Super Bowl 2013 Ads: Facts and Figures

February 8, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Creative & Formats | Media & Entertainment | Men | Mobile Phone | Search Engine Optimization | Social Media | Sports | Television | Women | Youth & Gen X

Nielsen-Most-Memorable-Ads-Super-Bowl-Feb2013[Editor’s note: This article was updated in early 2013 with new research pertaining to ad performance and second-screening.] Analysis of the Super Bowl ads continues to pour in. With an average of 108.7 million viewers for the game, per Nielsen’s tally, brands certainly had an opportunity to reach a huge audience. So which brands fared best? Which ads were tweeted about most? Did advertisers experience any post-game lift? This article rounds up and distills the research surrounding the performance of the Super Bowl commercials.

First off, a look at the 10 most memorable commercials of the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen’s analysis. Using this measure, Doritos’ 30-second “Goat 4 Sale” wins out, with a general recall index of 138, meaning that it was 1.38 times more memorable as the average Super Bowl ad this year. Close on its heels, Taco Bell’s 60-second “Goodnight Mr. Goldblatt,” with a recall index score of 137.

Notably, Budweiser’s “Clydesdale & Trainer,” which was seen as a top commercial in several other analyses (see below), did not make it into the list of top 10 most memorable commercials. That commercial did make it onto Nielsen’s top 10 most liked commercials, in 4th place with a likability index score of 171. Doritos topped that list also (index of 221), followed by M&M’s “I would do anything for love” (200) and Taco Bell’s aforementioned spot (182).

The general recall index was calculated by taking the general recall score of all Super Bowl ads (% of viewers who remember seeing the ad) and indexing versus the mean general recall score. The likability score was calculated the same way, but instead using the percentage of viewers who liked an ad as the basis.


An analysis of the most effective ads (as opposed to most likable or memorable), as reported by Ace Metrix, comes to different conclusions. To arrive at its rankings, Ace Metrix surveyed 500 consumers who watched and scored each ad across a variety of standardized metrics. According to this analysis, Budweiser scored the most effective commercial of the game, with its “Brotherhood” ad fetching an Ace Score of 665, slightly below last year’s high score of 671 (by Doritos and M&Ms). Following Budweiser, American Dairy Association also performed well with its “Morning Run” ad (644), which slightly beat out Coca-Cola’s “Security Camera” (641). Rounding out the top 5 most effective ads were Doritos’ “Goat 4 Sale” and Mercedes-Benz’s “Soul,” both with a score of 626. (All ads can be viewed on the Ace Metrix website at the link above.)

On the other end of the spectrum, the least effective ads of the Super Bowl belonged to Calvin Klein’s “Concept” (362), with occupying the other bottom 2 spots (“Perfect Match” – 413, and “YourBigIdea.CO – 452).

The Ace Metrix scores reflect the persuasive nature of the commercial (through desire, relevance, information, attention, change, and likability) and its watchability. Combined, the overall effectiveness score is designed to understand how a commercial performed from the twin angles of voluntary consumer consumption and the business goal of the advertiser.

So how did auto manufacturers fare? Data from Jumpstart Automotive Group shows that some Super Bowl automotive advertisers did well with online car shoppers. Looking at traffic across its network of automotive websites, and measuring the advertisers’ share of online car shopper traffic, Jumpstart found that the Lincoln MKZ gained the most ground, increasing 20% in share on Super Bowl Sunday when compared to the prior Sunday, and up 90% on Super Bowl Monday when compared to a week earlier. Of note, 3 of the top 5 advertisers in terms of traffic gain ran more than one ad, although Kia saw a 0.5% decrease in share while running multiple spots.

What about awareness and consumer intent? Despite producing some entertaining commercials, only a minority of advertisers (not just auto advertisers) experienced a significant lift in consumer perception, per YouGov’s BrandIndex, and as reported by AdWeek.

