- A mobile contest from Mercedes-Benz that was supposed to unfold in real time during the Super Bowl ran into technical difficulties and, as result, never took place as planned, according to an email from the company sent to those who registered for the game.
- The "Last Fan Standing" contest asked at-home viewers to hold a finger on an image of a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, with the winner the person who does so the longest. Instead, the game never began, as Mercedes-Benz reports it ran into last-minute issues related to servers. The company said it tried to solve the problem and restart the game, but the issue persisted.
- As a result of the technical difficulties, Mercedes-Benz has converted the contest into a sweepstakes, with everyone who registered for the game automatically entered into a random drawing. The winner will be announced later this week.
The car brand missed a potentially significant opportunity to gain positive word of mouth across social media during Sunday's big game. Ally Bank, which also held a smartphone-based contest that Super Bowl viewers could play was the brand without a national TV spot that drove the highest percentage of brand conversation online, according to Twitter.
Instead, Mercedes-Benz was left having to explain its technical difficulties and issue an apology.
"Thank you for your enthusiasm and willingness to participate," Mercedes-Benz wrote in the email to registrants. "Unfortunately, yesterday didn't work out as we planned. We ran into last-minute issues related to servers, and although we tried to solve the problem and restart again so everyone could still play, the issue persisted. We're sorry to have kept you waiting."
Mercedes-Benz's contest was announced more than a week prior to the Super Bowl and was supposed to be a way for the brand to drive awareness and goodwill with football fans without having to plunk down more than $5 million for an ad during the big game. While the brand has not divulged how many people registered for the mobile game, those who did likely came away from the experience feeling disappointed by the car brand's flop.
Converting the contest into a sweepstakes might alleviate some of the letdown, but for some, the overall experience could hurt the carmaker's reputation as a technology-driven brand at a time when car buyers are using desktop and mobile more frequently in the path to purchase and when manufacturers' themselves are making digital tech a bigger part of their sales pitch.
So-called "ambush campaigns" sound like an effective way to combine mobile tech with an enticing offer to encourage TV viewers to look at their smartphones instead of the big screen. However, as the Mercedes-Benz example shows, getting the technology right is crucial. Otherwise, brands could end up turning away some future customers.