Lindsay Bell

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Super Bowl

By: Lindsay Bell | January 26, 2015 | 

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the SuperbowlBy Lindsay Bell

I hate newsjacking.

Like, viscerally hate it.

I remember saying, upon hearing the news of the tragic events in Paris, “If I see one post that even bears a whiff of What Charlie Hebdo Taught Me About X I will gouge my eyeballs out with a melon baller.”

Thankfully, that didn’t happen—not that I’m aware of, anyway. 

And I’m still sighted’ish.

But it never fails, whether a high profile death, a world tragedy, the Oscars, a sporting event, or a political firestorm, you usually have about two seconds before it’s time to get the melon baller out of the cutlery drawer and commence gouging.

Ok, I should clarify: I hate “if it bleeds it leads” style newsjacking. Because, really? What could the deaths of innocent people or the downing of an aircraft REALLY teach you about PR/marketing/social media? NOTHING. That’s what.

That said, there are times, when it’s done correctly, that newsjacking can be cheeky and fun. Think pop culture or sporting events.

Pop Culture Newsjacking: Good and Bad

Brands nowadays are experts at this fun-style newsjacking. We’re probably all a bit tired of the Oreo cookie/Super Bowl blackout epic win from 2013, but we’re also still referencing it because EPIC!

I bet most people still think Oreo when they hear any chatter about that infamous blackout, and that’s some powerful brand staying power.

Content Marketing Institute wrote about a series of brands who nailed the “poke a bit of fun at pop culture” style of newsjacking, including this Tweet, from DiGiorno Pizza.

The addition of SMH (shake my head) in reference to a film set in 1930s Austria adds an extra chuckle to this one.

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

But don’t think pop culture is a free-for-all; every brand’s online playground.

You still need to have some strategy behind what you’re posting, and also a clear understanding of context and potential sensitivities, cultural, racial, and otherwise.

Best Buy got its knuckles rapped for tweeting a self-promotional post referencing the podcast that took the country by storm: Serial. Hit show, right? Best Buy even features in the story arc!

What could be better, eh brands? Except Serial was about a real life murder from 1998, and a real life murderer making a phone call allegedly from a real life payphone in a Best Buy parking lot.

Perhaps their attempt at newsjacking Serial’s popularity by tweeting, “We have everything you need. Unless you need a pay phone. #Serial.” required a little more thought.

And then we have sensitive, sombre holidays, such as Memorial Day, or the just celebrated Martin Luther King Day.

Which brings us to football. Wait. What? Yes, football.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

As AdWeek reported, the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks took all the air out of their nail biting win over Green Bay with one Tweet: “We shall overcome #MLKDay”

Oh, and they included this picture as well, in case you didn’t quite get the reference.

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

I did like this response though. 

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Ok, let’s end on a happy note. Let’s go back to newsjacking done right, with good natured humor, and no one’s feelings getting hurt. Happy football.

If you’ve been following along, you might have noticed I mentioned that the Seahawks “took all the air out” of their trouncing of the Packers.

That’s riiiight! #DeflateGate!! Am I the only one who thinks this is the best hashtag ever!!??

#DeflateGate, in a nutshell, refers to how the New England Patriots won the second Super Bowl spot over the Indianapolis Colts.

But, during the game, Indianapolis Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass and wound up holding an under-inflated pigskin.

After the NFL investigated, it was found that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game were under inflated.

Cue the Internet!! Oh, the memes. Simply too many to mention or show here. And brands got on board.

Michelin, MoPar, and Krispy Kreme Donuts were some of them.

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Newsjacking: Tread Lightly

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Even the #BabyBombers, the Staten Island Yankees baseball team weighed in (see what I did there?).

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Because let’s face it, poking a bit of fun at a bunch of men in shoulder pads who chase a ball around, get paid scads of money to do so, and who might have been caught cheating is kind of fun.

No one was hurt (except for maybe Tom Brady’s ego). No one died. No one’s being disrespectful or distasteful. All things you must consider before partaking in any newsjacking of your own.

Don’t compare tragedy to something inconsequential and meaningless (in the grand scheme of things).

Don’t piggyback on holidays or events if they have absolutely nothing to do with your brand, or if there’s the remotest chance you might be crossing any line.

But please do, if you find your own #DeflateGate, jump on board and have some fun!

It’s Super Bowl Sunday this weekend! Who are you rooting for? The Ball Deflators? Or the MLK Coat-Tail Riders??

photo credit: Shutterstock

About Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

  • I’m so glad you didn’t offend the hotness of Tom Brady. I was scared!

