Super Bowl cyber security: Safeguarding viral moments

The Super Bowl–where football legends rise, and brands test their grit. A showcase of the fiercest competition and advertising muscle. We tune in for the NFL’s top talent and brands’ blockbuster ads, but what goes on behind the scenes? As advertisers, IT teams and CIOs prepare for their own big plays, similarities can be drawn to coaches and players strategizing for their on-field performance.

Last year, Cloudflare kept a keen eye on the game, watching as brands like Bud Light, Pringles, and Coinbase saw their website traffic skyrocket. Coinbase’s viral QR code couldn’t handle the crush of traffic and crashed the landing page, proving that successful ads can reveal tech shortcomings. The right infrastructure and security tools are crucial in avoiding website failure during massive traffic spikes.

The lead-up to a traffic surge, whether from a Super Bowl ad or new product launch, presents valuable lessons for security pros, IT leaders and their teams, CIOs and other technical leads. Incorporate best practices into your pre-game huddle, and you won’t be disappointed on game day. In the words of Vince Lombardi, “Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: The result.”

Want a great result for your brand? Here are four tips to stay ahead of any marketing related traffic surge.

First down: Get ready to be a target

The brighter your brand shines, the bigger the bullseye for cyber security threats. During high-stakes moments like the Super Bowl, security is non-negotiable. This is especially true for new brands that haven’t popped up on an attacker’s radar. Get ahead of the game by identifying potential attack vectors and implementing the appropriate security safeguards.

Huddle with your team and ask these questions:

  • Are we ready for a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assault?

  • Have we prepared for ransom DDoS tactics?

  • Is our web application firewall (WAF) in top form?

  • Are we equipped to defend against bots?

  • Are we guarding our mobile app’s API?

Investing appropriately in security could mean the difference between the thrill of advertising victory and the agony of a data breach making the front page.

Second down: Make it easy for fans and viewers

When engaging viewers during the Super Bowl, making the experience as easy and seamless as possible is essential. Cater to their couch-viewing habits with mobile-optimized content and a memorable URL. Recently, even the QR code made its way into a Super Bowl ad. It’s important to consider how your ad will tie in with other digital content and spread virally on social media, so make sure it’s easy to share.

Remember how Oreo’s tweet won the Internet during the blackout a decade ago? Oreo’s quick thinking during the Super Bowl blackout exemplifies the power of real-time customer engagement. To make the most of this high-stakes moment, be sure your social media and customer service teams are fully staffed and prepared to respond to any inquiries or concerns from viewers and fans.

Third down: Prepare for an unprecedented spike in traffic

Be ready and prepare for the rush. Even big companies need help to handle the sudden influx of visitors, so smaller brands may feel especially overwhelmed by the challenge.

It’s important to focus on simplifying to scale. Start by ensuring your landing page is ready for the spotlight. A few ways to do this are: minimizing page weight and opting for a fast and reliable static site delivered via CDN, picking a streaming service that can handle the rush and limiting your use of third-party content as it may become a bottleneck and slow down page performance. And remember, managing an influx of fans may require a waiting room to space transactions out.

Not all spikes are created equal. A surge of legitimate traffic can mimic a DDoS attack, so it’s crucial to have behavioral analytics to distinguish good traffic from bad. Some brands with a proven track record of protecting their systems will already have a foundation for behavior-based analysis, but most will need to work with a technology provider who can help them differentiate between your fans and foes.

Fourth down: Plan for every scenario

Don’t overlook the unexpected and be ready for anything. Preparation for traffic spikes and cyber security threats is crucial, but it’s also vital to account for any unforeseen challenges during a big event.

To secure your online identity, plan your domain registration carefully and set it up correctly. Consider using a unique domain name for your advertising efforts, shielding your employees and clients from phishing scams. In addition, make sure to keep an eye out for domain name squatting with slight variations using international characters.

Coach Joe Gibbs once said, “A winning effort begins with preparation.” Prepare like a champion with a solid backup plan and response team that is prepared to handle any challenges, then deliver your advertising campaign to a winning level.


From legendary moments on the field to hall-of-fame-worthy advertising campaigns, the Super Bowl is where legends are born, and brands prove their mettle. From defending against cyber security threats to handling increased traffic and analyzing post-game data, the IT team, security pros and the CIO are the MVPs for ensuring a successful advertising campaign. The key to success is crafting a solid plan and assembling a dedicated team. Like the players on the field, companies must bring their best game to tackle challenges and deliver a winning performance.

This article is part of a series on the latest trends and topics impacting today’s technology decision-makers.

This article was originally produced for Security Boulevard

Key takeaways

After reading this article you will be able to understand:

  • 4 strategies to stay ahead of a traffic surge

Receive a monthly recap of the most popular Internet insights!