Still, according to survey results from RadiumOne (reported by Adotas), 45% of respondents indicated they would research a brand based on the Super Bowl ads. Notably, those respondents recalled best the commercials for Volkswagen, Kia, and Hyundai.

The RadiumOne results also suggest that one-third of Super Bowl viewers posted on social networks about the spots.

The following is a list of research about the social side of the Super Bowl.

  • Based on an analysis of more than 24 million real-time social media conversations across Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums for the duration of the Super Bowl, Networked Insights determines that while’s “Perfect Match” had the most volume of conversations (255,121), it’s net sentiment was the worst (-11%). Net sentiment, which measures positive or negative change in attitude, was highest for Tide’s “Miracle Stain,” at 59%.
  • Also per Networked Insights, the most-tweeted hashtag from a Super Bowl commercial was Budweiser’s #Clydesdales.
  • Budweiser didn’t have much competition in the social integration game. ExactTarget finds that of the 83 non-CBS/NFL commercials that ran during the game (limited to the author’s market – Cleveland), just 53% included URLs, 33% included a hashtag, and only 14% included a Facebook CTA.
  • also released a study of social mentions in Super Bowl ads, finding that of the 52 national TV spots, Twitter was mentioned in exactly half, while Facebook was included in only 4, and Google+ was not featured at all.
  • Analyst Jeremiah Owyang also took a look at Super Bowl ad tech integration, finding that 75% of the ads integrated social, mobile, hashtags, or applications, up 7% points from last year. This year, 46% mentioned a corporate URL or microsite (down 8% points), 38% included a hashtag (up 31% points), and only 7% mentioned Facebook (down 4% points). Takeaways from these 3 pieces of research: there was room for more integration; Twitter did well; Facebook did not.
  • Trendrr data reveals that total social activity surrounding the Super Bowl was 3 times higher than last year, with that activity skewing male (56%) and on mobiles rather than the web (88% vs. 12%).
  • Twitter notes that there was 24.1 million tweets about the game and halftime show, excluding the ads, while SocialGuide measured 26.1 million (per SocialTimes).
  • An analysis by Whispr Group (reported by Mashable) counted 20.9 million Super Bowl-related tweets during the game, of which close to 3 in 10 were related to the commercials. Much like Networked Insights found, while the commercial attracted the highest volume of tweets, only 14% of its tweets were positive. That’s extremely low considering the next-lowest share of positive sentiment belonged to Calvin Klein, at 60%. The brand with the highest share of positive Twitter sentiment was Tide (86%).
  • DataSift also analyzed Twitter activity around the ads, looking at share of conversation weighted by sentiment. In this measure, Budweiser won (13.9% share), edging out Chrysler (13.8%).
  • In general, viewers tweeted more using advertisers’ brands as the hashtag rather than the hashtag from the commercial, per Sysomos, reported by MediaBistro.
  • An article by AdWeek using data from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, WordPress and YouTube collected by Attensity Media suggests that Doritos was the most mentioned brand overall in social media, ahead of Audi and Calvin Klein.
  • Budweiser’s popular Clydesdales ad drew more than 1.9 million shares in just 5 days, making it the third-most popular Super Bowl ad ever and the 15th most shared ad ever, according to Unruly Media.

Believe it or not, there was also some research that wasn’t strictly about social media! The following is a (much shorter) list highlighting some of the more interesting non-social-related findings. (The most recent additions to this article begin the list.)

  • According to data from Velti [pdf], desktop use dropped dramatically during the game, while women turned to their mobile devices after halftime and kept their level of mobile use up until the end of the game.
  • Overall 41% of Super Bowl viewers used their mobile devices more during the commercials, while the other 59% used them more during the game, per data from the Mobile Marketing Association and Session M, reported by Fast Company.
  • 98% of advertisers ranked in organic search results for their brand name, and 43% did so for their tagline. 80% had paid search results for their brand name and half did so for their tagline. Those stats courtesy of Blueprint Search Analytics and Nine By Blue.
  • Aligning with the Ace Metrix research, a poll from USA TODAY found that Budweiser scored the top ad of the Super Bowl, just ahead of Tide.
  • Audi was the brand experiencing the most lift during the game, per AddThis data reported by Adotas.
  • According to data from Adobe, advertisers saw an average web traffic increase of 23% on Super Bowl Sunday, and of 46% on Monday. Some brands weren’t ready to handle the spike in traffic from their ads. Yottaa finds that 13 brand websites crashed during the Super Bowl, including Coke (92% uptime for the night) and SodaStream. Ouch.
  • At least seemed to do well in one area – Compuware reports that it was the leader in page load time during the game, with Paramount and Lincoln also among the top performers. On the other end, Doritos, Coca-Cola, and Universal Pictures performed worst on this measure.
  • Google reports that the top trending search during the game was M&M’S. The most searched for ads on YouTube were from M&Ms, Mercedes-Benz, Disney’s “Oz Great and Powerful,” Lincoln, and Audi. Ads (including teasers) related to the game were viewed more than 66 million times on YouTube prior to Super Bowl Sunday.
  • The ad that saw the most mobile engagement was Jack in the Box’s ad with Shazaam, according to Velti, and reported by Mobile Marketing Watch.

Pre-Game Research

[Editor’s note: This portion of the article was originally published on January 30th.]
Nielsen-Average-Cost-Super-Bowl-Ad-2008-2012-Jan2013The upcoming Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event of the year, is obviously also a huge event for advertisers, who spent an average of $3.4 million per 30-second TV spot last year, according to Nielsen. Recent surveys suggest that a significant proportion of viewers will watch as much for the ads as for the game, while other pieces of research have emerged looking at advertising effectiveness, online sharing, brand rankings, and viewing platforms.

One survey finds that while TV will remain the dominant viewing medium, younger consumers will be keeping their connected devices nearby, too. That survey, by Harris Interactive on behalf of Hanon McKendry, indicates that although at least 9 in 10 viewers believe that TV is at least somewhat important to have the best game day experience, 59% of 18-34-year-olds said the same about their computers. A large proportion of that young demographic agreed that their smartphones (47%) and tablets (39%) are an important piece of the experience.

The Hanon McKendry survey also finds that 56% of respondents who plan to watch the Super Bowl will tune in as much or more for the commercials as for the game itself (66% female / 47% male). That aligns with survey results from Lab42, which found more respondents indicating commercials to be their favorite aspect of the game than the game itself (39% vs. 28%). That study also noted that 44% of women prefer the ads, while 41% of men prefer the game. Still, survey results from the NRF, which predicts 179.1 million Americans will tune in for the game, show a contrasting view. Those results reveal that 45.3% of viewers believe the game is the most important part of the Super Bowl, compared to 26.2% who agree that it’s the commercials.

Below is a summary of other research emerging about the game.

  • Three-quarters of the top 20 most shared Super Bowl ads last year were launched online before the day of the Super Bowl, per Unruly Media.
  • Unruly also reveals that automotive was the most shared vertical of the 2012 Super Bowl, and that the top 10 ads last year averaged 83 seconds in length, fully 31 seconds longer than the year before.
  • Brand Keys’ Super Bowl Engagement Survey reveals that respondents who intend to watch the Super Bowl voted Doritos and Taco Bell the most likely to benefit from their advertising efforts from a consumer engagement standpoint.
  • Adobe’s Digital Index indicates that Super Bowl advertisers will see a 20% increase in website traffic, and that mobile viewing will double over the average sporting event.
  • The most popular creative elements of the past 3 years in Super Bowl ads were animals and humor, per research from Ace Metrix.
  • Lead volume from prospective automotive buyers has decreased during the week following the Super Bowl every year from 2009 to 2012, according to Digital Air Strike.

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