Super Bowl commercials have always been hyped, but these days brands are looking beyond TV to reach American football fans before, during, and after the biggest sports event of the year. From pre-game contests to post-game hangouts, social media has changed the game for Super Bowl advertisers.

The social Super Bowl

Goodbye Super Bowl on TV, hello Super Bowl online: NBC and Verizon Wireless are teaming up to provide live streaming of the game for the first time. But given that the 2010 Olympics and World Cup were both available on the net, the real question is: why the wait?

Another first is the social media command centre headquartered in downtown Indianapolis, the city hosting the event. For 15 hours each day a team of 20 will assist local fans and tourists with everything from finding parking spaces to restaurants – using channels like Facebook and Twitter to do it.

And then there’s mobile discovery company Shazam. Similar to how QR codes act as portals to digital content, the Shazam mobile app ‘listens’ to sound cues in the physical environment and directs users to content online.

The NY Times reports that nearly half of this year’s Super Bowl ads will be “Shazam enabled,” meaning more consumers will be directed to more content during commercial breaks (think coupons, free videos and gift cards).

Polar bear’s first word

Coca-Cola is doing its best to distract audiences from the game on whatever device they’re using to watch it.

On Sunday people can attend the Coke Polar Bowl event on Facebook or follow the bears’ real-time reactions on Twitter. It’s a bold move for the company – the bears have never had a chance to ‘speak’ before.

More buzz is coming from another precedent-setting move: Coke execs will be on-site at NBC studios to select which version their commercial to air. Will it be the bear with the Giants or Patriots insignia who “catches” the Coke bottle?

Ferris Bueller’s Pay Off

Everyone’s a sucker for nostalgia. That’s what brands Proctor & Gamble and Honda are betting on with their spots. If they pull it off, the recession-weary audience will enjoy revisiting some iconic moments in Super Bowl commercial history.

P&G are doing a re-make of Coke’s classic Super Bowl ad “Mean Joe Greene,” replacing the can of Coke with Downy.

Honda and actor Matthew Broderick team up for a long-awaited sequel of sorts to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

And Jerry Seinfeld dusts off some of his old Seinfeld catchphrases (and characters) in a spot for Nissan.

The Super Bowl is the biggest advertising event in the U.S., which means there is just too much content for one Sparkbeat post to cover. We haven’t mentioned VW’s “The Dog Strikes Back,” why Pepsi Max chose to go gimmicky, or whether GE’s decision to ditch celebrity glitz will pay off, for instance.

But given that most of these commercials already have millions of views on YouTube, and NBC’s post-game Google+ Hangout is already scheduled to discuss and decide which ad was best, it looks like we needn’t worry. Thanks social media – see you at the game.