Marketing nerds on Super Bowl adverts and working with Addison Rae

CHICAGO: Nerds has seen huge sales growth over the past five years, from $50 million in 2019 to more than half a billion dollars in 2023. This growth can largely be attributed to the release of Nerds Gummy Clusters, launched in 2020 and now one of the best-selling candies in the candy category, according to Circana data provided by the brand.

It’s fitting that with consumer interest soaring, parent company Ferrara decided to debut the Nerds Gummy Clusters ad at the Super Bowl.

“Growth is truly a big reason why now is the right time for Nerds to appear on the world’s biggest stage,” said Brian Kamen, senior director of content and public relations at Ferrara.

While the brand has cultivated its Gen Z audience through TikTok and celebrity partnerships like Stranger ThingsGaten Matarazzo: “Everyone with a tongue loves a nerd,” Kamen said. Nerds were looking to expand their reach and saw The Big Game as the perfect place to do so because it attracted a wide audience of all demographics.

In an effort to ensure the success of its debut Super Bowl ad, the brand developed the commercial and partnered with a high-profile celebrity.

Making a teaser

To generate buzz around the Game Day ad, Nerds teamed up with PR agency Golin to conceptualize a teaser trailer featuring dancer and musician Addison Rae, a familiar face to Gen Z and TikTok users.

In the clip, Ray is in a dance studio training a student or group of students that the audience does not see, presumably before filming the final commercial. Fans are then asked to guess who Ray is training to build anticipation for their appearance during the debut spot and direct consumers to their social media channels as the full spot airs on Nerds’ social media and Ray’s TikTok.

The trailer will not air on television, as has been the case with some trailers this year. Instead, it will appear as paid media channels and streams on social platforms TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook.

Kamen credited Golin for introducing the concept in hopes of “setting the stage for our big game.”

Ferrara’s creative team worked with Golin to “fine-tune the idea” and brought Digitas Chicago into the production process to “make sure we connected the dots between this teaser and future content that will come out during the game,” he added.

Unit9 Films produced the teaser and was directed by Alan Bibby.

The teaser is just part of a “360-degree marketing campaign,” Kamen noted, which also includes PR, retail and paid media “to extend creativity beyond the average day.” Mindshare oversaw paid media, while AUC handled retail.

Ron D’Innocenzo, Golin’s North America creative director, said the goal of the work was to “use unconventional means to build anticipation into what we’re doing.”

“The Super Bowl became a conversation about, ‘What are (brands) going to do?’” he said. “It’s important to have a teaser that people will talk about,” and it’s meant to get consumers excited for the Big Game reveal.

According to D’Innocenzo, the teaser generated the expected buzz. “People are already trying to guess who (Ray) is coaching; that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

Why Casting Addison Rae Was ‘Easy’

With celebrities increasingly taking over Super Bowl ads, it was important that Nerds chose a celebrity that made sense to both the audience and the brand itself. According to Kamen and D’Innocenzo, Rae was “perfect” for the role.

First of all, Ray is obviously a fan of the Nerds and their jelly beans in particular.

“She has talked about the brand and product in the past, together and before any partnership,” Kamen said. The press release for the teaser also noted that Nerds Gummy Clusters are Rae’s favorite snack during dance studio rehearsals.

D’Innocenzo noted that it was important to everyone involved that the talent chosen for the spot was not “just a celebrity for the sake of a celebrity.” He added: “Sometimes some (celebrities) have nothing to do with the product, but they have a lot of followers and they get hung up on the advertisement.”

The choice had to be deliberate, and in the end, Rae was “a perfect fit both creatively and strategically,” he added. When it came to strategy, Nerds looked for talent that was versatile, but especially well-known to the target audience that took Gummy Clusters to new heights: Generation Z.

“Our core consumer is Gen Z, and with that in mind, we wanted to connect with Gen Z through talent that is active where our fans are present and in the places they are busy,” added Kamen, who said her casting was a “no brainer” for this reason.

Rae also contributed to the creative process. According to Kamen, the team took the concept to Rae, who worked with her choreographer to develop the dance she taught during the video.

Kamen added that she has a deep understanding of the product, pointing to a recent interview with Billboard in which she said she was in the era of “nerd-jelly clusters”; soft on the inside, but you have to be a little careful… protecting your soft center.”

“Nobody told her to say that—she really is that passionate,” D’Innocenzo added.

Looking forward to the Big Game

Ahead of Nerds’ Big Game debut, the brand and creative partner remained tight-lipped about the details of the final video. But consumers “will get a multi-sensory experience from our advertising” just like they would when consuming a Nerds product, Kamen said.

The video itself, which will air in the second quarter, won’t be the only area where Nerds will be active. During the game, the brand will have an “active and engaged presence on the social platforms we already participate in,” including TikTok and Instagram. The brand is not active on X, formerly Twitter.

TikTok is the brand’s primary social channel, where it has 175,000 followers and over 600,000 likes across all content. He plans to use the platform to build anticipation before the Super Bowl and continue the conversation after the game ends.

“Our main target audience is (TikTok); It makes sense for us to have an active presence on this platform, and we will continue to do so before and after the Big Game,” Kamen said.

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