Get Connected, Get Social: The Super Bowl XLVI Countdown is On

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On Sunday, February 5th, over 100 million viewers will tune in to what may the biggest televised sporting event of the year: Super Bowl XLVI.

In what promises to be a tense rematch, the New England Patriots will attempt to exact revenge on the New York Giants for their 2008 Super Bowl loss. It will be a battle between New England's quarterback Tom Brady and his New York counterpart Eli Manning. While the teams may be evenly matched on the field, who wins the social media game?

This year’s Super Bowl promises to be the most wired yet with unprecedented access to players and other fans via web and mobile platforms. From a Google + hangout with Giants players this evening to a slew of new apps, online communities and a foursquare page (with lots of tips), there are all sorts of fun ways to connect before, during, and after the game.  The social campaigns from brands, the NFL and the teams themselves are all proving that social TV truly has arrived. 

Twenty lucky fans randomly selected will participate in tonight's, Google+ Hangouts with players including star wide receiver Victor Cruz, cornerback Corey Webster, linebacker Mark Herzlich and fullback Henry Hynoski.. The hour-long sessions are part of the Giants’ Social Media Night campaign, in which the team will facilitate a series of conversations between fans and players.

In addition to the Google+ sessions, the team is putting on a live webcast from the team hotel featuring players Jake Ballard, Steve Weatherford, Tyler Sash and Prince Amukamara. Fans can submit questions for the players via Twitter, Facebook or Google+ by using the hashtag #NYGsocial. During the webcast, former Giants and current broadcasters will also answer fan questions using the same hashtag.

To ask questions directly to players involved in the webcast, viewers can use the hashtags: #askBallard, #askSteve, #askSash and #askPrince.

So which Super Bowl XLVI team is winning the online competition? According to Nielsen  the New England Patriots had more visitors on their team’s website, but the New York Giants have more buzz on social media.

If you've ever questioned whether the player himself is delivering a message on Twitter or Facebook, or delegating the task to a manager or publicist, you can now communicate directly with players via a new mobile app called Gridiron Grunts. The platform allows pro-football players to deliver unfiltered audio messages, known as “grunts,” to their fans as well as allow fans to send personal audio messages, in turn, directly to the players. Let's hope the convos contain more than one syllable. 

Players from both teams are also getting pumped for the game with their own big-game Spotify playlists. Patriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley posted a 12-song Spotify playlist earlier this week to Facebook with the title “Super Bowl Pre-Game Mix!!” Today, Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz posted a four-song Spotify playlist, titled simply “Pre-Game,” to his Facebook Timeline. 

Both player mixes are exclusively hip-hop and heavy on the swag — not surprising, given that Cruz and Ridley are about to play in the biggest game of their lives. They have two songs in common — “Who Gon Stop Me” by Jay-Z and Kanye West, and “Underground Kings” by Drake. Both playlists feature tracks by Rick Ross, Wale and Lil Wayne.

According to a recent survey by research firm Harris Interactive, nearly half of Super Bowl XLVI viewers will check their mobile device as many as 10 times during the game, and almost a third of viewers under age 45 will watch the game “with device in hand.”

More than 80% of viewers say they’ll use their mobile device during the game at least as much as they did during last year’s Super Bowl. They’ll likely be pecking away for stats, Facebook, or Twitter updates following hashtags for their favorite team or players.

Per the study, "Woman are apparently much more interested than men in the always-hyped Super Bowl halftime show. They are half as likely — 13% compared to 26% — to check out their smartphones and tablets during the break."

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