  • ginidietrich Hot, but slimy. And not in a good way.

  • belllindsay I don’t think he is. I’ve read a ton about what’s going on (and have been reading the FB feeds of those close to it) and I don’t think he had anything to do with it. What is slimy is our (human beings) need to assume people cheat when they do well. Of course, I maintained Lance Armstrong’s innocence until the end, so what do I know?

  • ginidietrich Oh, I’m not talking about this whole balls fiasco. I just think he’s slimy. Always have! Nothing to do with what’s happening right now.

  • belllindsay ginidietrich Is it the little boy hair?  I’ve always thought he was a wee bit icky because of the little boy haircut he sports.

  • HeatherTweedy belllindsay OMG! You people! That’s fine. No competition for me (except, of course, his supermodel wife).

  • ginidietrich belllindsay I don’t really have room to talk, though.  I would take Pete Carroll over anyone else in the Big Game.  *swoon*

  • HeatherTweedy LOL!!

  • allpointspr100

    Oh those are delightful jabs at the Pats & Deflategate. The NHL had one like the MLB’s and how their equipment never deflates. 
    Jamie I 
    All Points PR

  • I hadn’t seen the deflate-gate posts — those are great! The Seahawks could have pulled off the MLK tweet, but they took it a step too far with “We Shall Overcome.” Simply posting the quote would be fine. 

    Maybe also overlaying it on a photo of a player (instead of an image from the civil rights era) was too much as well. But I guess at that point they’d just be one more generic brand throwing up an MLK quote. Which is probably better than the alternative of standing out in a bad way …

  • Fun and smart post. Love the Krispy Kreme tweet and the Brooks response to the MLK tweet. Great examples of what to do and not to do.

  • Yay for my hometown fave, KK making the post!!! I’m usually pretty annoyed that super bowl ads are released early, but with all the #deflategate junk this year I’m glad. Now I can watch them all before and save myself a few hours on Sunday. But I”m still making the food. Because unless the Cowboys are playing, all I care about is the food and commercials anyhow…

  • What Charlie Hebdo & Lindsay Bell Wheeler Taught Me About the Super Bowl. Thanks!

  • The problem with news jacking is unless the TV and Print and Digital news picks up the post….no one sees it. Which is why when you fail you are more likely to get coverage.

    Rob Schwartz CEO of TBWA used to be creative director in the LA office. He is responsible for killing the Pepsi brand and then he got the CEO job. Michelin is a client and he tweeted that instagram show. At the time they had 300+ followers on Instagram. That was last week (tuesday I think I talked to him about it). I guess it worked. With the help of the news industry and blogs like this they now have 3000 followers. An increase of 1000%. But this is global brand with my guess is 2-3billion potential customers. That is really moving the needle right? Well I bet the people who came up with the post cost more than the benefit to the brand from the post in my opinion.

    Reality is no one cares. Oreo didn’t sell cookies from their superbowl tweet and michelin didn’t sell any tires.

    What works better is using Twitter/Instragram searches and doing one to one marketing. I have one for Vermont. Anyone who Tweets with Hashtag #Vermont i look at who they are where they are and then will often tweet them on behalf of a client in a personal friendly matter. This works and has higher conversion rates and ROI vs newsjacking in my opinion.

    Your post is great belllindsay because it is highlighting how in vogue this has become. I will add newsjacking to my list of social business and content marketing as what we will see die as a fad in 2015 when the returns bear out nothing to get excited about.

  • ginidietrich Ick. I don’t get the Team America pretty boy appeal. RDJ makes waaaay more sense to me.

  • Howie Goldfarb Keep an eye our for the Brand bandwagon’s as they try to figure out how and if they should try and capitalize on the “Historic Blizzard” bearing down on the NE seaboard. “Hey NYC don’t get snowed in without your Oreo’s”

  • Eleanor Pierce ginidietrich All this sports talk, why can’t we talk about what the Stars were wearing at the SAG Awards…I thought Julianne Moore’s green dress was amazing.

  • Digital_DRK Eleanor Pierce ginidietrich Julianne Moore is a goddess. #Fact

  • ginidietrich belllindsay Yes. This is my favorite take on #deflategate so far, Gini. Probably because, as a Pats fan, I’ve been seeking out what I want to hear … 

    And with that, I’m avoiding all discussion of it indefinitely. For my own sanity. (And I’ll be wearing my #12 jersey proudly throughout this #deflategate boycott. Go Pats!)

