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November 4, 2020 - By Hawke Media

How Barstool Sports Hijacked the Super Bowl

For those of us familiar with Barstool Sports – a rather notorious sports media company as famous for their sports coverage as they are infamous for their content featuring obscenely intoxicated people doing stunts – it comes as no surprise that their founder, Dave Portnoy (known more familiarly as “El Presidente”), would get himself ejected from the Super Bowl… on purpose.The NFL has been at odds with Portnoy and his publication for several years thanks to a series of antagonistic antics, effectively barring Barstool from any involvement with league events. Where some would see this as punishment, Barstool saw opportunity. In just the latest example of Barstool’s mastery of viral content, Portnoy and his team went in with a plan to create buzz for their own brand by getting kicked out of the big game. Armed and ready with a social media strategy, they stole the show and created one of the biggest conversations to come out of the most important Sunday in sports.Here’s a breakdown of how Barstool hijacked the Super Bowl:

1 – They Went Where the Eyeballs Would Be

The vast majority of Barstool’s audience are massive sports fans, so it didn’t take a stroke of genius to know they’d be tuned into the big game. By creating a conversation related to the game, they were able to steal a substantial portion of fans’ attention, especially during commercial breaks.Speaking of commercial breaks, check out our post Content Marketing Inspiration from Super Bowl Ads.

2 – They Created Suspense

It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision for Portnoy to sneak into the game, nor was it really all that sneaky – after being escorted out of a media event earlier in the week, he publicly stated that he would return for the big game. The big question became: how would it go down when they inevitably kicked him out? Throughout the day, Barstool and El Presidente taunted the NFL, even going so far as to post game updates from within the stadium (see below). By then, it wasn’t just Barstool followers that were checking social media to see whether he’d been caught.

Gambling odds on the next Barstool arrest are out..Watch #StoolScenes from Atlanta before the Super Bowl:

— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) February 3, 2019

Emergency Press Conference – 1st Quarter Update

— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) February 4, 2019

If you followed anyone in the sports industry, any check of Twitter or Instagram resulted in just as much talk of El Presidente running around the stadium in his “disguise” as actual content from the game. (Side note: nobody’s pulled off such a convincing fake mustache since Bobby Valentine).

By creating the expectation of a fiasco, Barstool created a social media frenzy, drawing thousands of new followers into the madness.

3 – They Created Shareable Content Immediately

Spoiler alert – Portnoy was ultimately arrested. What impressed us was just how quickly Barstool’s social media team was able to leverage the moment into a viral sensation.


— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) February 4, 2019

Within minutes, social feeds were flooded with memes and graphics, and Barstool even had merchandise ready for purchase on their store:


— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) February 4, 2019

This only made the moment that much more shareable.

4 – They Coordinated Their Influencer Strategy

The Barstool team is comprised of influencers, in their own right. Each member has their own following, and while there is overlap in their audiences, they each appeal to a different segment of fans. The team continuously tweeted and retweeted each other about Portnoy’s grand caper, creating a viral loop that fueled fan interest.

In Conclusion

While we don’t recommend purposefully getting arrested, we do recommend using the same social media tactics Barstool did to create a conversation for your brand. Plan campaigns around events, holidays, seasons, etc., that are relevant to your brand, where your target audience will already be engaged. Stir up interest from your audience and keep them engaged with content before, during and after the big moment. And if you’re using influencers to spread your message, coordinate your posting cadence to maximize the effect.–Need help with your social media or influencer strategy? Hit us up – we’re here to help.