On February 12, Super Bowl LVII will kick off in Arizona and if past viewership numbers hold up, over 110 million viewers could be tuning in.
Part football game, part media extravaganza, viewers anticipate the ads as much as they do the game – not to mention the famed halftime show, often one of the country’s biggest cultural events. For the first time in 5 years, Rihanna will take the stage and some of her 139 million Instagram followers will surely be tuning in.
Come game time, Americans will be in front of a TV; ready to eat, drink, and watch what should be the biggest TV event of the year. Using our data, we’ll guide you through what brands need to know about the big game, asking questions like:
- How many consumers plan to watch the game and who is most likely to?
- What game day behaviors will be prevalent this year?
- What themes should brands look out for in this year’s ads?
- What could Apple Music’s acquisition of the halftime show mean for the NFL?
- What is the future of streaming and the Super Bowl?
- Should brands pay attention to international markets in the future?
Now, let’s kick off!
1. The Super Bowl belongs on traditional TV – for now…
Over 60% of Americans plan to watch the Super Bowl this year. Among those watching live coverage, almost all say they’ll be watching via TV.
NFL fans in the US typically skew older, so it lines up with what we see regarding viewing preferences. Americans are big on broadcast, and older audiences generally prefer the format. Broadcast TV is still sticky among younger generations but this is slowly changing. Gen Z and millennials are less likely to watch live coverage, this doesn’t mean they aren’t following the Super Bowl, however.
Gen Zs and millennials are 57% and 73% more likely, respectively, to say they plan to use social media to get live updates about the game than the average American.
Brands have an opportunity to be seen at all times on social media, rather than just commercial breaks like on TV.
Nearly half of NFL fans will also be using social media on a second screen while they watch games, and data from last year’s Super Bowl shows spikes during popular ads and late in the game.
2. Streaming services are set to make a splash in live sports
With Amazon and Apple entering the live sports sphere, and Google getting the rights for NFL Sunday Ticket to distribute on their YouTube TV product, streaming services are making a major challenge to traditional TV providers. NFL fans already watch streaming services slightly more than the average American, but their loyalties still lie with live TV, being 21% more likely to watch it daily. With streaming capturing more live sports, however, we could see more NFL fans switch to streaming services down the line.
Network TV has the Super Bowl on lock for the next 10 years, but this doesn’t mean that streaming services won’t creep into the coverage. There’s an international fanbase to take into account too, so streaming is well-placed to accommodate those watching in countries where the event isn’t broadcast live.
Moreover, NFL fans want more options for their live event experience and streaming services are good places to do this. NBC saw success by offering more camera options and coverage with their Olympics coverage and ESPN offers the same for college football. If streaming services continue to cover more live sports, fans will have more options for viewing experiences. The Super Bowl – the crown jewel of American sports – may not be readily available now, but streaming services may still capture bigger audiences in time.
3. Viewers watching from home could be a big win for food & beverage brands
Many fans would love to be in attendance at the actual game, but with tickets starting at around $5,000 watching from home is the more economical option.
Home is by far the most popular place to watch NFL coverage for Americans. Even if they aren’t watching at their own place, chances are they’re at a friend or family’s instead.
For many, it’s a social occasion. Whether they’re hosting or attending a watch party, one thing is certain – fans will need food. Popular game day snacks will be flying off the racks at grocery stores, so it’s an easy opportunity for stores to build reliability and trust with consumers by stocking up on the essentials.
Food and alcohol delivery will no doubt be popular options too.
Nearly 4 in 10 NFL fans say they habitually order food delivery while they watch sports.
On Super Bowl Sunday, that’s bound to be more prevalent. Stats from past Super Bowls indicate that apps/websites like Doordash and UberEats will see a 65%+ increase in traffic, while alcohol delivery service, Drizzly, have also reported sales spikes.
What may be surprising is the low figures for those planning to watch in a public setting – such as a bar or restaurant. Local bars throughout the country will likely run special events for the big game, trying to persuade fans to leave their homes and partake in discounted drinks and food. The cost of living crisis has likely pushed consumers away from expensive bar tabs, and lingering COVID-19 fears could also be at play. That’s no reason for businesses to shy away from hosting watch parties of their own, however, they just need to be mindful of consumers’ concerns right now. It might sound straightforward, but cheaper prices and cleaner venues could help ease these concerns.
4. A Super Bowl TV ad is valuable, but social media can be too
Super Bowl ads have become a phenomenon of their own, and they’re often a harbinger of what is to come in the next year. In 2022, cryptocurrency was the focus of many ads and viewers quickly took an interest.