  • belllindsay

    AmandaICleary Hi Amanda, thanks for the share! 🙂 SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    corinamanea I hate a lot of things. LOL xo SpinSucks

  • corinamanea

    belllindsay SpinSucks LOL! xo

  • I think there are different levels of “newsjacking.” One is the “second-paragraph” approach, which I think is a rare and fantastic opportunity at the national/global level. David Meerman Scott wrote a nice big post about that. Think, The Wynn Hotel banning Paris Hilton (HOW DARE THEY) after she was arrested for drug possession, or Justin Bieber receiving an offer to be cast in a certain kind of film after the recent uncertainty about his undie-filling capabilities in a Calvin Klein ad. This weekend’s SNL spoof of that ad is kind of similar — or it simply may be …
    …adding to a trending conversation, which I think is the second kind of “newsjacking,” and which is the most common. Tweets and posts from brands on trending topics. Oreos. The football stuff. It’s the one which gets screwed up most often because it seems to be going for new eyeballs and is perceived as a desperate grab for attention. A tweet from a brand seems destined to fail as an intrusion, an interruption in a stream of “real” tweets. Alas. Marketers have reinforced this perception by interrupting everyone’s lives non-stop for years. 
    But speaking of effectiveness — and alluding to Howie Goldfarb ‘s comment — you certainly do have to have a goal to justify allocating your resources to this stuff! Makes sense. I’m not sure it always has to be sales. Awareness and brand perception can be measured, too!

  • I am all for the “fun and cheeky” newsjacking and appreciate the cleverness by some brands in their memes and tweets. I don’t however admire those wannabe brands who just strike out on any news item to, without thought of impact or want of a purposeful outcome,  be part of the crowd (koolness) or use it as link bait, especially for the holidays, tragedies or sensitive issues on religion, women’s rights, politics etc. 

    The #DeflateGate newsjacking has been fun and I say that as one who lives in Patriots Nation, however I did not appreciate some of the newsjacking when it came to the domestic violence issue in the NFL. One I see as a sport issue (a silly current event that will wane) and the other a social issue (a serious global issue that deserves continued attention and respect). 

    As far as the hashtag DeflateGate, I can appreciate it as a catchy rhyming hashtag but like so many of our buzzwords, I find the use of ‘gate’  trivialized and cliched from the origin of a serious era of history, Watergate (e.g. garglegate, gamergate, Billygate, bingogate, hairgate), the list goes on and on :

    So you ask who I am rooting for this weekend?  As the Dunkin’ Kremed the Krispy in New England, I will cross the line and predict that Patriots will lift those leathery balls to their cups and use the Seahawks feathers as ticklers (forgive me 😉

  • Digital_DRK HAHAHAHA! I endorse this title!

  • allpointspr100 LOL I saw the NHL’s one also. Very cute. The best part is all these guys from the various sports teams probably know each other in real life. 🙂

  • Eleanor Pierce Digital_DRK ginidietrich I would marry Julianne Moore. And Tilda Swinton.

  • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay I agree Howie, so many are making headlines for their failures which gives wonder to whether intentional or dumb luck.

  • annelizhannan I have written a few times about how much I hate NFL and It has to be a slap in the face to victims.. it’s so fake and patronizing. I’ve always thought their breast cancer “support” was bad but this? Shameful.

  • DwayneAlicie Howie Goldfarb I’m just going to “plus one” this entire comment

  • HAHAHA! I love the Michelin man!!! The best! 

    Great overview! Like a lot of things in communications “newjacking” always makes me want to say “This is why we can’t have nice things.” While it can be used correctly and naturally like DwayneAlicie mentioned, anymore that’s not how most use it, or even I think what the word stands for anymore. And instead you get the crud you laid out here.

  • LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie Howie Goldfarb irony for the Wynn is more drugs are done in that hotel everyday than in all of vermont each day. Every single hotel in vegas has high rollers getting high. BUT remember the last name. They obviously haven’t banned Lindsay Lohan or Paul McCartney right? They did it purely as a dig at Hilton who has their own hotel/casino on the strip.

    But I agree with the crafty side. As for resources I just think every agency went to their brands saying this will work can we hire people to monitor and bill you more even if it doesn’t work like we are telling you it will!

  • LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie Best (and by best I mean worst) one I ever saw was when Fleshlight tweeted a Memorial Day tweet. #umWHAT??

