People want to engage with ideas, not advertising

When you walk away from a 19- year relationship with college football’s Fiesta Bowl to go “pro” with America’s #1 sports property, communicating that fact can be almost as difficult as the decision itself.

How do you announce something as epic as “Tostitos is now the official chip and dip sponsor of the NFL” and match the magnitude of that message with your actions?  It couldn’t simply be on TV, or even online. This had to be one for all the senses. It had to be all encompassing. It had to be an experience. Thus, Tostitos Party BLVD was born.

The concept: American Ninja warrior meets the ultimate party games.

From Wednesday through Sunday at Super Bowl 49, party met sports as Tostitos challenged fans to complete in a series of larger-than-life tailgate games, while capturing their team spirit with slow motion video, and helping them get their snack on with new Tostitos products.  The BLVD spanned two city blocks, and established itself as the ultimate party destination in downtown Phoenix.  Fans tested their speed, agility and humility as they tackled a variety of backyard party games, including:

  • Slingshot Blitz: A party game favorite reimagined as an arcade-style experience complete with surprising special effects. 
  • Double Dipper Dunk: A duel-themed twist on the classic dunk tank, this game invited participants to hit a target opposite them with a football, to “dunk” their opponent into a massive bowl of Tostitos dip.
  • Mega-Mecha Cornhole: The biggest and baddest game of beanbag toss anyone could ever imagine – a true test of man vs. machine. 

To fuel the competitive spirit, we outfitted participants with wristbands embedded with RFID technology to track their scores and power a “Giferator” that showed images and videos of them showing off their skills.  We also captured real time user-generated #PartyBLVD tagged images and videos to populate an online content hub.

Because a true party isn’t complete without guests who can bring the fun, former San Diego Chargers running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably one of the greatest players of the game (and a guy who knows a thing or two about an awesome tailgate party) and Chip Kelly, Head Coach of the Philadephia Eagles, joined the festivities. They interacted with fans, provided tips to game players, and even got in on the action themselves, challenging participants for top honors.

The “Big Games” may only have lasted a short while, but the bragging rights were forever, and I’m not just talking about the fans. With 1 billion fun-filled impressions generated, we know that people aren’t simply aware that Tostitos is the official chip and dip sponsor of the NFL. They’ve fully engaged with the “idea” of what Tostitos + NFL truly means. And that’s a game well played!


Creating of these games took over 1000 man-hours of custom fabrication and painting. 

  • The dip jars were 14' wide by 13' tall – large enough to hold 86,633 standard sized jars of salsa.
  • You’d need a Tostitos chip that was 6 ft tall to dip this jar of salsa.
  • The Pepsi cups were 3 ft tall and 2.5 feet wide at the top, which means they could hold 430 liters of Pepsi. 
  • The Double Dipper Dunk game platforms incorporated a two-story drop. Custom engineered and machined trap doors were designed just for this. 
  • An entire semi-truck was needed to transport all the foam needed for the padding and pit. 
  • At max pressure, the Mega Mecha Cornhole cannon could fire a beanbag over 80 feet – just enough distance to score the extra point after a touchdown.

Check out the timelapse video of Tostitos Party BLVD being built:

... and here are the games in action:

Before I sign out, I wanted to acknowledge the hard work, vision and creativity of my team members Jeff, Tyler, Pablo, Dana, Neha, Liza, Troy, and Christine, without whom these larger-than-life dip jars, cannons and slingshots would not have been possible.

Observations from Super Bowl 49

WOW… what a game that turned out to be! For a guy like me, it’s hard to pick which floored me more: the game itself, or the record rating of 49.6, which beat last year (47.6), as well as the previous high from New Orleans (48.1). 

Aside from Katy Perry’s “flamin’ hot” entrance, dancing sharks, a heartbreaking call (depending where your team loyalties lie), and an insurance ad that left people speechless (momentarily at least), the most noteworthy thing about year’s Super Bowl was how much more digital-first it was than ever before. I think we can all agree on one thing  -- “watching” the Super Bowl no longer means what it used to.

The Broadcast Has Gone Broadband
The most noticeable difference was that much of NBC’s broadcast of the game didn’t involve broadcasting. 

  • First-ever free streaming to laptop, PC, or tablet
  • Instant posting and curation of the ads to a Tumblr page as they aired
  • First-ever livestream of the halftime show

This marks the beginning of a redefinition of the Super Bowl “stage” and “moment,” since audiences can no longer be considered “captive” as they jump freely from platform to platform. 

Tech Takes Advantage
This change in content consumption and engagement is why we saw tech media brands like YouTube and Facebook leaning in with new offerings.

  • YouTube hosted for the first time a YouTube SB Halftime Show, with YouTube stars, fake spots, stunts and other entertainment to lure attention (and future marketers). I am anxious to see how much viewership it attracted versus the 118 million who tuned into the Pepsi Katy Perry Half time show on NBC.
  • Facebook, interestingly, conducted real-time tracking of user posts during the game, and used that data to offer hyper-targeted ads to advertisers.  Again, a first. But I have to wonder if this is truly a scalable game changer or if it merely adds more meaningless second-screen clutter. 

It’s the Game Around the Game
For us as advertisers, capitalizing on our large SB investment has now clearly become more about the social world surrounding the big game, than the in-game time itself. This is exactly why we saw so many brands leaking teasers of their ads. In fact, last year:

  • 45% of Americans sought out ads before kickoff
  • 160 MM Super Bowl ad views were recorded on YouTube before the game even began

Of course, our Doritos team had to bring some levity to the mad rush to release ads early. In signature Doritos style, as always.

Hacking the Super Bowl
Let’s face it, “teasers” have become table stakes. The best advertisers attempted radically different creative strategies to break through. 

  • Bud Light built a life-sized Pac-Man experience in LA and used pics and videos of the set to promote their spot, “Coin,” in which one unsuspecting dude was invited to play.
  • PepsiCo launched a reality show featuring Food Network star Anne Burrell, and eight culinary students in a cooking competition.
  • Hacking or Crashing the Super bowl is something, we on the Doritos team have pioneered for the past 9 years. Doritos consumers were engaged for 5 months leading up to game day. The engagement we got from asking consumers to create the ads, narrowing down the 10 finalists, and then asking the consumers to vote on the ad that should air on Super Bowl Sunday has always made it a stand out “hack” of the super bowl.
The 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalists at the Doritos suite getting ready to find out in real time who the winner was.

The 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalists at the Doritos suite getting ready to find out in real time who the winner was.

  • Carnival and GoDaddy borrowed a page from the Doritos playbook and employed voting to engage audiences around their Super Bowl efforts. Carnival had fans vote on one of four spots to air, and GoDaddy had people vote on the name of a puppy in their ad (“Buddy” won). 

Getting Serious
I also noticed a creative trend with brands getting more serious, making a statement to the Super Bowl audience rather than eliciting a laugh. In social media, the strategy of these brands was to start real conversations about real issues. 

  • Toyota had an ad this year called “To be a Dad” which strikes a more serious, emotional chord. 
  • Dove had a spot called “Real Strength,” a recut of a Father’s Day spot with a new hashtag. 
  • That aforementioned insurance ad from Nationwide warrants a mention here too, since it forced everyone to think of their own child dying. 

As I take these observations back with me to Dallas to derive new insights and strategies, I can’t help but welcome this changing landscape and the challenges it brings. We may have lost the traditional paradigm of audiences “glued to the TV set,” but in the long run, being able to transcend platforms and engage on their terms means to me that the experience can only become more real, which only creates stronger, more genuine connections.