It’s a pretty simple truth: Any live linear television event that draws more than 100 million viewers is going to be a desired location for enough national advertisers to buy up all the commercial time. That, of course, is the case for this year’s Super Bowl at $4 million for each 30-second spot.
That’s why some of the media stories being written this week proclaiming the death of the Super Bowl commercial—because many of the marketers who bought ad time in the game have released their spots to be streamed online before the game—are way off base, media buyers say.
The marketers are simply trying to get more bang for their buck because there are now ways for them to get involved in the pre-Super Bowl social conversation and gain additional exposure for their brands. On some days, it seems stories concerning the content of the Super Bowl commercials are being talked about as much as stories about the teams playing in the big game.
“YouTube created an opportunity for marketers to post their ads online and during Super Bowl time they can now begin building a story about their brands before the telecast,” says Mark Evans, managing director and head of social media practice North America for Mindshare. “It allows them to stretch out their message and get publicity beyond the $4 million they are spending for their 30-second spot.”
Kevin Collins, senior VP, integrated sports investment for Magna Global, agrees, saying, “Marketers no longer just want to run an ad in the game, but want to be part of the conversation leading up to the game. It’s an event everyone is talking about, so marketers want to be part of that. Social media before the game can amplify the exposure of their in-game commercials.”
Evans doesn’t buy counter arguments that say streaming a Super Bowl commercial before the game ruins the creative surprise of the spot. “Despite all the numbers that are thrown around about how many people see these commercials in advance, it’s really only a small portion of the Super Bowl audience that winds up seeing the spots before they air in the game.”
With social media gaining in popularity among consumers, Evans says Super Bowl marketing by brands now follows a bell-shaped curve. “You start out a week or two before the game by getting the spot out there or teasing it online and then you hit the top of the curve when it airs during the game,” he says. “Then it’s important to continue marketing the brand leading out of the Super Bowl.”
The goal, he says, is to “try to ride the wave of publicity for as long as you can.”
Evans says letting viewers see the commercial online before it airs on TV can yield all kinds of information to a company. It can gauge viewers’ interest in a brand and how it is being portrayed in the commercial. It can also give the brand’s social media team on game day knowledge they can use during real-time marketing that will be practiced during the game.
“In real-time marketing, a lot of what is accomplished is based on preparation that’s done in advance,” Evans says.
Mindshare has two clients running commercials in the Super Bowl—Jaguar and Unilever—and Evans says both will have game-day real-time marketing teams working to heighten the impact of the in-game spots.
They Like To Watch
Why do consumers check out these Super Bowl ads online in advance of the game? A survey by social marketing platform Crowdtap finds that 59.1% who view Super Bowl commercials in advance of the game do so because they are interested in the brand. Fondness of a brand’s Super Bowl commercial from the previous year was cited by 31% of viewers, while 40.5% said they take a look at the commercial early because it features a favorite celebrity.
And the Crowdtap survey also seems to support Evans’ thinking that it is not going to diminish most viewers’ desire to watch the commercial if it has already been released for viewing. The survey found 55.8% of viewers will tweet about their favorite commercials during the game and 62.2% will watch them again at some point after the game.
Kantar Media offers a piece of data that affirms viewers watch the Super Bowl commercials regardless of whether they have seen them prior to the game. During the 2013 Super Bowl, the percentage of audience tune-away during the average commercial was 0.7%, compared with a rate of 3% to 4% for regular TV programming. “The holding power of ads is very consistent throughout the [Super Bowl] broadcast,” Kantar says in one of its reports. “It’s proof that people are interested in seeing Super Bowl commercials.”
As of Thursday, 16 Super Bowl advertisers had their full Super Bowl commercial available for streaming online, while another 10 had some type of teaser of their spots online, according to social media tracking site MarketingLand.com.
Collins says another way to amplify a brand during the Super Bowl is to run a hashtag symbol within the commercial to spur social messaging about the brand. “A growing number of advertisers in TV sports events today have hashtags in their commercials,” he says.
A Kantar Media analysis of the past two Super Bowls bears that out. The use of ad hastags in 2013 was 41% (26 commercials out of 63), compared to 10% (6 of 62) in 2012.
