This year’s Superbowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers is the backdrop for a brilliant batch of social media fundraising efforts by a several nonprofit organizations. Today, we are going to look at a campaign that led up to the big event and a couple of other masterful efforts that were live and in the moment during the game.

The Superbowl is one of the biggest events on U.S. television with commercial spots going for $4 million each. With so many people paying attention, it makes sense for your organization to figure out how to tag along for the ride since you are probably not going to get budget approval to buy one of those ad spots. Social channels are a great place to target your effort because they’ve become an active and widely used adjunct to watching the game. Twitter, Facebook, and G+ light up with Superbowl conversations throughout the event. Participating lets you join the party.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore and California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco put together a social media fundraising and awareness campaign conducted jointly using Facebook, Twitter, and each organization’s website. They managed to get a donor to fund up to $5000 as a prize in advance of the game. It would be awarded to the organization that got the most fan “Likes” on their Super Fish Bowl Facebook page with the losing aquarium paying the winner $1.00 per “Like.”

Here are a few of the things they did right and a couple of hiccups that may have cost the game:

Be On Brand

While the Academy has an excellent aquarium, it is also involved in a far more diverse mission. So participating in a Super Fish Bowl is not as on target with their brand message as it is with the National Aquarium. Score 1 point – National Aquarium.

Social Media Fundraising

Target Your Audience

The National Aquarium posted the Super Fish Bowl front and center on their blog with the headline, “Super FISH Bowl: There Will Be Bubbles,” a reference to the Daniel Day Lewis movie, There Will Be Blood. Using the title of a historical, period drama is a clever way to talk smack to an aquarium audience. Score 1 point – National Aquarium.

 Social Media Fundraising

Use Your Best Tools

The Academy ran a series of Facebook links on the homepage of their website that rotated from post to post intermingled with posts about Academy events. The National Aquarium didn’t use their homepage to promote Super Fish Bowl and relied on their blog to carry the message. But both organizations did a great job using Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #SuperFishBowl to drive traffic to their site. Because both organizations mentioned each other on their sites with links, traffic flowed in both directions. Score Draw – California Academy of Sciences, National Aquarium

 Social Media Fundraising

Innovative Social Media Fundraising

The National Aquarium used the Highlight feature on the primary post about Super Fish Bowl on their Facebook timeline. By clicking on the star in the upper right corner of a picture on your timeline you expand the post across timeline columns. This allowed them to take full advantage of the graphics developed for the event. The Academy ran their posts in normal mode which ended up clipping the graphics. Score 1 point – National Aquarium

Social Media Fundraising

As luck would have it, at the final whistle, the National Aquarium won. Their additional effort and mastery of the tools paid off although both organizations did a great job of working together to generate a lot of additional traffic to all of their online properties.

While their efforts took a lot of planning and coordination, some other organizations had a hay day posting live about what was taking place at the game. The big opportunity came when the lights went out, literally, if you missed it the lights in half of the stadium went dark in the third quarter. Twitter and Facebook erupted because of the oddity and that people watching the game had nothing better to do. As everyone, including many major brands, chatted snarkily about the lights going out, 2 nonprofits joined in and scored some major points.

ONE.org’s @ONECampaign Twitter account tweeted the following:

Social Media Fundraising

What a great way to react and take advantage of the moment! Not to be left out, PBS chimed in with this one, which is exactly where my wife sent us:

Social Media Fundraising

These are just of few of the many ways that an organization can take advantage of the many things going on around you that are seemingly unrelated. With a little ingenuity, you can use someone else’s marketing budget to further your own organization’s mission.

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4 comments
Denise
Denise

Thanks for taking a high profile event like the Super Bowl to make your point about social media--love it. I liked your input on who won and why. These are all great examples of testing social media ideas as well. A lot of these principles translate and nonprofits should take note. It would be great to see the metrics on these campaigns. Beth Kanter and Katie Paine just released a terrific book called "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit." I highly recommend it to all who see this post and are interested in social media campaigns.

Emily Davis
Emily Davis

Wonderful summary of some successful social media for nonprofits during the super bowl. Thanks so much for these great examples!

Hanna Cooper
Hanna Cooper

Great examples! I love the use of humor, cultural references and common experience in these examples - it wakes people up and keeps the connection to our topic timely and relevant.

Natasha
Natasha

This is such an interesting post profiling ways that organizations can increase their exposure by piggy-backing on big events. I like how you explained why the Aquarium won, there are a lot of great ideas for how we can improve our our social media presence.