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If you don’t want to pay the millions of dollars it costs for a Super Bowl ad spot, or the tens of millions it costs to be an official partner of the NFL, or even the more reasonable five-to-seven figures it costs to nab an NFL player for an endorsement deal – or the four-to-six it costs for a paid Tweet from ’em – then your only option is ambush marketing.

It’s a tactic that’s gained massive popularity alongside the rise of the second screen. It makes sense – you advertise during the Super Bowl because you know that humans will be looking at their TV’s during it. But we also know now that humans will be staring at their phones, as humans are wont to do, practically every other second for the entire game; so you advertise there now, too. This is significantly less extensive, and allows brands to easily skirt clearances for taste and content – as well as avoid paying for the rights to be officially tied to the Super Bowl.

But the question remains… how can we, as marketers, “join the conversation” (eyeroll) without paying for those rights? Well, question number one is, do you need to? The answer is probably no. Chances are good that your product has nothing to do with football, and chances are even better you haven’t been putting significant creative and financial assets against developing a meaningful connection to the sport. A single joke about Peyton Manning’s forehead isn’t going to do it. Put down your War Room, and watch the game, you weirdos. If you decide that you HAVE TO GO TO THE PARTY that nobody invited you to, below are some options for stock photos to include in your absolutely essential Tweet.

“American football party invitation illustration.”
Vector EPS, copyright: enterlinedesign
View it on Shutterstock

As always, it’s important to see the message through the audience’s eyes. In this case, the audience is someone lucky enough to be invited to a party. But not just any party – the audience is invited to a Big Game Party. Now, at this point they might be thinking, “Big Game?? Well, that could mean any number of things… exactly what kind of party is this?” And that’s when the genius of enterlinedesign’s really comes into play. Look just a little bit further down, invitee. See that football? Those numbered lines disappearing into the horizon? Those lights? Use your deductive reasoning, audience. There’s a football game this weekend, and it’s the Super Bowl. Come over and watch it with us.

“Excited football fans watching their team score a touchdown.”
Stock Photo, copyright: Lisa F. Young
View it on Shutterstock

It’s that classic sportswatchin’ scene we all know and love – a multigenerational group of guys, ostensibly facing a television in the beigest room that ever existed, all wearing the same colored-shirt, absolutely no logos in sight. The youngest brought a helmet, and those of age brought beer. A quick color correction, and they could be fans of any team – your team, even. You’ll have to do something about that foam finger, though. Unless it’s meant to represent a horrible medical condition in which right is left and left is right, homeboy’s wearing it backwards.

“man with a champion cup”
Stock Photo, copyright: Kues
View it on Shutterstock

It’s purely thanks to SEO that this result shows up at all. There’s no conceivable way that this should represent “Super Bowl” in search results, other than perhaps poor Google translate results for, like, “good job cup” or something. Speaking of inexplicable SEO, this image is also tagged with “metallic men” and “palm hand” – so in that sense “man with a champion cup” deserves its own champion cup for showing up in search results it has no business lurking in.

Mr. Gridiron – Illustration
Vector Illustration (EPS), includes large JPEG, copyright: MrAdvertising
View it on iStock

There are very few ways to interpret this graphic without coming to the conclusion that Mr. Gridiron, himself an anthropomorphic football, is an absolutely horrible parent. Or even worse, an abysmal babysitter. Don’t throw that child, Mr. Football! Shame on you, and shame on the horrible science experiment that birthed you in the first place.

Beautiful young woman wearing American Football attire holding ball
Stock Photo, copyright: Paul Matthew Photography
View it on Shutterstock

Well, at least there’s a clean version.

Vintage Football Emblem With Textured Background
Vector Illustration (EPS), includes large JPEG, copyright: George Peters
View it on iStock

This incredibly specific “vintage” illustration is really just saying what any of us are thinking – really, at any point in any given week – “Yeah Baby, I’m ready for Football!” It’s hard to image a use for this that isn’t ironic, but it wouldn’t look out of place incorporated into a “Big Game” ad for a local sportsbar that offers beers by the bucket and all you can eat wings.

Football Party
Stock image, copyright: MCCAIG
View it on iStock

Photoshop in your own exit number on this, the least informative sign on any of America’s countless roads.

Table set with munchies for a Super Bowl party. White background.
Stock image, copyright: Lisa F. Young
View it on Shutterstock

A Reverse Image Search for this one turns up a cache of photos featuring unappetizing appetizers and football equipment used as temporary décor. This is perhaps the truest representation of what a Super Bowl party is among the bunch – grand in its conception, plastic in its containers. Still can’t think of a use for it, though.