February 18, 2014

The Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII. In fact, their defense dominated Denver's No. 1-ranked offense so soundly that most of the country called the game a yawner. Not so where I live. In the Northwest, the 12th Man knows how to yell, how to win, and how to celebrate. So how would a hyper-local insurance company find marketing opportunity in an event that is played on a global stage? With focus, passion, and technology.

For many marketers, especially agency and media pros, talk of Super Bowl opportunity often turns to television commercials. The stage is so big and grand that it's hard to look away. As a CMO who's also a long-timeSeahawks season ticket holder, I confess it's easy to let emotions get in the way.

Rod Brooks, PEMCO
Rod Brooks, PEMCO

At PEMCO, we purposefully let emotion drive the process -- though not our emotion. Instead, we chose to optimize the Super Bowl opportunity by tapping the Seahawks fans' emotion and energy. We narrowed our scope to options that would actively engage the fan base. No passive TV ads for us!

As a proud Seahawks and 12th Man supporter (PEMCO's NW Profile #12 is the Supercharged Seahawk Fan), we offered fans a way to support the team at the Super Bowl, even if they couldn't be there themselves.

[Previously from Brooks: CMOs teaming up with CIOs]

We created a massive 100- by 40-foot "12" banner and invited Northwest fans to sign it with their names and words of support for the team. A plane would then tow the banner over MetLife Stadium and around Manhattan to let the Seahawks spirit soar.

We aimed to get 12,000 signatures on the banner in just five days. To do that, PEMCO needed to create a banner, secure a flight service, build awareness, generate buzz and earned media, and compel fans to sign the banner.

Accomplishing that goal required decisiveness, commitment, and effective collaboration – not just between PEMCO and our agency partners, but between Marketing and I.T. as well. Just two days after qualifying for the Super Bowl, PEMCO set the objective, activated our event team, and identified existing community events and venues where crowds would gather.

Time was of the essence. Success, in part, would depend on PEMCO's online social presence and the effective use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; pemco.com takeover (homepage marquee and special landing page); and employee and agent social networks.

We realized that we were limited by time and geography when it came to getting physical signatures, and that we'd miss an opportunity if we didn't provide a mechanism for fans to "virtually" sign. We established a #12banner hashtag, worked with I.T. to quickly develop a special #12banner landing page for pemco.com, embedded code for Tagboard social curation, and included signature counters so people could see our progress in real time. The technical designers also paid important attention to the look and feel of the PEMCO brand regardless of the device type that the site was accessed from – mobile, tablet, or desktop. Three noteworthy experiences included:

• Establishing a presence on pemco.com worked much better than would have social alone, and the complementary pairing of the two worked wonderfully. We offered a dynamic fan page as a home base and default destination for social links. The page gave us a large space to explain the promotion, list the events and even offer the added value of unique downloadable screen wallpapers.

• The use of Tagboard – a curation tool to display fan conversations - provided users with the sense that conversation surrounding the #12banner campaign was going on all around them and that they were included, no matter their social channel of choice.

• The combination of social and technical implementations resulted in incredible spike in visitor counts to pemco.com during the promotion. In addition to increasing PEMCO exposure, the spike in unique and repeat visitors has resulted in a material improvement in PEMCO's search engine optimization – a big reason why we strive to use pemco.com and social media together wherever possible.

By noon on launch day, PEMCO's #12Banner was a trending hashtag on Twitter in Seattle. By the time the banner flew around the Super Bowl, 15,309 signatures were gathered. We'd captured the passion of the Northwest and enabled the means to express it.

[Inside Esurance's Super Bowl social contest]

When the Super Bowl was over and the victory parade was held, PEMCO had earned media coverage from local TV and radio, newspapers, and numerous local and regional blogs. Nationally, Esquire, CNN Sports, and FOX Sports covered the story of our banner. This single Instagram photo received nearly 35,000 likes!

By staying true to our mission and brand identity, PEMCO exercised a hyper-local approach to a global opportunity. We found ways to align our internal spirit with Seahawks pride and 12th Man enthusiasm.

That's how one local brand seeks opportunity in places where others might not think to look. And finds it for a fraction of the price for thirty seconds in the Super Bowl.

About the author: Rod Brooks is VP and CMO of PEMCO, a regional P&C insurer in the Pacific Northwest.