Social Media Impressions Measure Super Bowl Ad Success

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  • Advertisers tracking social engagement ahead of TV impression data.
  • Marketers still spent nearly $508 million on Super Bowl LIV tv ads, iSpot.TV says.
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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl remains a cultural moment in the U.S., attracting more than 100 million viewers and dozens of brands looking to advertise during the game. The way brands measure success has expanded beyond linear impressions. 

Thirty-second commercials during Super Bowl LIV sold for as much as $5.6 million, an increase of 4% from last year. However, rising advertising costs have done little to deter marketers from spending to reach fans on the NFL’s biggest stage. More than 50 brands ran TV spots during Super Bowl LIV at a cost of $507.8 million, according to TV ad measurement firm iSpot.TV.

“Even at that price point, you are still reaching 100 million-plus people with your brand message,” said Melissa Misiak, SVP, group account director, at Momentum Worldwide, a New York-based experiential marketing agency.

Despite all the spending on TV, brands are turning to social media to see if it was worthwhile.

Brands will compute cost-per-thousand impressions to measure the success of TV campaigns, while also assessing real-time mentions of their brands before, during, and after the Super Bowl, according to T. Bettina Cornwell, head of the department of marketing at the University of Oregon.

“Super Bowl advertising, if it ever was enough in isolation, is no longer a standalone investment,” Cornwell said. “Brands release their advertisements in advance and then track the YouTube views. They leverage their brand investment in social media and scrape data to better understand not just impressions and shares, but sentiment.”

Consumer sentiment and organic conversation on social media are two of the biggest ways brands measure return on investment for Super Bowl ads, Dalia Adler, Heinz’s brand building lead, said.

Heinz returned to the Super Bowl after a four-year hiatus, running four different commercials at once in split-screen TV quadrants. Heinz first teased the ad in January as part of its “Find the Goodness” campaign.

“The Super Bowl was our moment to kick off our larger campaign,” Adler said. “It also happens to be the second biggest grilling weekend of the year.”

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Verizon is a company regularly featured during the Super Bowl. It’s also an official NFL partner. The company this year focused its brand message around the roll out of its 5G internet service, according to Misiak, who assisted in leading the campaign.

Verizon purchased three television ad slots ahead of the game. The telecommunications company also livestreamed the NFL Pro Bowl on January 26 in 5G for fans on the ground in Miami. Attendees later visited demo stations where Verizon’s 5G technology was enabled on Samsung smartphones and video game consoles for consumers to try.

Many of this year’s Super Bowl advertisers are returning brands, like Doritos and AB InBev, while newcomers like Hulu and Disney+ made their debut in 2020.

“There were five or six brands new to the Super Bowl that showed they had arrived as a brand and established themselves this year,” said Misiak. “It’s hugely important for brands to have a digital social plan around something like the Super Bowl in addition to TV spend.”

Pop-Tarts, a first time Super Bowl participant, pushed its new pretzel Pop-Tart offering in a 30-second ad featuring social media influencer and “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness. As part of its social strategy, the Kellogg’s brand gave away merchandise to fans after the Super Bowl, including replicas of the sequin crop-top worn by Van Ness in its commercial.

“There is no bigger stage than the big game, which is why we wanted our ad creative to focus on how we ‘fixed’ the classic pretzel with Pop-Tarts Pretzel,” Phil Schaffer, senior director of marketing at Pop-Tarts, said. “Pop-Tarts Pretzel is the biggest brand innovation that we have created to date, and so this was the perfect time for us to make our big game debut.”

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Pop-Tarts and Heinz each spent $5.5 million, while Verizon shelled out more than $17 million on linear ad marketing to fans. Verizon has also spent a total of $80 million on sports TV advertising so far in 2020, iSpot.TV said.

Fox did not immediately return requests for comment about TV ad spending on its broadcast. 

“TV programming viewership for live events has been trending downward for years, recall that the high point in Super Bowl viewing was 114.4 million viewers in 2015,” Cornwell said. “Nonetheless, live events still provide value in showcasing brands.”