At the CASE District II Super Bowl party on February 7, attendees will get to rate this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads. One of the most expensive marketing gambits available, these spots are usually the product of expert advertising teams striving for the best: the funniest, the edgiest, the most compelling. They’ve become a yearly lesson about what to do—and what not to do—to get your audience buzzing. In honor of all the professionals out there devoted to advancing higher education, we thought we’d make our own list of communications and advancement lessons gleaned from Super Bowl commercials and social media campaigns. Have something to add? Tweet us @SteegeThomson with the hashtag #SuperBowlAdLessons. And if you’re at CASE II, come to the Super Bowl party and find out what new lessons this year’s crop of ads reveal.

  1. Oreo responded to the notorious blackout during Super Bowl XLVII in real time. Can your team take advantage of sudden opportunities?

  2. Apple’s “1984” ad is iconic now, but it got pushback at the time. When building trust, don’t denigrate competitors—differentiate yourself.

  3. Show donors their transformative power—even greater than that of a Snickers bar, which is, apparently, saying something:

  4. Gatorade’s Michael Jordan "23 vs. 39" ad was a technical marvel in 2003. It also evoked both nostalgia and appreciation for experience. Show potential donors your impact throughout their life and career.

  5. ETrade’s ad for the 2000 Super Bowl featured a dancing chimpanzee and an implication that they’d just wasted millions. Donors need to see the wisdom and impact of a gift; nobody wants to be the chimp.

  6. Pinpoint and be proud of who you are. It’s part of who your donors are, too. Chrysler did this for Detroit, and helped not only their own sales but perhaps the city itself:

  7. Esurance ran an ad after the Super Bowl, saved $1.5 million, and offered to give it to someone who posted “#EsuranceSave30” on social media:

    You may not have $1.5 million lying around, but what mutual benefit can you give donors?
  8. If you manage to start a conversation (like JCPenney did by #tweetingwithmittens), anticipate where it might go, and be prepared for misinterpretation:

  9. Dodge knows that a big anniversary is a great time to show what you've learned:

  10. And Budweiser knows that, for your loyal audiences, it's all about the story:

    And maybe a little humor: