It’s almost that time of the year again. Leading brands are getting ready to battle it out in the ultimate advertising arena… the Super Bowl. With last year’s event drawing nearly 112 million viewers, a massive audience is guaranteed and the world’s biggest names are just as enthusiastic as ever to get noticed. But what is the best approach for brands hoping to score big this year, and can grabbing an advertising spot on the big screen really have much of an impact? Our latest research into the NFL’s audience provides some compelling insights that could guide brands in the right direction.

TV Ads Still Trump Digital

Alongside the game, Super Bowl commercials have themselves become a cultural phenomenon, allowing brands to create excitement and conversation to ultimately drive sales. Our research shows that there’s nothing more powerful than a TV ad to raise brand or product awareness among this year’s supporters. In fact, as many as half of Falcons or Patriots fans say they discover new brands or products via TV ads – making this the most impactful discovery channel among those we track. What’s also striking is that across the board we tend to see traditional channels trump digital. Online ads are around 15-points behind their TV counterparts, for instance, while updates to a brand’s social network are minute when compared to the likes of search engines and word-of-mouth recommendations.

“Our research shows that there’s nothing more powerful than a TV ad to raise brand or product awareness.”


Social Plays a Central Role

That’s not to say that digital isn’t a vital consideration. In fact, maximizing the digital footprint of a campaign could set the winners apart from the losers. There’s no denying the reach of social and the cost-effective opportunity it offers to be part of the conversation. Take Oreo for instance: In 2013, when the Super Bowl stadium experienced a blackout during the game, Oreo showed an ad with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark” – a Tweet which winded up among the most buzz-worthy of all the Super Bowl ads.

Indeed, close to half of Falcons and Patriots fans say they use social networks as they watch TV, creating more views to advertise against. What’s more, we see that social platforms are already an established brand-consumer touchpoint: Take a look at the top ways in which supporters interact with brands online and there’s about 25-30% of fans who are visiting social networks, liking/following brands, or sharing branded posts.

“Maximizing the digital footprint of a campaign could set the winners apart from the losers.”

Bud Light Shows More Potential

As the official beer of the NFL, Bud Light’s Super Bowl campaign is well under way. Back in November, the brewing company offered fans the chance to win Super Bowl tickets for life should they find a golden can in their pack of Bud Lights, and the company will also debut a 60-second ad to promote its new slogan “Famous Among Friends”.

GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that Bud Light already sees some decent engagement among Falcons fans, with almost half saying that they drink Bud Light at least monthly. The corresponding figure for the Patriots is much lower at 28%, but look over to consideration and the potential to convert some of these fans into Bud Light drinkers during the campaign is plain to see; Patriots fans who don’t drink Bud Light are 2.5x as likely to say they would consider buying it in the future as Falcons supporters are.

“Engagement among Patriots Fans might be low but look at consideration and the potential to convert some of these fans into Bud Light drinkers is plain to see.”


Network Providers Battle It Out

US wireless carriers are also among the many who will face-off at this year’s event. Verizon has been announced as the presenting sponsor, while both T-Mobile and Sprint have recently confirmed they will be running ads. According to our data, Verizon and T-Mobile already see high usage among fans of the Falcons and Patriots, with both featuring within their top three network providers.

AT&T can currently claim to have the greatest level of engagement, though it’s a tight battle and a successful advertising campaign could seriously shake things up here. The potential for Sprint is apparent too: although just 4% and 7% of Falcons and Patriots fans respectively are using the network, advertising at the Super Bowl will get its name in front of the millions of viewers, and naturally, expand its brand recognition.


The Super Bowl commercials might come with a hefty price tag, but our data affirms that the power of a TV ad should not be overlooked by brands. For those without name recognition, a Super Bowl ad can instantly put them on the map and give them with a one-time lift-off. Many advertisers are already beloved big brands, making it much harder to move the sales needle with one ad – but not doing so runs the risk of losing out to competition in the advertising arena. Crucially, it’s not just the big screen that should be getting the attention…

“It’s up to brands to maximize visibility across both traditional and digital channels and generate engaging content that complements the big screen.”

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Written by

Katie is a Strategic Insights Manager at GWI. Moving to the company 4 years ago, Katie heads up the Strategic Insights team, overseeing the production of bespoke assets for clients. Katie also writes on GWI's blog, with a particular interest in social media and marketing.

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