Super Bowl Still Commands Big Numbers, But Ad Engagement May Be Slipping

Super Bowl marketing and advertising continue to foster a major question for media executives: How much more can you market the marketing?

So much advertising content -- online and otherwise -- appears before, during, and after the big game. Advertisers continue to seek efficiencies for this still strong, but high-priced TV event. It is still a big push for major TV network brands -- automotive, beers, beverage, telecommunications, movies, an streaming TV-video sites of all types.

Much focus comes from earned media on platforms -- that is, brand messaging on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, that is paid from the brand itself.

For example, Microsoft’s Xbox pulled in 20.6 million earned media views, according to, from the period January 1 through February 4. An Amazon tallied 19 million; a Budweiser spot, 18.4 million; a Walmart message, 18.0 million; and a Stella Artois commercial, 13.3 million.

Does all this have an effect on paid advertising activity?



Here’s what we know: According to some measures, the Super Bowl viewing has been flat, or slightly down, in recent years, leaving out streaming for the moment. 

To that end, according to Kantar Media, there were fewer paid advertising minutes in the game this year than in the last five years. At the same time, we see average price continued to climb; with pricing between $4.6 million and $5.5 million, according to SQAD.

Sure, we go to Super Bowl parties and still watch the commercials -- even if some of us have seen them before. It’s like watching a rerun of our favorite entertainment shows.

Is the Super Bowl -- the traditional TV part of it -- losing just a bit of value for marketers?  Hardly. The game still pulls in massive traditional TV viewership, unheard in this day of media fractionalization.

But what about current Super Bowl ad engagement?

Executives have plenty of research to rummage through after Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s one finding from Qualtrics: In surveying 1,000 respondents, only 20% watched the ads.

It also conveniently added this number: “64% of Super Bowl fans are too drunk to remember the commercials.”  Nice. But, in keeping with the spirit of things, how many were drunk -- or hung-over -- while taking the survey?

Next year, look for some Super Bowl creative to include more sobering riffs on research.

7 comments about "Super Bowl Still Commands Big Numbers, But Ad Engagement May Be Slipping".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 5, 2019 at 10:42 a.m.

    Wayne, the release by Qualtrics says that  20% of the viewers watch the game mainly for the ads. That's not the same thing as "only 20% watched the ads".

  2. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, February 5, 2019 at 2:17 p.m.

    Good catch, Ed. And that "64%" were too drunk to remember the ads stat sounds like something from The Onion. 

  3. John Camilleri from Harmelin Media, February 5, 2019 at 2:18 p.m.

    Also, the study indicates that 64%of 2018 viewers WHO DRINK say they drank so much alcohol they DIDN’T REMEMBER THE ADS. It DID NOT say 64% of viewers were drunk. On anothe note, I am curious what percent of viewers drink.

  4. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, February 5, 2019 at 2:28 p.m.

    ... and I'm curious to know how many viewers of that miserable excuse for a Super Bowl became heavy drinkers while watching.  (Yup, I'm a bitter Saints fan) 

  5. Michael Schiferl from IPG, February 5, 2019 at 6:19 p.m.

    Too often ad industy and media buyers missing the bigger picture on the value of earned and attention to the ads outside the buy/being in SB itself. Having helped garner earned attention for dozens of ads for many years of SB games, there is indeed a huge wave of coverage and conversation driven by PR. And, many forget most of these ads will run elsewhere after the SB vs. one time shot/production costs. Also assumes advertisers actually pay the stated rates touted. It is not unsual for advertisers who look at bigger picture to generate many thousands of earned stories across national broadcast, online, radio, print and more - often multiple stories before, during and after the game. The "ad equivalancy" formulas are bunk, but usually show the PR outperfroms the ad buy spend.         

  6. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, February 5, 2019 at 7:43 p.m.

    Dear Wayne,

    First, as a matter of research science I do not believe that surveys measure advertising engagement on an aggregate or individual basis.

    Second, your own colleague, Adam Buckman, published a "Memo To Sponsors: Please Can The Sad Super Bowl Spots."  The ads in Super Bowl LIII were not just sad, but too often ... repellent.

    Finally, we need to look at the intersection of sports, marketing and viewership.  Despite his "ebullience," the head of CBS saw the game for what it was ... a "defensive" battle.  Without competition of Titanic dimensions the casual NFL viewer will drift away and with them the attentive and engaged hard-core NFL Fan.

    The question of whether or not Super Bowl LIII generated record-lows or record-highs in audience is a separate matter.  But if I am correct in my suspicions, measuring 2020 streaming TV audiences with 25-year-old technology will do no stakeholder any good.


  7. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, February 6, 2019 at 11:47 a.m.

    Oh boy. Agree. There is a HUGE difference!!!!

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