It’s no secret that each year, dozens of brands from all over the world descend upon the Super Bowl to air their latest and greatest commercial. While some take the high road during the evening to speak out on social issues, others forge a less flattering path by attacking their competition. Then sometimes, you’ll get a wildcard who chooses to take no road at all. Instead, opting to leverage their presence alongside the big game in cheaper, smarter ways.

Such was the case with Verizon this year.

Rather than dumping $5M+ into a 30 second spot, the brand created an interactive experience with some of the NFL’s biggest stars during Super Bowl week. Dubbed the Verizon Fan Zone at NRG Stadium in Houston, the spectacle allowed fans to engage with the likes of Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. in fun, interactive ways; ranging from traditional meet-and-greets to competitive VR games.

Though their cost for everything was probably comparable to purchasing airtime, what the brand was able to capture during that week lasted much longer than a mere 30 seconds. And when you add all this together with the followings that each influencer has (not to mention those of Verizon and the fans in attendance), then success is pretty much inevitable.

But Verizon didn’t just stop there.

In addition to their Fan Zone experience and influencer grab, they also beefed up their social media presence to help fill in the gaps. Which, came in handy when the brand came under fire from both Sprint and T-Mobile during the game.

To combat these attacks though, Verizon responded with a series of swift and premeditated jabs via clever tweets and shareable videos. The onslaught of content showed that the brand was ready for war, but even more so, that they understand their audience and there’s a reason why they’re number one. Even when they don’t spend $5M to air during the Super Bowl.

While there’s no doubt that Sprint and T-Mobile gained some considerable love for their commercials from social media and beyond, it’s hard to say if this buzz will actually pay off in the long-run. What can be said though, is that the price to test those waters may no longer be worth it. As more and more brands look away from traditional airtime towards fresher ways to tell their stories for cheaper.