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Super Bowl XLIII will be the fourth Super Bowl in Tampa, and the first one since 2001, when the Baltimore Ravens (woohoo!) defeated the New York Giants, 34-7.

In an effort to market its Tostitos tortilla chip brand along with the upcoming Super Bowl festivities, Frito-Lay has launched a massive marketing campaign entitled, “Race to the Bowl”.

The “Fiesta Bowl” component will be hosted by Facebook, where rival groups…including fans for the Ohio State University Buckeyes and for the University of Texas Longhorns…will compete for superiority between December 31 and January 5.

The company initialized their efforts on Facebook back at the end of November, when it started soliciting schools that could become finalists in the Fiesta Bowl. Standard ads and engagement ads were focused specifically on universities of interest. Once Ohio State and University of Texas were narrowed down, ads visible to other schools were eliminated.

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As of New Year’s Eve, the Longhorns had 239 members and the Buckeyes had 127 members.

Now for the unusual part, the “offline” campaign.  It appears that 2 teams (each comprised of 6 fans) will compete in various games across the country, including venues like Ohio State, University of Texas and New York City. One event, for example, requires each team to visit their respective campus and paint the faces of fellow students in the college’s theme colors. This and other challenges will be conducted until Super Bowl XLIII.

A company representative said the campaign’s purpose is to form a relationship football-loving co-eds. By enabling followers of the Facebook groups to track their progress on the popular social networking website, Frito-Lay hopes to maintain a tangible connection all the way up to the Super Bowl.

Notably, the online component for “Race to the Bowl” appears exclusively on Facebook. Unlike Super Bowl sponsors in previous years, which built destinations on proprietary URLs that coincided with their advertisements, Frito-Lay did not build a dedicated domain name or site (such as  “RacefortheBowl.com”). This tactic saves money and time that would otherwise be spent trying to draw traffic to a young, poorly indexed URL…traffic that Facebook already has.

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