Breaking Down Who’ll Be Watching
So who’s going to watch this year’s Super Bowl game? Dave Shiffman, executive VP and research director at MediaVest compiled some data from a 1,000-respondent online panel of people age 13-54. To qualify for the survey, they had to be interested in this year’s game and indicate that they were definitely or very likely going to watch.
Of those planning to watch, 70% said they plan to watch the entire game and 25% said they plan to watch “most” of the game. Teens 13-17 were the group least likely to watch (46%). All the other age groups were fairly close. Among 18-24-year-olds, 73% said they plan to watch the full game; 69% of adults 25-34; 75% of adults 35-44; and 72% of adults 45-54.
How are they keeping up with Super Bowl information? Sixty-seven percent said from general news on TV; 59% are relying on sports news on TV; 43% are getting information from family and friends; and 39% are getting their information from online sports news media.
Despite Fox planning to stream the entire game online, 96% of those surveyed said they plan to watch the game on TV; 70% said they plan to watch from home; 40% will watch with their children and other family members; and 36% will watch with a group of friends.
Among those planning to watch the Super Bowl on TV, more than 50% plan to use a smartphone while watching the game, 34% will use their PC or laptop, while 24% will use a tablet during the game.
Ads Are a Big Add-On
Regarding Super Bowl commercials, 55% said they are “very” excited about seeing this year’s ads and another 38% are “somewhat” excited. Those in the 13-17-year-old range have the highest percentage of “very” excited viewers with 68%. The lowest percentage of “very” excited viewers falls in the 45-54 range with 41%. And more females (58%) are very excited to see the commercials than males (50%).
Among those surveyed, 21% said they have watched either a full pre-released Super Bowl commercial or a teaser; 19% have talked with others about the brands or companies who will be advertising during the game; and 16% have searched for information about a brand or company planning to advertise during the game.
Humorous commercials are still a big draw, with 79% of those polled looking forward to seeing funny ads. Super Bowl commercials with animals or babies appeal more to women (48%) than to men (34%), while 32% of all viewers like inspirational ads with a motivational message, and 30% are excited about seeing Super Bowl spots with celebrities.
How about the Pepsi-sponsored halftime show performers? A study by Networked Insights finds only 18% feel positive about Bruno Mars, compared to 8% negative and 74% neutral. The other halftime show performer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has 16% feeling positive, 5% negative and 79% neutral.
Trying To Break A Record
Will this year’s viewership set a Super Bowl ratings record? The current title was set two years ago when 111.3 million viewers tuned in, including an 18-49 demo rating of 40.5, to watch the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots.
Last year, more than likely due to the half-hour power outage/blackout at the stadium during the game, there was some tune-out and the Baltimore Ravens-San Francisco 49ers contest wound up averaging 108.7 million and a 39.7 18-49 demo rating.
The last time Fox televised the Super Bowl in 2011, when the Green Bay Packers played the Pittsburgh Steelers, the telecast drew 111 million viewers and a 39.9 demo rating.
Viewing for the NFL regular season on all of the league’s partner TV networks was up 5% overall in 2013, according to Nielsen data compiled by Horizon Media. Postseason viewership was up 10% from last year, but that included more than 107 million viewers who watched the two NFL championship games two weeks ago.
However, Magna’s Collins doesn’t believe viewership of previous games impacts viewership of the Super Bowl. “If the game stays close, there is a chance for record viewership,” he says. “If the game turns into a blowout, then viewers will start to tune out.”
History is on the side of another close game. According to Horizon Media data, five of the past six Super Bowls have been decided by a touchdown or less. And with identical records of 15-3, both of this year’s Super Bowl teams, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are the top seeds from their respective conferences. This will only be the 10th time since 1975 in which the two best teams face each other in the Super Bowl, and only the second time since 1993.
One last Super Bowl nugget of information: Viewers of the big game tend to be more affluent, have larger families and subscribe to premium pay TV services. Last year’s household ratings for the Super Bowl, according to Horizon Media compiled Nielsen data, was 59.7 in homes with a household income of $100,000 or more. And the rating for homes with four or more family members was 55.2. Among homes that subscribe to a premium pay TV service, the rating was 52.6. The total U.S. rating for the game telecast was 46.7.