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NFL Still Delivering for Advertisers

September data from iSpot.tv reveals much for marketers to be happy about

NFL ratings are down so far this season, but an iSpot.tv report finds that in-game advertisers are still getting broad exposure for their brands. One brand in particular, GEICO, is driving a large number of viewers online to search for and share its NFL TV spots socially.

The iSpot report, prepared for clients of its TV ad data measuring service, says that in the first month of the 2016 NFL season, 366 brands ran 866 different creative commercials across CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and the NFL Network. In total, those commercials aired more than 7,000 times, including more than 1,000 primetime airings.

NBC delivered the highest number of TV ad impressions at 3.9 billion, but Fox kept its viewers most glued to NFL telecasts, with an average ad view rate of 86.7%.

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Overall, during the first month of the season, NFL advertisers spent a total of $567 million on telecasts and generated 12.6 billion worth of TV impressions.

By category, automakers spent the most on NFL advertising, $138 million, and also racked up 1.6 billion linear TV ad impressions. The automakers cumulatively ran 141 different spots during NFL programming 998 times and received an average view rate of 83.7%. Beer brands cumulatively spent $28 million in NFL telecasts and got 627 million ad impressions.

Other categories with sizable amounts of ad impressions over the first four weeks of the season were: movies (489 million); wireless (486 million); insurance (412 million); banks and credit cards (298 million); quick service restaurants (292 million); mobile devices (230 million); sports companies (214 million); and department stores (205 million).

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The level of linear TV viewing of commercials in NFL games is enough to make advertisers happy, even though viewership is down from last season, since NFL telecasts remain the most-watched programming on TV and virtually all of the audience is live.

The iSpot.tv report says that among the 12.6 billion TV ad impressions, 99.1% were live or same-day. By demo, 61% of the viewers were male and 39% female, meaning marketers could target those hard-to-reach men and still reach a significant number of women.

The data also finds that 29% of the first month’s NFL TV audience was made up of 18-to-34-year-old millennials, another desirable target for many marketers. Overall, 66% of the total audience was under 55.

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The biggest spenders by brand were Verizon, which accounted for 5.32% of all the ad dollars spent on NFL telecasts during the first month, followed by Geico with 4.07%. 

Rounding out the Top 10 brand spenders during the first month were: Toyota, Hyundai, DirecTV, Chevrolet, the NFL, Xbox, Southwest Airlines and Lexus.

As for ad impressions generated by brand, Verizon was the leader with 274 million, followed by Bud Light with 224 million and Lexus with 213 million. Toyota placed fourth with 207 million TV ad impressions, followed by Walmart with 186 million.

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The broad measurement of the iSpot data is important because it shows that it is not soley the number of total viewers that matter, but how intently they watch the commercials—and if the commercials motivate viewers to react.

Overall, NFL viewership across the networks is down about 10%, with the Sunday telecasts on Fox and CBS having lost fewer viewers than the primetime telecasts on NBC, ESPN and NFL Network. But advertisers whose commercials resonate with viewers can reap benefits even with linear TV viewing down compared to last season.

That’s the result of gaining Digital Share of Voice (DSOV), which is the percentage of digital activity a brand earns compared to other brands. It is not correlated to how much money a brand spends on advertising but how creative a commercial is to get viewers to watch it or share it online. Studies have found that brands that increase their DSOV are more likely to boost their market share over time.

Over the first month of the NFL season’s telecasts, GEICO produced a much higher DSOV than any other brand. It’s “Lemonade Not Ice T” commercial from the Martin Agency recorded a Digital Share of Voice of 20.5%, highest among all of the NFL advertisers. And GEICO produced that strong DSOV by spending only 1.58% of the total NFL dollar spend on that commercial.

GEICO's “Marco Polo” commercial produced the second-highest DSOV with 4.70% on 0.73% of the total NFL ad spend.

Rounding out the Top Five NFL telecast ads by DSOV were Kia’s “Tecmo Bo,” starring Bo Jackson, created by David & Goliath, with 3.58% of DSOV on 0.60% of total NFL ad spend; “Xbox-Madden NFL 17: People Skills,” featuring NFL players Russell Wilson, Von Miller and Antonio Brown, 2.63% of DSOV on 0.60% of total NFL ad spend; and “Apple iPhone – Midnight,” 2.09% of DSOV on 0.75% of total NFL ad spend.

Looking at Digital Share of Voice by categories, insurance advertisers dominated. Among the NFL advertisers, insurance companies (both auto and general) averaged a 30.6% DSOV. Next were automakers with a DSOV of 17.9%, followed by mobile devices (7.4%), quick service restaurants (4.95%); and the men & women’s heath category (3.8%).

Among the 13 insurance brands that advertised in NFL telecasts during the first month of the season, 44 spots aired 429 times, generated 113,000 searches online, 4,000 social actions and more than 17 million online views.

Among the 28 auto brands, 141 spots aired 988 times, racking up 50,000 searches and 3,400 social actions.

The main takeaway of the first month’s data is that while overall linear TV viewership of the NFL games is cumulatively down, there are still positives to justify marketers’ hefty spending on NFL telecasts.