  • annelizhannan I think that’s why I love #DeflateGate so much. It’s just so….stupid!! Considering where the “gate” thing originated. And yes, I 100% agree with you on the abuse issue. Many people have pointed out that the NFL got more news coverage over the balls thing than they did about the abuse thing. Not sure if that’s fact, but it sure says a lot about society today.

  • Howie Goldfarb LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie Yes, Dwayne, great points. Adding thoughtful commentary to a trending story is NOT newsjacking, IMHO. Writing a title like “Ten Things the Loss of Malaysia Flight 370 Taught Me About Social Media” is not. 😉 Wynn could have been more clever about the Hilton thing – per what Howie mentions. That would have been a hoot!!

  • Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb sounds like Dairy Queen should jump on this…oh wait there are none in the northeast that I know of LOL. On that note I moonlight a few nights as a waiter I am selling more ice cream sundaes now than in the summer.

  • whitney_fay

    belllindsay ginidietrich I kind of wish instead of #DeflateGate they would’ve went with #BallsFiasco if only so I could watch ESPN reporters use the term repeatedly. But that’s just me… a 12 year old boy trapped inside a 34 year old woman’s body….

  • Word Ninja I forget who I discussed Krispy Kreme with but their physical stores do more advertising than any social media or paid media can ever get them. When I lived in LA they were on corners with tens of thousands of drivers going by every day they always had a long line at the drive through just like In Out Burger.

  • belllindsay LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie Monday morning insight – LBW follows  Fleshlight on twitter.

  • belllindsay allpointspr100 during the Tom Brady press conference CNN kept showing banner quotes under him. One said ‘I have no idea about deflation’. or something similar. I missed taking a photo. I wanted to use that line in reference to his bedroom life with Giselle. He set himself up or CNN did!

  • Howie Goldfarb  Howie I’d eat your ice cream anytime….let me rephrase that….

  • HeatherTweedy belllindsay ginidietrich the dude admitted to watching online porn after he had started dating Giselle. I give him credit for being honest!

  • I’m of the strong opinion that you can’t plan for this type of success, no matter how many people are sitting in the brand’s War Room for the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl blackout, #technologyandstuff…both of those were very successful for brands and neither of those events could have been predicted. Different forces came together in one shining moment of social media success.

    Sadly, I think we’re going to see a lot of forced brand tweets on Sunday that are going to be duds..

  • belllindsay Howie Goldfarb LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie Agreed Lindsay. And as to Wynn he should just ban the whole Hilton Clan and explain how much nicer his new hotel is versus the old and decaying Hilton properties.

  • Howie Goldfarb Oh, no, not a new idea at all, Howie!! As for ROI, I really see newsjacking in the style of what Michelin and Krispy Kreme did above as brands having a little fun. Does *everything* have to be about huge ROI? Perhaps the ROI of something like this is immeasurable – longterm stuff – creating a feeling of fun and good humour around a brand, for example, as opposed to number of Instagram followers. I suppose that’s the wrong thing to say when *everything* is aways about the numbers, right? 😉

  • Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb Hey now, FAMILY SHOW HERE!!

  • KristenDaukas Did you see the Carl’s Jr. add…??? OMG. So horrible!! But…demographically perfect, sadly.

  • Howie Goldfarb Word Ninja Thanks, Amanda. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have a giggle over something a brand has done, isn’t it? 🙂

  • belllindsay Howie Goldfarb   Sorry Miss Fleshlight.

  • RobBiesenbach Any publicity is good publicity…? 😉 Though, when you’re a powerhouse NFL team heading to the Super Bowl, one inappropriate tweet will hardly make a dent in their popularity, either.

  • belllindsay LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie OMG!! Haha!

  • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay allpointspr100 OMG there have been so many hilarious quotes, Howie. Showing how deep down inside we’re all just 12 year old boys. LOL

  • Digital_DRK belllindsay Howie Goldfarb HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

  • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie And the old, decaying Hiltons. 😉

  • Howie Goldfarb LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie ARRGGH!!! “Writing a title like “Ten Things the Loss of Malaysia Flight 370 Taught Me About Social Media” is not.” IS!! Obviously IS!!! #proofreadfail

  • Digital_DRK belllindsay LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie NOT TRUE!! LOL Someone posted it on Facebook at the time – I think it was @dannybrown!!

  • bradmarley I really can’t wait for the Super Bowl. LOL I think the Interwebs are going to be *awesome*. The real people, I mean, not the brands. 😉

  • belllindsay LauraPetrolino DwayneAlicie drag @dannybrown into it, he’s probably still recovering from Robbie Burns day.

