Anytime Fitness makes smart bet with Super Bowl brand bingo ad 

Co-opting common cues can pay dividends for brands

Anytime Fitness has a plan to insert itself into this year’s Super Bowl without spending over $6m on a 30-second TV commercial – and there’s precedent to suggest it’s a good one.

The 24-hour gym franchise is inviting Americans and Canadians to post on Instagram and Twitter whenever they hear someone – an announcer, a halftime performer, an ad spokesperson – say ‘anytime’ during Sunday’s big game for the chance to win a year’s free membership or a holiday to any country where the company does business.

The campaign was created by Mischief@NoFixedAddress, and there’s a lot to like about it. The ad announcing the competition is funny, the idea highlights the brand’s global footprint, and the competition is simple enough and compelling enough to encourage a lot of people to take part – or at least take notice.

But the campaign is doing something else, too; something that when done right can be a huge multiplier of creative impact. It is attempting to turn a common cue (in this case, the word ‘anytime’) into a prompt to think about Anytime Fitness.

We’ve noticed more and brands trying this on since Tide’s 2018 Super Bowl spot, It’s a Tide Ad, compelled viewers to think about every commercial in which people wear clean clothes as an ad for the detergent brand.

By no means did Tide (or its agency, Saatchi & Saatchi New York) invent this species of advertising, but It’s a Tide Ad was so successful that we suspect it reinvigorated the format.

Unlike Anytime Fitness, Tide did not turn its commercial into a contest. It didn’t need to because it splashed out on a Super Bowl spot and celebrities, which was more than enough to guarantee people’s attention. But like Anytime Fitness, it also sought to turn something ubiquitous (clean clothes in any ad) into a prompt to think about its brand. And according to the agency, it worked a treat. The campaign resulted in a 35% sales increase for Tide Ultra Oxi.

This kind of creative idea lends itself to big sporting events. In 2020 Nordic electronics retailer Elgiganten began offering discounts on its TVs every time a referee in a Premier League match made the signal (drawing with their fingers a rectangle shape, like a TV screen) to call for a video assistant referee.

Admittedly this campaign, created by Nord DDB, differs from the previous two examples in that it creates a prompt for a product rather than a brand, but it works according to the same bingo-like mechanics and it was also a success. In one hour, Elgiganten sold $290,000 of TVs, far outstripping (assuming a healthy margin) the $25,000 that the campaign cost.

Heetch also tried its hand at brand-bingo during the 2022 men’s Fifa World Cup. The ride-sharing app put out an ad, by BETC Paris, offering to pay ESPN €48m because every time a commentator pronounced the name of a Croatian player ending in ‘ić’, it sounded like they were saying ‘Heetch’.

But while brand bingo is well suited to live events, it isn’t restricted to them. Take Transavia, for instance. In France, unused billboards are covered in a green paper of a similar shade to the one often used by the low-cost airline in its marketing. So in 2019, working with Havas Paris Seven, the brand produced an out-of-home campaign claiming that all empty billboards were Transavia ads ‘on holiday’.

And last year, Cadbury 5 Star in India inverted the dynamic a little bit to achieve the same effect. It tweaked the design of its chocolate-bar packaging to make its logo resemble the online star-rating icon – creating a visual cue for the brand within almost every app.

So, if you’re stuck for an idea for how to get people thinking about your brand without spending too much money – or you just want to make your money work harder – look around for something that already exists and is commonplace and claim it for your own. If you do it smart and with enough charm, you could end up with a nice little creative dividend.

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