The MVPs Of Super Bowl Advertising

Advertisers planning on investing millions of dollars in the biggest advertising event of the year may be missing out on one critical metric. Our recent study has found that campaigns that promote content prior to game day generate, on average, nearly 600% more views than those that don’t. As of last year, 20 advertisers waited until game day to release assets, missing out on millions of potential views.

With this information in mind, as advertisers are planning Super Bowl strategies to stretch budgets as best they can, they need to decide what success means for their Super Bowl programs:

-       Is in-game exposure sufficient? Would 30 seconds of TV/broadcast exposure during the game deliver enough ROI for your campaign, or do you need broader awareness and reach beyond the game? 

-       Is online engagement integral to your plan? If you are counting on online awareness and engagement, will your campaign break through the noise?

-       Is earned media factored in your ROI case? To what extent do you expect the online viewership to come from consumers sharing your ad and related content (fo example, free viewership or earned media)?  Would  5%-10% of earned viewership be a realistic expectation, or do you need 50%-70% in earned media efficiency to achieve breakeven ROI?

While playing in the BIG game is clearly newsworthy, it might be worth exploring what differentiates the average player from the MVPs in Super Bowl advertising.

600% Increase in Views

Every year over a hundred million households watch the big game on TV. Additionally, the online ads and associated content uploaded on Youtube, Facebook and 200 other video-sharing destinations are viewed over 300 million* times in the 6 weeks pre and post-game each year. (Note: These online figures do not include in-stream or pre-roll ads paid for by the advertisers.) Of the 80+ executions each year, the top 5 garner over 15 million views each and the top 2 register over 25 million views each. While the average earned viewership, as measured by the volume of views driven solely through content shared by users, is roughly 30%, the top performing ads can deliver as high as 85% of the overall online reach through earned viewership.

All things being equal, a campaign with a compelling creative will outperform the ones with mediocre executions. What is not as well understood is whether effective online media and syndication strategies can also contribute to breakout performance.

As mentioned earlier, advertisers who socialize ads or teaser content days or weeks before the game deliver on average 600% greater True Reach (a measure of total online viewership from both paid and earned syndication) than those who upload/syndicate the ad or related content after the commercial spot has aired during the game. The average campaign that socialized content online before the Super Bowl drove over 9.1 million views compared to 1.3 million views on average for campaigns launching the day of or after the game, a gap of over 7.8 million views.

What made E-Trade and Doritos break out of the norm in 2009 because of their pioneering efforts on pregame syndication became almost the norm in 2012, with over half the advertisers uploading teasers before the game to build anticipation among their target audiences.

The Cost of Not Joining the Online Super Bowl Party

The cost of not investing millions in the Super Bowl on TV is obvious – not only does an advertiser miss out on brand visibility in front of 300+ million people, their competitors gain it. But what happens online, where the Super Bowl conversation extends for days before and after the game, with audiences choosing to watch and share their favorite spots? What do you risk online by not participating in the game?

Our analysis of the automotive category in the last Super Bowl serves as a good example of the dynamics affecting the Share of Choice (online viewership as measured by the volume of user-initiated views relative to the total category weight of online branded video consumption). All total, there were 13 automotive advertisers who participated in the game, five abstained from the game, and two conducted alternative online video campaigns around the same time in Q1 2012. Game participants gained approximately 80% Share of Choice (SOC) in Q1 relative to their share in Q4 2011. Those who conducted alternative, non-Super Bowl video-syndication programs in Q1 lost roughly 45% of their corresponding SOC in Q4’11. Advertisers who did not conduct any video programs lost over 66% of the SOC compared to Q4’11.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Q1 is unusually noisy with significant online video activity from Super Bowl advertisers. If you don’t plan to participate in the game, you may need an alternative online video strategy to prevent your brand from drowning in the noise from other players in your category. While a precipitous drop in Q1 SOC may not have an immediate adverse effect on your business performance, being out of sight in a growing online medium for months at a time can’t bode well for advertisers in highly contested categories. 

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