In one of the biggest comebacks in Super Bowl history, the New England Patriots became the Super Bowl champions once again this year. As usual, leading brands waged a fierce battle too, from Airbnb’s “We Accept” commercial to Bud Light’s “Ghost Spuds”, advertisers were as enthusiastic as ever about getting themselves noticed by the millions of viewers who were glued to their TV sets.
In today’s digital landscape, it’s easy to forget the enduring power of traditional channels and prime-time ads. But there is an obvious reason why Super Bowl slots still generate such a frenzy: our research shows that there is nothing more powerful than a TV ad to raise awareness among this year’s supporters, with over half of Falcons and Patriots fans saying they discover new brands or products in this way (making TV ads the most impactful discovery channel among those we track). No less striking is that across the board, we tend to see traditional channels trumping newer ones. Online ads are around 15 points behind their TV counterparts, for instance, while updates to a brand’s social network page pale in comparison to things like search engines and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Even so, while there might be nothing better than watching the game on a big screen with friends, it’s now 11% of Internet users across the 36 markets we track who say they tune into the NFL via online means. What’s more, as many as three-quarters of NFL Fans say they regularly watch sports online. That’s an obvious opportunity for the league and brands alike, and one that will only become more lucrative over time.
And then there’s social -- the place where brands compete to dominate the conversation. Take Avocados From Mexico, for example: in addition to its TV commercial, the brand initiated a social campaign this year using the hashtag #AvoSecrets to capitalize on the power of influencer marketing to expand brand awareness. Important here is that nearly half of Falcons and Patriots fans say that they use social networks as they watch TV, creating more views to advertise against. And if we then take a look at the top ways in which supporters interact with brands online, it’s about 25-30% of fans who say they are visiting brands’ social network pages, liking/following brands, or sharing branded posts.
What’s more, with the NFL exploring new online distribution channels, social is set to become an even more important channel for brands to consider. ESPN and ACC may be paying billions of dollars to broadcast these games on the big TV screens, but last year we saw Twitter win rights to air 10 Thursday night games for the sum of $10 million. It’s not difficult to see why Twitter landed such an extraordinary deal -- such a move could create serious inroads into new and promising markets and expand its reach.
Significantly, with fans already accustomed to heading to social platforms to check out the discussion surrounding the game, it’s not difficult to imagine a time when they head there to watch the Super Bowl coverage itself too. Indeed, our data continually points to the rising importance of video on social: focus on the Patriots/Falcons fans who use Twitter, for example, and it’s about 45% who report watching videos on the platform.
Now, this isn’t to say that TV ads will ever lose their lustre. For those without name recognition, a Super Bowl ad can instantly put them on the map and give them a one-time lift-off. Similarly, any big or beloved brand which moved away from TV ads would run the risk of losing out to their competition. But with social second-screening the norm now, online TV engagement rising and the NFL expanding its online presence, the digital sphere must be a primary consideration for anyone hoping to capture the attention of football fans.