As expected, Super Bowl 2021 was like no other seen in recent history, and not necessarily in a good way for advertisers. Not only were seats at the stadium only filled to about one-third of capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions, but fewer people tuned in from the comfort of their own homes to watch Tom Brady lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a decisive win over the Kansas City Chiefs, adding a 7th ring to his collection. Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers, mostly from research examining the digital impact of the commercials (as always, it’ll take some time to see what type of broader impact the commercials will have for advertising brands).
The following list highlights top advertising brands across various metrics – with sources and links provided. Following that list is another with more audience-focused data. As in previous years, it’s worth noting that there’s no clear-cut winner by way of the following metrics – some seemed to do better in some areas than others…
- Most viewed ad online: Amazon’s “Alexa’s Body” with more than 121.1 million views across top video platforms and websites as of the Monday following the game. It is followed by Jeep’s “The Middle” (46.8 million) and “Expedition” from Paramount+ (31.6 million). Source: AcuityAds.
- Top ad on YouTube: Amazon’s “Alexa’s Body” clocked more than 77 million views on YouTube’s AdBlitz channel, as of the Wednesday following the game. Source: YouTube.
- Most effective ad: Toyota’s “Upstream.” Featuring Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long, this ad tugged at the heartstrings and invoked intense emotional responses from viewers. It was found to be 163% more inspiring and 164% sadder than the average US ad. Source: Unruly.
- Top ad by digital share of voice: Mountain Dew’s “Major Melon Bottle Count.” This spot had a 21.8% share of voice on game day, with more than 69 million TV ad impressions, more than 1.5 million earned online views and upwards of 51.6 billion social impressions. It was followed by Amazon’s “Alexa’s Body” (14% share of voice) and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” from Disney+ (12%). Source: iSpot.tv.
- USA Today Ad Meter Winner: “Certain Is Better – Tracy Morgan, Dave Bautista and Liza Koshy’’ from Rocket Mortgage. This spot took the top ranking with an average rating of 7.38 out of 10. The concept seemed to work very well, as the online mortgage broker also took the #2 spot with “Certain is Better – Tracy Morgan and Joey Bosa’’ (7.3). Amazon’s “Alexa’s Body” (6.75) followed at #3. Source: USA Today.
- Brand with the most social mentions during the game: State Farm. The brand generated the most online mentions, with 49K social mentions during the Super Bowl along with 300K engagements. Source: Talkwalker.
- Twitter Brand-Bowl MVP: Pepsi. Repeating its performance from the 2020 Super Bowl, this brand once again drove the largest overall conversations, particularly around its half-time show. Fans were offered the chance to win prizes at half-time as well as gain access to exclusive content. T-Mobile had the most retweets for a single tweet, while Disney+ had the most engagements on a single video tweet. Source: Twitter.
- Most emotionally engaging ad, based on facial tracking: T-Mobile’s “Family Drama.” Using AI technology to track and interpret facial expressions and body language, RealEyes played each Super Bowl ad to a sample audience of 150 people. Analysis was based on proprietary metrics measuring attraction, engagement, impact and other factors. T-Mobile’s ad featuring actor Anthony Anderson and his mama in a “friendly” game of football, complete with the requisite trash-talk and the substitution of a star player, got the top score for effectiveness. Source: RealEyes.
- Top Newcomer Ad by social listening and AI: Paramount+. The ad for the streaming service that will soon be throwing its hat in the ring with the influx of new streaming services from 2020 had more spontaneous recall than any of the other new entrants. Source: Ipsos.
- Top ad by search engagement: Dexcom. The ad promoting “a smartphone alternative to diabetes finger pricks” drove 11 times more searches compared to the median Super Bowl LV ad. Source: EDO.
- This year 68% of homes with TVs in use on Super Bowl Sunday were tuned into the Super Bowl telecast. Preliminary estimates from Nielsen found that the game drew an average of 92 million viewers, down from last year’s event (99.9 million). Source: Nielsen
- CBS Sports streamed the Super Bowl to an average-minute audience of 5.7 million across streaming devices. Citing data from CBS, this is a 65% gain in streaming audience compared to 2020, which had a reported live stream audience of 3.4 million. Source: Light Reading.
