Wide Right or Splitting the Uprights: Branding for the Big Game


Joshua Dorsey, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Cal State

Marketing wears many hats. Contingent upon execution, it can accelerate a brand, break a bottom line, or even ignite a national dialogue. When firms consider manufacturing a connection between the big game and their brand, there are several key issues. Whether national titans, regional risers, or family-owned operations, the following points may be a path to victory. If you feel confident in your team, book the tickets to Disneyland now.

1) What is the Game Plan?

The resources that a firm must expend to secure a national advertisement during the game are considerable ($5.05 million in 2018 for 30-second spot). Even if the advertising campaign is on a smaller scale, it must be thoughtful and deliberate. Adaptability is essential to the marketing art; however, improvisation is rarely ideal. The marketing strategy for such a campaign should be carefully crafted to illuminate the unique value of the brand’s product and/or service. Also, there should be cohesion between the established identity of the brand and the big game’s advertising.

2) Run or Pass?

Does the brand (and/or its product/service offerings) lend itself to a particular type of appeal? Humor is a well-established, and considerably effective, vessel for marketing messages. However, drama, nostalgia, sadness, and social appeals also have gained traction with firms and consumers. A firm must decide which angle best suits the brand’s personality, then execute effectively. Also, there is a critical difference in intent that must be understood. Is the desired effect an increase in a “softer” metric, such as brand awareness, or a concrete measure like revenues? This is important for consumers, as well as for assessing ROI and comparable financial figures.

3) Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

When developing advertising concepts for the big game, managers will be well-served to carefully align the new content with existing marketing messages. This strategy, otherwise known as integrated marketing communications, is a key point of discussion during the game plan. Do not let in congruent or confusing messages during a particular campaign muddle and/or negate the hard-earned equity of a brand in the hearts and minds of consumers.

4) Go for it on 4th Down!

Do not be timid. Be bold, but calculated and strategic. There will be a temporary windfall of fleeting attention surrounding the big game. But, the event, if leveraged properly, can be an opportunity to increase brand awareness, make an indelible impression upon core consumers, or acquire new patrons.

5) Touchdown Celebration 

After the first four points, be prepared to celebrate. Choreographed team dance? Classic end zone spike? Whatever the choice, be prepared to address the potential increase in consumer engagement or purchasing (digital or in-person) that may follow. Effectively managing these interactions may solidify any memorable, unique, and positive brand associations that arise from big game advertising affiliations.

Joshua Dorsey, marketing..Campus Welcomes New Class of Faculty MembersAbout the Author: Joshua Dorsey is an assistant professor of marketing at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. His research focuses on consumer behavior and marketing and public policy. He has studied transformative consumer issues such as mindfulness; rage in retail settings; healthcare; sustainability; and food anti-consumption behaviors.   


  1. Scott Sorrell on at 5:00 PM

    Genius way to illuminate many of the most fundamental (and regularly ignored) practices and considerations required for marketing success! Drove it straight to the end zone. Touchdown!

    • Gladys Diggs on at 8:42 AM

      Impressive!!! Proud of you Joshua!

  2. Gladys Ingram Diggs on at 12:31 PM