Cleverest, Scrappiest COVID-19 Marketing Pivots

In digital marketing, the best campaigns usually have months of thought, planning, and work behind them. But sometimes, the most powerful and memorable pivots come from a brand seizing an opportune moment and running with it – such has been the case with more recent COVID-19 marketing efforts.

Who remembers Oreo’s infamous “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” tweet?

When the power went out in the Superdome during the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo quickly put out this timely tweet. Despite the fact so many brands had spent months and millions of dollars creating advertising for the big game, Oreo stole the show with their free, spur-of-the-moment marketing pivot.

That brings us to 2020. Every business has had to scrap their plans and transform their marketing tactics and messaging in response to COVID-19. But some are doing it especially well. Here’s our list of the cleverest, scrappiest COVID-19 marketing pivots we’ve seen during the pandemic.

ESPN - Dodgeball

How does a sports network stay relevant when there are no sports? Share memorable sports moments from our favorite movies, of course! Even if they are fictional...

Faced with the tough decision to cancel, postpone, or go virtual, events of all types and sizes have suddenly opted to go the virtual route with their COVID-19 marketing but had no idea how to do it. PullSpark, a video production, event, and live streaming agency, hosted an online conference to show businesses how to host an online conference. In a matter of weeks they put together OnlineCon — a fully virtual conference with pre-recorded and live keynotes, breakout sessions, live chats and networking, an event host, a live concert as the opener, a cocktail-making class as the closer, email marketing leading up to the event, and a recap video to follow.

Bud Light – Boo the Commissioner

One of the long-standing traditions of the NFL Draft is for the audience to boo NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when he takes the podium on the first night. This year the NFL Draft was fully remote for the first time in its history, but Bud Light wanted to keep the tradition alive so they turned it into a hashtag and allowed everyone to still participate virtually. The company also donated $1 to COVID-19 relief efforts for every post using #BooTheCommish, setting a precedent as one of the most clever COVID-19 marketing pivots.

Likewise – Quaran-tini Time

The food service industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, but many found clever COVID-19 marketing tactics to keep alive the cash flow of servers and bartenders. Likewise hosted a happy hour IG Live series called Quaran-tini Time – every night, their bartending staff would teach cocktail-making classes. If you enjoyed the class, they’d encourage you to leave a tip in the “tip jar” through the link in their bio.

P.S. Check out the “Support Local” highlight on our Instagram to see other ways our favorite restaurants pivoted.  

Nike – Play Inside, Play for the World

We’re also incredibly fond of Nike’s powerful, emotive wordsmithing in this inspirational poster.

NBA – NBA 2K Players Tournament

Just like ESPN, the NBA had to make a major COVID-19 marketing pivot when its season was suddenly cut short. Instead of playing real basketball games, players participated in an NBA 2K tournament for charity. If you missed it, you can watch the semi-finals and finals here.

Last, but not least, we couldn’t leave Lucky Devil Lounge off this list, though it may be a little NSFW. The Oregon strip club obviously had to close down completely during the pandemic, so they created a burlesque drive-thru instead. Customers ordered food and alcohol, then enjoyed music and a show from the comfort of their car. Through this unique business concept, the club cleverly rebranded as Food 2 Go-Go and was able to keep its cooks, bartenders, dancers, and DJ employed through the pandemic.  

That’s our list! Have you come across any clever COVID-19 marketing pivots we should add? What are your favorite examples of brands pivoting during COVID-19? Share them and tag us on Twitter or Instagram.

Katherine McGlinchey

Sr. Account Manager
Ready to get started?

The Most Outrageous Quotes from Digital Summit 2019


Analytics Are Vital to Marketers. Here's Why.


Space Advertising: When Your Audience is Light Years Away