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With Olympic action beginning today, and the Oscars taking place next month, social media is abuzz with brands leveraging these events to drive engagement.

Earlier this week, the Super Bowl generated 185 million Facebook interactions, and the latest Grammy Awards saw 171,593 tweets per minute during Imagine Dragons/Kendrick Lamar's performance. Major broadcast moments offer significant marketing opportunities. But there's a fine line between bending and breaking the rules in order to own the conversation.

Brands can learn from the winners of these recent events to ensure they land on the right side of the line during the Olympics and the Oscars:

1. Stir the pot, but careful not to spill. The Scarlett Johansson Sodastream ad parodies the idea of what makes an ad go viral: celebrity presence and sex appeal. However, by directly calling out the competition, this ad led to networks banning it to avoid further controversy between their major sponsors and brands looking to creatively insert themselves into the conversation.

Consequently, the banning of the ad caused it to go viral, despite never making it to the big screen. But at what cost? Was this a smart marketing move or simply a cheap shot?

2. Be clever, not catty. A different take on the not-so-subtle: Newcastle Brown Ale made an entire Super Bowl campaign without once mentioning the words 'Super Bowl.'

Tag-lining their campaign as: "the mega huge website we could afford for the mega huge football game ad we couldn't afford," Newcastle teamed up with Anna Kendrick and Keyshawn Johnson to go behind-the-scenes of the ad that never was.

Repeatedly bleeping out the words 'Super Bowl,' this ad made headlines as one of the best Super Bowl ads of the year. Newcastle pushed the boundaries in order to mark themselves as leaders in this crowded advertising field, demonstrating the idea that consumers appreciate wit over snark.

3. Learn from the success of others. By now we're all familiar with the Arby's Grammy Twitter success, where they cleverly asked performer Pharrell for their hat back. This single tweet generated over 83,000 retweets and almost 50,000 favourites, causing other brands – and even Pharrell himself – to join in the conversation. Pepsi and Hyundai USA jumped into the conversation by praising the clever tweet stating "I wish our logo was a hat so we could've tweeted it."

Learning from the famous Oreo Super Bowl tweet (which, more than one year later, is still referenced regularly), Arby's reinforced the point that real-time responses during big-time events are just as important as ever.

JC Penney, on the other hand, attempted an Oreo moment of their own during Super Bowl 48, but fell flat with their #TweetingWithMittens idea. Major brands may have joined this conversation as well – but not in the positive fashion Arby's witnessed. Brands like Snickers suggested they pick up a chocolate bar since "you're not you when you're hungry," and Kia Motors went so far as to offer up a designated driver.

Consumers and brands alike saw through the highly orchestrated idea, as it didn't quite fit with the real-time response content that we've come to expect from brands during these live events.

As we head into the next two major broadcast events, how will your brand make some headlines of its own?

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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