The Game is not the thing anymore. … It’s the game around the Game that matters. It’s filled with opportunities to engage, hijack and win long before the Game starts.

We all know how brands have been showcasing their Super Bowl commercials in the weeks leading up to the Game. And, of course, there are brands like Newcastle that play around the Game. But this year, more and more brands and others looked for ways outside the official broadcast to play not just with the broadcast itself, but with other brands. What’s next year’s big thing around the Big Game? Start thinking now. It will start sooner than you think.

Newcastle’s Band of Brands

Newcastle couldn’t advertise in the network broadcast of the Super Bowl because Budweiser is the event’s official beer. However, for this latest effort, it used cost as an excuse. So, they, along with Droga5, put together the first crowdfunded Big Game ad.

“Not only did we create the world’s first crowdfunded Big Game ad, but I’m pretty sure we just made the cheapest Big Game ad ever,” Priscilla Flores Dohnert, brand director for Newcastle Brown Ale, said in a statement. “By asking other brands to team up with our brand, we are making a statement that Big Game advertising should be accessible to everyone, whether they can afford it or not.”

R&R’s client, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, was one of those 37 brands. The Las Vegas logo was featured twice in the ad. Las Vegas is another brand not allowed in the broadcast because of the strict gambling rules of the NFL. We considered a ton of ideas to get into the game. Then Band of Brands came along and we were in.

This isn’t the first time we’ve used not being allowed in the Game to our advantage. Years ago, the exclusion got us national news coverage of the ban on Vegas and great play for the brand (because hey, it’s a little hypocritical).

Doritos Gets Hijacked

Newcastle also hacked into Doritos’ ad contest with its own Newcastle-laced version of a Doritos ad entry. Here, Newcastle took advantage of an established Super Bowl brand, Doritos, and used it to their advantage. They weren’t the only ones. There was also an entry that was not as favorable to the corn-chip franchise.

Bud was also big into the hacking game. Just because they have that cute dog doesn’t mean they can’t be evil. They showed up a lot on searches for other brands to keep the conversation about the biggest advertiser in the game – super smart.

The Marshawn Lynch Game

Marshawn turned the Game into his own little brand builder. It’s almost as if he planned it all. … By never talking to the press, he put the talking Marshawn in demand. And the talking Marshawn came out in the week before the Big Game. I personally know that they reached out to many brands in a last-second attempt to make a fast and furious buck off the Marshawn mystique. Because the social channels are being watched as closely as they are putting something together quickly is possible. Skittles, Progressive, and Mortal Combat were three of the brands that answered the Marshawn call to great success.

Totino’s Early Super Bowl

Totino’s tweeted the entire Game a day early. Most of the world thought it was a mistake (until they thought about it). I hate to say it, but Totino’s was ahead of its time on this one. They almost did something that people didn’t get because it was such genius. What better way to stand out during the Big Game than to have all your tweets about the Big Game happen the day before? Big win for Totino’s.

So What’s Next?

More Brands Will Team Up

Band of Brands was just the beginning. Next year, look for more brands to join with other brands to get attention. There are some brands that just go together well, like Doritos and Newcastle. But they aren’t the only ones. And watch out for brands that don’t look like brands but they are. Marshawn was always a brand in waiting. He and some others knew it. Who will next year’s be? I’m kind of surprised that the Chevy Guy didn’t get an ad this year – the nervous everyman would have been a great spokesman for the right Big Game social play.

Someone Will Start Their Super Bowl Program a Year Before the Game

The planning has already started for next year. Brands will be looking to play further and further out. Like Totino’s knows – the Big Game is big enough for brands to start some ripples that will grow to waves as the Game approaches. OK, while I was writing this it already happened. And, of course, it was Newcastle. They are already teasing next year.

You Will Also See More Brands Attacking Other Brands During the Game  

This is my favorite from @RealAvocadoFact.

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From bidding on search words like Bud did, to using other brand’s platforms, to hacking into other brands’ hacking, brands will look more and more to get any advantage. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there – even for that cute Bud dog.

More Just Plain, Unexpected Weirdness Will Happen from People You Wouldn’t Expect with Lower Budgets

The element of surprise works incredibly well during the Big Game. Look at Loctite. Who would even expect that brand to be in the Game? And no one expected them to be considered a winner in the Game. Next time you’re looking for glue, that surprise should pay off.  Even advertisers who wouldn’t be considered big brands can play if they come at it right. Jamie Casino, a lawyer in Georgia, spent $100,000 to do an ad that looks like it belongs in the Big Game. He ran it in one market during Sunday’s broadcast (he ran a similar piece last year). It went viral and now he is not only the talk of Law Game in Georgia – he is a sought-after player in social. Look for more insanity in single markets. Newcastle’s Band of Brands only ran in Palm Springs. If it’s an interesting enough play in a local market, it will get social play nationally.

Expect a Brand to Try and Own the Meme Bowl Next Year

Twitter memes are probably the most fun part of the Game. Check out the Katy Sharks, specifically #LEFTSHARK. Doritos did for commercials what your brand may be able to do with memes. It’s tons of great content and a true winner the entire week after the Game.

More Ads Will Try to Spur Serious Conversation

Because the real game is the social game around the Game, more brands will try and spur conversation using their ads. In the past, it was all about being a great ad that people talked about. Now it will be more about a great ad that starts people talking about something. Just because there were missteps this year with ads that didn’t hit the right tone and weren’t great ads doesn’t mean they didn’t work to some degree in social. And like the guy who owns this joint (Billy Vassiliadis of R&R Partners) says, “If you have a parity brand and you want to reach the millennials, teaming up with a great cause may get them to your website.” Nationwide’s ad stood out and started some talk (just not enough to drown out the dislike of the ad). Nationwide and some others in this year’s Game forgot the biggest rule – if you’re gonna make someone cry – make them CRY HAPPY. Imagine a great ad that spurs a continuing conversation after the Game about a cause close to a brand. Maybe something great could really be accomplished in this wonderful world. That would be an opportunity for a smart, caring brand to show the world what it’s all about.

Bottom Line – It isn’t about buying the spot anymore. It’s about playing the field in the Opportunistic Bowl … and the field is wide.