  • Howie Goldfarb Not so much here in the Chicago area. There is one store I know of, so getting Krispy Kremes was always a special treat…of course, until they ended up in grocery stores, which took some of the “special” out of it. They also used to give everyone a free donut, still warm out of the fryer. Talk about some good advertising.

  • belllindsay

    EmilyKantner Emily, you had me at ‘huntress’! LOL Thanks for the share! SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    jocmbarnett Cheers, John! 🙂 SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    ljcrest Hi Laura, nice to meet you, and thanks! 🙂 SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    howiegoldfarb Poor Tom. LOL SpinSucks

  • belllindsay LauraPetrolino OMG!

  • belllindsay Howie Goldfarb LauraPetrolino I LOVE PARIS HILTON

  • belllindsay You know what though.. with all my feminist rantings, I actually LIKE that commercial. You know why? Because Carl’s Jr makes no bones about what they are… a sexist restaurant that will kill you. They don’t try to hide behind a “lite” menu or pretend that they’re a family restaurant. At all. Plus I thought the well placed fruit was hysterical. Twisted, I know.

  • belllindsay Howie Goldfarb LauraPetrolino Yes, those ugly efforts to benefit from interest in tragedies are really depressing. 
    Hey, you know, something else to be aware of is the negative connotation of the term “newsjacking.” I think sometimes people forget that. Hijack, carjack, newsjack. The good stuff is usually more like “leading the bandwagon!”

  • KristenDaukas As the mom of a 15 year old boy, I agree, Kristen. They certainly know their audience. 😉

  • I really enjoyed this discussion, as well as my enhanced knowledge I now have of how my ISP and Livefyre can conspire to deflate my plans for commentary brilliance!

  • I agree that “newsjacking” the fun stuff just creates more audience, and since as a house, I can only reach so far, I’m all for that. 

    I think that some things should be respected and just because they are public events, that does not mean that they should be used for self promotion. I have an uncle who is an apartment building in Hackensack, NJ. A fire had destroyed a city block about a half mile away from him and his owner thought this would be a good excuse to raise the rents “since there was less competition.” My uncle was not happy about this so for a week, he made the fire alarm go off at 7:00.

  • BobtheHouse1303 OMG! AM or PM????

  • biggreenpen BAHAHAHAHA! You are the best!! #discus

  • belllindsay BobtheHouse1303 PM. The average age of the tenants there is 62 so that was the perfect time. Uncle Marty would tell me stories about how for months he would hear “you want to raise the rent? I can’t even watch “Jeopardy” in this place! I’ll move to Paramus before paying more money.” 

    The owner may have had an MBA in Finance from NYU, but Uncle Marty has an MBA (Mighty Bad Attitude) from the streets of Hackensack.

  • BobtheHouse1303 Oy.

  • belllindsay

    di_wo Ha! Well said, Diana! Thanks for the share. 🙂

  • belllindsay

    JamboTw Hi James, appreciate the share. Will you be watching on Sunday…?? 🙂 SpinSucks

  • JamboTw

    belllindsay My pleasure, Lindsay. As for Sunday… You bet! 🙂 SpinSucks

  • Gini Dietrich

    It sounds like the ball boy might be the culprit!

  • jogosdofriv42

    Great. I love the Michelin man!!! The best! and play game for

  • Lindsay Bell-Wheeler

    Oh right. Blame the ball boy. 😉

  • belllindsay

    PRProAnn Cheers, Ann, appreciate the mention! SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    NaoMediaCo Hi folks, thanks for the share, how’s the weather in Atlanta? 😉 cc SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    johnjanney Hi John, really appreciate the share! Cheers! cc SpinSucks

  • johnjanney

    My pleasure, belllindsay SpinSucks I appreciated the article.

  • NaoMediaCo

    belllindsay not too bad. Chilly, but no where near what our friends on the east coast are dealing with.

  • NaoMediaCo

    belllindsay how’s Chicago?

  • belllindsay

    NaoMediaCo I’m in Toronto, Canada. It’s cold, not much snow, and about a thousand times better than last winter at this time. #polarvortex

  • belllindsay

    NaoMediaCo True. My family are on the east coast. The entire Maritimes shut down! LOL

  • PRProAnn

    belllindsay PRProAnn SpinSucks Thank YOU for the great content!

  • belllindsay

    ZoeticaMedia Kami, thank you so much!! 🙂

  • belllindsay

    jpippert Thanks, Julie!! SpinSucks