Why Were The Super Bowl's Second-Half Ratings So High?

According to Nielsen, some “drop off” in ad memorability is expected between the first and second halves of a Super Bowl game (10% average from 2009-2013). However, this year's Super Bowl XLVIII blowout countered that trend, with ad performance down only 7% during the game’s Seahawks-Destroy-Broncos second half. Nielsen also reported that only 5% of the audience tuned out for the final half-hour of the game.

I don’t believe this was a random event, or caused by Mother Nature. My theory is that tv ad execution, combined with early social promotion, was partly responsible, and this phenomenon will continue in the future.

Specifically, Super Bowl commercials are gaining more equity because they’re getting publicized more aggressively before the game and across various channels, including through viral and paid media strategies on Facebook and Twitter.  That’s giving them a better platform to become more sophisticated, with multilayered storytelling and buildups.



As of 12 p.m. EST on Super Bowl Sunday, over 30 commercials had had at least one million views, while two advertisers tracked over 10 million YouTube views of their spots. Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” had just over 33 million views on YouTube, after launching only a few days prior. Hyundai’s “Nice” had accrued nearly 12 million views by that time. Budweiser's Puppy Love Page post on Facebook was a breakout, having accrued over 1 million Likes within a matter of days, what we believe is a brand first.

Moreover, early buzz is also pushing highly anticipated and engaging commercials into TV appointment-viewing status. If viewers weren’t waiting around for specific ads to air, then viewers’ buzz-induced affinity prompted them to pay more attention and call others’ attention to them as well.

And some of the most engaging and interactive Super Bowl commercials happened to air in the second half. Again, “Puppy Love” is a case in point. Then there is Esurance, which scheduled an ad immediately after the Super Bowl ended, promising $1.5 million to one lucky person who tweeted the hashtag #EsuranceSave30. Esurance quickly received more than 2.1 million tweets with the hashtag, with 200,000 arriving within the first minute. Do content and stunts like this sustain viewership?

Marketer mandate: Obviously, engaging, shareable content matters in TV advertising; great content can perform like lightning in a bottle. Still, when it comes to blockbuster media investments, like the Super Bowl, early online buzz matters as well. And early online buzz at high scale doesn’t usually just happen on its own. It requires smart promotions and integration across channels -- especially, investing in paid media to amplify positive word of mouth. In our work with Super Bowl advertisers, we’ve found that amplifying word of mouth can have an exponential impact on early buzz and help drive a tipping point.

2 comments about "Why Were The Super Bowl's Second-Half Ratings So High?".
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  1. Rick Monihan from None, February 11, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.

    I think there were a number of factors which came into play, but I doubt social media or good advertising was a major factor.
    A review of the last big blowout, Tampa Bay vs. Oakland, shows similar ratings performance, with the highest ratings toward the end. Some people attribute this to a 'mini-comeback' by Oakland, but in the world before Twitter, this seems unlikely.
    More likely is the idea that a new name is appearing on the Lombardi Trophy. While I was not rooting for either team, I like Peyton and would've liked to see him win. By the same token, the concept of a team of up-and-comers, like Seattle, was an engaging storyline. Young, brash, new to the scene of top-tier football. One of the finest defensive performances EVER. Defense is usually boring - but not this brand.
    So while I agree that amplifying word of mouth is beneficial from the standpoint of extending brand reach and identifiability, I'd have to say there was nothing unusual in the ratings performance overall when compared to a Super Bowl which is most comparable to how this one went down.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 11, 2014 at 6:51 p.m.

    Agree with Rick as one of the real reasons. The other kind of falls like give each basketball team 100 points and 5 minutes as someone who watches basketball told me. The first half is when people are coming and going to an event and for most people, it's not their teams.

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