It lines up with what our data tells us about NFL fans in general. They’re more tech savvy than the average American, so brands shouldn’t worry about trying some new things like augmented reality (AR) or QR codes. The latter can lead viewers to pages with more information and sign-up options.
Based on what our data tells us about fans, ads this year could have a more inclusive and respectful tone to them. Compared to Q4 2021, NFL fans in Q3 2022 want brands to be more inclusive (+7%), respectful (+5%), bold (+5%), and authentic (+5%). NFL fans expect brands to play a bigger role in social responsibility and a Super Bowl ad can set the tone for those efforts.
5. The halftime show is an opportunity for immersive experiences and more media offerings
Much like Super Bowl ads, the halftime show also offers massive potential for brands to experiment with new technologies and social media campaigns – enhancing the viewing experience beyond what happens on the field.
Last year, when Pepsi sponsored the halftime show, they wanted to take advantage of the rising use of second screens. So, they released an app that gave users control over how they viewed the show, with views from the stage or from the field. Carmakers, Nissan and Kia, used Snapchat and TikTok to further their engagement beyond TV commercials.
This year, Apple Music is sponsoring the 12-minute show. With Rhianna performing, the act should attract a wide audience – pop and RnB are both in the top 10 most preferred genres by NFL fans, and her five-year absence from the stage should bring a wave of nostalgia and mystique for die-hard fans and casual viewers alike.
We don’t know at the time of writing this blog if a second screen experience will be offered, but Apple has said they’ll be “unveiling more goodies… as the clock ticks closer to the big game.”
The tech giant has been tight-lipped about what those “goodies” entail, but the stage is set for more immersive experiences. According to our data, that’s exactly what young fans want. Nearly 7 in 10 Gen Z and millennial Super Bowl viewers use social media when they watch TV, and they’ll no doubt be sharing thoughts about the show. TikTok and Meta both hosted immersive pregame and postgame experiences last time out, so it’s likely we’ll see similar experiences again this year.
6. The Super Bowl is no longer an exclusively American event
This year, the NFL held its first game in Germany at Allianz Arena in Munich. When tickets went on sale, the 70,000-capacity stadium was quickly filled out,with thousands on the waitlist.
It was a huge success for the NFL, which has made international expansion a key point starting with hosting regular season games in London starting in 2007 and Mexico City starting in 2016. And with the Super Bowl less than a month away, perhaps we’ll see strong viewership numbers overseas.
Outside of the US, interest in the NFL has gone up 26% since Q3 2018.
Likewise, the number who watch or follow American football is also ticking upwards – a +26% increase since Q3 2018. While the kickoff time of 6:30 pm on the East Coast makes watching the game live in Europe a bit difficult, we can expect highlight and replay views to be prominent shortly after – as fans wake up to see the scores and plays. Brands who advertise in these markets ought to be pushing web and social media ads as a result.
Mexico is one market that should capture the attention of the NFL, TV networks, and brands. It’s the second biggest NFL market worldwide and doesn’t suffer from time differences that the European markets do. For brands that may not have the ad spend for the Super Bowl broadcast in America, Spanish-language channels and international markets could be a worthwhile investment. ESPN airs the game in Mexico along with a few other local channels.
The final drive: what you need to know
As we approach the end of the final whistle, let’s do a quick recap on the NFL and TV’s big day.
- A majority of Americans will be tuning into Super Bowl LVII: Over 60% of Americans said they’ll plan to watch live coverage of the Super Bowl this year. While younger generations may skip out on live coverage, they’ll likely be following on social media.
- Home is where the snacks are: Most fans will be watching from home or going to someone else’s place to watch the game. Grocery stores should stock up on game day essentials, while food and alcohol delivery services should be big winners too.
- Don’t be afraid to link tech with ads: NFL fans are tech savvy and excited to try out new tech. QR and AR have been big players since the pandemic, and they should continue to win this year. While TV ads reach the largest audience, social media ads can also be very valuable.
- Apple’s halftime show sponsorship is a sign of things to come: Apple Music is the new sponsor of the famed halftime show. The tech giant has also added MLB and MLS to their Apple TV+ offerings, and lost bids for NFL games to both Amazon and Google. With streaming giants entering the live sports picture, fans may need to reprioritize what their overall TV package looks like to be able to catch their favorite teams.
- The NFL is an international league: The NFL has seen success with hosting games overseas. Europeans will be tuning into Super Bowl live coverage late at night or watching highlights early the next morning, but Mexico is a prime market for both the NFL and advertisers alike. With no time difference, millions will be watching there and brands who may not be able to afford a Super Bowl ad in the States could still get recognition in the second-largest NFL market.