions of followers on the platform) are sharing Hyundai content around the Super Bowl and using the hashtags #Ioniq6 and #ItsYourJourney. Chocolatier Amaury Guichon, with 20 million TikTok followers, made a chocolate version of the new car, and The Old Gays (10.3 million followers) and other famous TikTokers will react to the spot post-Super Bowl weekend.

@amauryguichon I have been challenged by @HyundaiUSA to create their new all-electric vehicle, the #IONIQ6, without the use of a mold! I love the car’s design…how did I do? #amauryguichon #itsyourjourney #hyundaipartner ♬ MOMENTS IN LIFE - Turreekk

So far, in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the campaign has brought in over 100 million views on TikTok alone, a 300 percent increase since last year, with engagement up by 130 percent as well, according to the brand.

That 100 million views is nearly half of the 208 million people Nielsen estimated tuned in to the Super Bowl last year, which reached roughly 90 percent of people watching a TV.

“We’re really bullish on TikTok and trying to understand even more what to do on that platform,” says Zepeda. “We’re trying to reach younger audiences and we think it’s been really fantastic.”

But Hyundai also aired 60-second spots in the AFC and NFC Championships ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, a strategy Zepeda says reached nearly the same-size audience as the 208 million who watched the Super Bowl last year. That means it’s possible Hyundai’s total reach this year could outpace what one ad could achieve during a commercial break of the Super Bowl.

TikTok or bust
Hyundai joins some usual Super Bowl standouts by turning to TikTok this year. State Farm, for instance, doesn’t have its usual 30- or 60-second Super Bowl spot this year, but still has its name on the actual stadium. The insurer is promoting a new campaign with TikTok star Khaby Lame (who has 154.7 million followers on the platform) in which Lame and Jake get pitched by executives about what to do for a Super Bowl spot and Lame just points to the stadium. Viewers who guess how many times State Farm is mentioned during the game will get to appear in a TikTok with Lame himself.

@khaby.lame Win a chance to be in a TikTok with me! All you have to do is 1) guess how many times "State Farm Stadium" could be mentioned during the Big Game in the comments below and 2) follow @jakefromstatefarm to find out who wins! #statefarmstadiumchallenge Rules: #Ad ♬ original sound - Khabane lame

Instead of having an in-game ad this year, FedEx tapped six artists to perform during the NFL playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl on TikTok. “It is so easy to get lost in the noise around the Super Bowl when the hype really starts a month beforehand in new platforms,” Enda Conway, senior VP and head of connections strategy at BBDO, said in a statement to Ad Age.

Of course, many brands appearing in the Super Bowl are also finding ways of incorporating TikTok into their campaigns. Doritos is turning to TikTok to find a winner to appear in its Super Bowl commercial starring Jack Harlow and Missy Elliott, and Pringles’ Super Bowl spot will feature Meghan Trainor trying to create a TikTok but getting her hand stuck in a can of Pringles instead. TikTok itself, meanwhile, is promoting its tailgate party as a great live programming destination for brands, and announced that Jason Derulo and The Black Keys will be heading up its third annual halftime show.

“The Super Bowl has always been one of the biggest moments in sports, but what we are seeing differently this year is the event representing an opportunity for marketers to create culture with new and imaginative advertising,” Tim Natividad, U.S. head of enterprise sales at TikTok, tells The Current. “The unique engagement and endless creativity of the TikTok community —especially TikTok’s football fandom — offers brands the perfect opportunity to reach new audiences together with creators through co-created entertainment.”