NEW YORK — The football season just started, but Doritos is already thinking about the Super Bowl.
The snack chip brand is going to have its sixth annual "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, which allows viewers to submit their own Doritos commercials and fans to vote on their favorites to appear during the big game.
If the ads score well on the USA Today Ad Meter, which measures the popularity of Super Bowl commercials, contestants win cash prizes of up to $1 million.
This year, Doritos has added a twist: It has enlisted Andy Samberg, a comedian on the popular "Saturday Night Live" program, and The Lonely Island, a creative team that consists of Samberg and two childhood friends, to create an ad to compete in the contest.
If their ad wins, they'll donate the prize money to charity. If they don't, they'll work with the winners on a future yet-to-be-determined Doritos project.
"I see this year as really us raising the stakes a little bit," said Tony Matta, vice president of marketing. Instead of just cash and recognition, he says winners will get "a career-changing opportunity."
The Super Bowl is advertising's largest showcase; the football championship garnered a record 111 million viewers when it aired on Fox in February, according to Nielsen.
In order to get more bang for their buck — a Super Bowl ad costs about $3 million per 30 seconds — marketers are increasingly seeking ways to promote their advertising online and get publicity before and after the big game.
"The challenge for marketers today is to really engage consumers using both traditional and new forms of media," said Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
"Crash the Super Bowl" has been Doritos' way to create buzz. The brand, which is made by PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay division, saw video submissions for the contest increase 38 percent to 5,600 for the most recent game played earlier this year. The contest finalists' videos were viewed 22 million times. Doritos also saw a 30 percent increase in Twitter activity and a 25 percent increase in Facebook activity during the contest.
This year, they're amping it up by teaming with the partnership The Lonely Island. The team, which also includes Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, wrote, directed and appeared in a series of popular digital shorts for "Saturday Night Live" with Justin Timberlake. The team also wrote and shot a music video for a song called "I'm on a Boat," which was nominated for a Grammy.
Samberg said The Lonely Island agreed to work on the campaign in part because the Super Bowl is "such a large stage," and he added "we just thought it was cool that young filmmakers get an opportunity to get that break."
So far, winners of the contest have garnered some commercial work but there has been no breakout success story yet. The winners from the telecast earlier this year, Tess Ortbals and J.R. Burningham, started their own company, Mythmakers Entertainment, to pursue commercial work after creating an ad that took the stop spot on the Ad Meter.
That ad, "Pug Attack" shows a man mocking a dog with a bag of Doritos through a glass door. The pug then knocks down the door and eats the chips.
The first $1 million winners, Joe and Dave Herbert, brothers who won the contest in 2009, have gone on to direct several beverage spots and have shot several Web commercials. They're also developing a feature film.
Matta said the goal is to one day launch a winner who can capitalize on the break and become a big-name director. "I would love in two or three years from now for the winner of this year's program be directing or producing major motion picture film, that is true success," he said.
Participants can enter the contest this year by submitting a 30-second Doritos ad at www.crashthesuperbowl.com between Oct. 3 and Nov. 21. Five finalists will be announced in January 2012, ahead of NBC's Feb. 5, 2012 Super Bowl XLVI broadcast.
On the Web: www.crashthesuperbowl.com