Are you ready for some football? Break out the six-packs, pizzas, buffalo wings, Tums and Alka-Seltzer—it's that time of year again! Though some are predicting one of the starkest match ups in Super Bowl history, with the explosive Cardinal offense taking on the Steeler's top-ranked defense, much of the excitement will be happening off the field. No we're not talking about Tom and Gisele; we're talking about marketing and promotions.

Over the years, marketers have taken to airing creative, often over-the-top ads that capture the imagination and attention of viewers. In recent memory, we've seen Naomi Campbell dance with lizards and P-Diddy hitch a ride in a Pepsi truck. This trend is not surprising, as for many Super Bowl viewers, the advertisements take center stage on game day; in fact, 1 in 4 viewers prefer the ads over the game, according to comScore. With a record 97 million viewers watching the television broadcast in 2008 and huge viewership expected again this year, the Super Bowl is a true mass marketing opportunity. As such, advertisers are now kicking it to the Internet for that extra point.

Super Bowl advertisements are no longer siloed efforts to woo viewers, but have become integrated with the web to bring consumers into the brand's fold. We recently spoke to Prof. Timothy Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University who conducts a yearly study on Super Bowl ad effectiveness, to get further insight. "No one just runs a TV spot any more. Most people pair their spot with an integrated campaign that includes the Internet," he states. "This has been a striking shift over the past few years." In fact, according to Reprise Media, last year 84% of Super Bowl advertisers integrated a URL into their ads and 70% ran search ads in conjunction with their TV campaign, nearly a 20% increase over the previous year.

While most advertisers are directing fans to their online presence, some are gaining ground by taking it ten yards further. Doritos' successful 'Crash the Super Bowl' Contest, last year awarded unknown artist Kina Grannis a recording contract and the opportunity to have her music video played during the game after an online contest. This year they're giving novice filmmakers Super Bowl airtime to showcase a user-generated commercial. Last year, Super Bowl ads received 20 million views on YouTube with online streams of the commercials remaining strong for 3 weeks after the game. Pedigree is running a search campaign around their Super Bowl spot and promoting their ad on YouTube Ad Blitz. Ad Blitz is a contest that begins right after the Super Bowl where the YouTube community can vote for their fav spot ( Similarly, E*TRADE is starting their Super Bowl campaign early - and with good reason. Searches for E*TRADE were up 1,000% after last year's Super Bowl Ad. This year they are re-introducing the talking baby and building buzz online by posting outtakes on YouTube a week before the ad runs (the last time we checked it had gotten nearly 47,000 views). The talking baby also has a Facebook fanpage and a Twitter account.

(Google Insights for Search)

If you aren’t advertising during the Super Bowl, you can still capitalize on the big game. Sports fans will be online searching for highlights, ads and sports swag, so be where they are by uploading your own Super Bowl videos to YouTube or simply advertising next to someone else’s Super Bowl videos. The heaviest traffic will be during and after the game, so you still have time to get out a rich media blast or a MySpace text homepage take-over.

And while we don’t want to get too Jess Simps and Tony Romo on you, we’d like to remind you that V-Day is just around the corner. So if you are in the non-pig skin business, ride the coattails of the biggest game in town and reach those sports fans. Do a quick Google search on “Arizona cardinals valentines” and you can find this beautiful picture frame. Pittsburgh fans are just as prolific in their gifts of the heart. A search for “steelers love gifts” got us this beautiful Steelers Pendant. So Ben Roethlisberger, we know you wear your heart on your sleeve, but remember that nothing says love like wearing your team in your heart.

The moment you have all been waiting for!

The final installment of our interview with Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist. This is a five part video interview series focused on the synergies between online engagement and offline sales and the ways to measure that ever-important connection.

The series culminates today with Avinash discussing the "crimes against humanity" and how you can become "God".

You can view the first four installments by searching the blog for "Avinash".

"Searching" for answers on brand value

How does branding affect purchase behavior? What is branding worth? What can I do to build my brand?

These are all timely and hotly contested questions. While there may never be definitive answers, new research on the brand value of search advertising can shed some precious light on the subject.

Working with Media-Screen, a group of our Google CPG folks conducted a study titled Brand Value of Search. They set out to measure the impact of paid search ads on generic search terms. Using four product categories (beverage, cosmetics, food/snack, household cleaning/laundry) they measured the following:

- unaided brand awareness (What brands come to mind when I say "beverage"?)

- aided brand awareness (Have you heard of Snapple?)

- purchase consideration

- purchase intent

The most significant impact was on unaided brand awareness, with an average lift of 24 percentage points, depending on the category and the brand measures. Purchase intent and purchase consideration were also significantly affected, with an average lift of 6 and 7 percentage points, respectively.

Click through rates (CTR) and conversions have traditionally been the most visible measurements for search campaigns, but advertisers can rest at ease knowing that even just having eyeballs hit ads is a very good thing. In fact, your ROI calculations could be much more accurate if you account for the brand value of search advertising.

Let's look at an example. Say you have a campaign set at $1 per click with a two percent CTR. So for $2 you would get two clicks…but you would also get 100 impressions. Those impressions are a key factor in driving top-of-mind awareness and are another crucial element in customer engagement with your brand. In fact, in the study, researchers found that a lack of search presence negatively impacts awareness. In other words, not showing up in paid search can result in customers forgetting about your brand!

A similar study conducted last year with Enquiro Search Solutions, Inc. found that even for branded queries, presence in both top sponsored and top organic results boosts purchase intent. In the study, Honda showed a 7 percent lift in purchase intent. The key finding was that both unbranded and branded keywords are effective in building brand value.

Every company and brand is different, and so advertisers should think about the impact impressions has on their brand and how they can include it in their ROI calculations. Although humanity will probably continue to struggle with branding questions, at least we are headed down the path to enlightenment.