- Roku was the big winner when it came to streaming devices, with 41% of Super Bowl streaming attempts coming from this device. Other notable devices were Amazon Fire TV (24% share) and Apple TV (12% share). Source: Conviva
- In monitoring 2.3 million Smart-TV households MiQ found that 56% actively used their mobile phones during the game, while another 41% also used a desktop. Source: MiQ.
- Some 87% of advertiser-related conversations took place on Twitter, according to data provided by Spiketrap, which monitored more than 400 conversation channels and sources. All in all, Super Bowl advertisers elicited a positive reaction from the audience, with a positive sentiment score of 75 (out of 100). Source: Spiketrap.
During a time when the amount of minutes Americans spend watching sports on television has declined, the Super Bowl 55 matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs is expected to be viewed by 186.6 million US adults this coming Sunday, per a survey of more than 7,800 adults conducted by NRF. That’s about 7 million fewer viewers than last year’s projected viewership of 193.8 million.
The amount of planned retail spending surrounding the event is also expected to decrease from $17.2 billion in 2020 to $13.9 billion this year.
The average spending per person is expected to be $74.55, after hitting $88.65 last year and $81 in the two years prior. As in the past, the most popular spending area, for 77% of viewers, will be food and beverage, with team apparel and accessories being a very distant second at 11%.
Super Bowl Ad Stats
Super Bowl ad prices are expected to rise 7.7% for Super Bowl 55, with the average expected price for a 30-second spot reaching $5.6 million, per the latest research from Kantar. This is up from the record-breaking $5.2 million per 30-second ad seen last year for Super Bowl 54.
Looking back to last year’s Super Bowl, total ad time was about 46 minutes. That’s 5 minutes more advertising time than in 2019, but 1 minute less than Super Bowl 51 in 2017.
In-game ad revenue brought in from Super Bowl 54 totaled $448.7 million, which Kantar attributes to the increase in the average price of a 30-second slot over 2018 ($4.5 million).
Here are some other stats from Kantar’s latest annual analysis:
- In the past 5 years, there have been an average of 87 30-second ad slots available for the Super Bowl. However, when accounting for all ad formats, an average of 70 commercials aired during the game.
- Anheuser-Busch InBev remained at the top of the Super Bowl spenders list in 2020, investing a cool $42 million in advertising. In the #2 and #3 positions, Procter & Gamble Co. and Pepsico Inc. spent $31 million each.
- Automotive continued to be the top advertising category for 2020. This category, along with the other top advertising category, Alcoholic Beverages, accounted for 28% of total ad spending generated from the Super Bowl.
Who’s Watching the Game
While the Super Bowl brings in more than 100 million viewers each year, advertisers should probably not count too much on catching the attention of Gen Z adults. A survey of 2,200 US adults by Morning Consult shows that interest among the youngest group of adults, Gen Z (age 18-23), is considerably less than other age groups.
Only 35% of the Gen Z adults surveyed said they watched Super Bowl 54, compared to 54% of Millennials, 51% of Gen X and 52% of Baby Boomers. And, while 7 in 10 (71% of) respondents overall say they are likely to watch the game this year, only about half (51%) of Gen Z say they are likely to watch — a share that is lower than that of Millennials (71%), Gen X (61%) and Baby Boomers (56%) who said the same.
How Will COVID-19 Affect Ads?
This year’s Super Bowl will be a lot different than we have seen in past years. Just as with the regular season, actual attendance at the game will be limited — only 22,000 seats (about 30% of regular capacity) are allotted to be filled, 7,500 of those being offered to healthcare workers free of charge.
To top off an already unusual Super Bowl, Budweiser has reportedly joined other big advertisers such as Coke, Hyundai and Pepsi in not advertising during the game this year. This will be the first time in 37 years the brand will not present viewers with one of their memorable ads. Instead, Anheuser-Busch is donating the money it would usually spend towards COVID-19 vaccination awareness efforts. (Also, Anheuser-Busch will will advertise other brands including Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.)
How the pandemic will affect the ads presented during the Super Bowl is yet to be seen, but Unruly predicts that some advertisers are likely to use humor in an effort to alleviate the pressure of a very stressful year. Indeed, Unruly has found that people are 150% more likely to laugh at Super Bowl ads than the average ad in the US.
With the social justice movement still on the minds of Americans, Unruly also suspects that some brands will “act provocatively and take strong stances on recent world and domestic events.” And, although Unruly acknowledges that such ads can be effective, it advises caution.