Super Bowl viewership is growing — and changing. As more women tune in to football each year, key advertisers, sports leagues and brands are seeking to better understand what motivates female football fans.
To start, it helps to define what a “football fan” really is. Is it the mega-fan who tunes in to every single game for the home team? Or the casual viewer who tunes occasionally in with friends, and watches the Super Bowl most years?
While there is certainly significant overlap between people who follow the NFL consistently and people who care about the Super Bowl, these audiences have rather distinct demographics. While NFL fans tend to skew older and more male, Super Bowl audiences skew younger and relatively more female. In both cases, female fans represent a notable chunk of the audience — in the case of Super Bowl fans, nearly half.
*NFL fans based on people who searched for specific teams and games, visited the NFL website, downloaded NFL apps or streamed the NFL. Super Bowl fans based on people researching the Super Bowl online. 4 weeks ending 1/6/2018
Passing the 1 Million Mark
Last year, several major Super Bowl advertisers (like Audi, which we’ll discuss later) entered the national conversation about female empowerment. In 2018, analysts predict that events like the Women’s March and the #metoo movement will likely contribute to even greater female representation in Super Bowl ads, and possibly a greater focus on a gender-specific issues. The numbers suggest this might be a savvy move for brands, as the number of women Super Bowl Fans continues growing each year:
Interests of Female Football Fans
What does the growing group of female football lovers care about? When it comes to the industry categories of website they tend to be…
Besides shopping websites, nearly one third of female NFL fans also visit recipe sites. This suggests an opportunity for digital marketers to serve NFL apparel ads (for example) on recipe sites in the weeks leading up to big games.
*Based on women searching for the Super Bowl online (past winners, odds, and details) for 4 weeks ending 1/23/2016, 1/21/2017 and 1/20/2018 **4 weeks ending 1/06/2018
Kia Niro Connects With Women
Kia is a great example of a Super Bowl commercial that connected their product successfully with female football fans.
Last year’s popular “Hero’s Journey” was a light-hearted advertisement that featured Melissa McCarthy gallivanting around in a Kia Nero, putting herself in life-threatening situations in order to save the world. This slapstick commercial was not only popular, it was also by far the most effective in increasing interest in both Kia as a brand, and the Kia Niro model more specifically.
More women also searched for Kia Niro after the Super Bowl, particularly women aged 25 – 34 and 35-44. This could have been due, in part, to Kia’s decision to highlight a female comedian as the protagonist of their Super Bowl commercial.
Kia will be returning for their ninth consecutive Super Bowl advertisement this year, promoting the Kia Stinger (in fact, they’ve already released a sneak peak). Will they feature a woman as their “mystery celebrity” this year as well?
Audi Struggles to Connect With Women’s Equality
Their 2017 commercial, “Daughter,” stoked a lot of controversy. The advertisement featured the backdrop of a father watching his daughter on a race track to advocate for equal pay for women. Audi’s advertisement was criticized by some for being too political, and by others for attempting to ride the feminist bandwagon in spite of the corporation itself having a majority-male executive team.
Audi’s website ranking increased in the lead up to the Super Bowl, perhaps because their advertisement was released early and generated buzz. But afterwards, their ranking dropped down below it’s pre-Super Bowl place, suggesting any temporary gains were short-lived.
Audi’s choice of topic was not necessarily a problem; analysts predict that women’s issues will remain a key issue for Super Bowl LII, as social issues are likely to remain top-of-mind for many female viewers this year. However, consumers have made it clear that if brands incorporate social justice into their messaging, it must be entirely authentic and aligned with their business.
Another thing to remember: while telling a story and addressing an important issue are great goals, it’s equally important be specific about the product you’re selling. Last year Kia successfully coupled a female protagonist with a positive environmentalist message, all while placing their hybrid Kia Niro at the center of their story—and because of that, female viewers took notice.
This blog post was excerpted from our Super Bowl LII Report on Top Trends, Advertisers, & Audiences.