Key Trends in Social Media, Politics, & Football Audiences
The stage is set for Super Bowl LII, and it’s expected to pull the largest audience in TV history. In this report, we’ll address several themes:
– Super Bowl Audiences: Who will be tuning in this year?
– Politics and National Issues: What wider topics will dominate this year’s event?
– Social Media: Which channels matter most?
– Advertisers: Which ads were most effective last year, which will succeed this year?
– Learnings: How can marketers capitalize on these insights?
Key Trends of 2018
CHANGING AUDIENCES, POLITICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Super Bowl viewership is growing — and shifting. As more women tune in each year, the NFL has also become more deeply intertwined in politics. What are the key themes to look out for this year?
Super Bowl Demographics
The Super Bowl is notorious for attracting “bandwagon” fans, and viewers who only tune in for the commercials. What defines Super Bowl fans, and what makes them different from regular football viewers?
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. We’ll dig deeper into this female audience in the next section.
Women & the Super Bowl
Last year, several major brands (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.
Allrecipes.com is the number one recipe website in America. Last month it pulled about 120 million visits, and 14% of all traffic to recipe websites. With an entire section of their website dedicated to “Big Game” recipes, Allrecipes is geared up to drive more clicks from Super Bowl fans than ever before — and early signs are promising.
When tracking internal search behavior within Allrecipes.com (from within their own search bar), we see markedly more growth in early searches for Super Bowl recipes this year. Although there were zero “super bowl” search terms registered on Allrecipes.com during the same time period in 2017, multiple relevant search terms have already emerged on their internal site search this year—a full 2-3 weeks in advance of the event:
Several Super Bowl LI ads reflected the nation’s early political rumblings in the wake of the 2016 election. Perhaps the most discussed commercial of the year, Lumber 84’s “Journey” told the story of a Mexican mother and daughter enduring an arduous journey to America, only to encounter an intimidating, towering border wall.
Since then, the NFL has been further pulled into the orbit of political discourse. Dozens of players attempted to bring attention to the issue of police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. In response, the President berated the league commissioner and the NFL itself on Twitter, calling it “weak and out of control.”
The fact is, Super Bowl fans tend to be very plugged in to politics, particularly this year:
Based on this, it’s no surprise that NBC stated publicly they will continue rolling cameras if players kneel during the national anthem. While American’s opinions on these issues will likely remain polarized, social justice and politics will most certainly play an even larger role in the Super Bowl game, entertainment and advertisements this year.
Social media has always (and continues) playing a pivotal role in the Super Bowl. Hitwise data shows that Super Bowl fans are 17% more likely than the average American to visit social media and networking sites — particularly the top three sites listed on the right. Last year, social media channels were central in amplifying the efforts of advertisers, particularly on YouTube.
YouTube has become perhaps the most important social Super Bowl destination this year. During the Big Game season in 2017, YouTube eclipsed Facebook in receiving traffic from football-related searches — for the first time. This is important for advertisers to note, as this trend appears to be accelerating moving into 2018.
Top Super Bowl Commercials
WHAT WORKED LAST YEAR, AND WHAT MESSAGES WILL RESONATE IN 2018?
Advertisements (viewed live and on YouTube) have become one of the defining characteristics of the Super Bowl. In this chapter we look at the top 5 most popular commercials from 2017, and measure their results in terms of branding, traffic and product awareness. Based on these insights, what can we predict about advertising trends in 2018?
Kia – Hero’s Journey
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). Kia traditionally features celebrities in their ads, and it seems this year will be no exception.
“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.
Searches for “kia niro” skyrocketed right after the Super Bowl in comparison to other Kia models, suggesting that the Super Bowl helped spark interest in this particular model.
We know Kia Niro’s audience grew after the Super Bowl, but how did it change? It appears that Kia Niro interest concentrated among consumers aged 25 – 44, while the extremes (very young and more senior age groups) dropped after the Big Game.
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. Will they feature a woman as their “mystery celebrity” this year as well?
The “Hero’s Journey” commercial not only increased the popularity of the Kia Niro, it also helped Kia.com increase their share of traffic within the auto industry. Their website ranking against other car manufacturers (based on share of visits), jumped up seven places after the Super Bowl.
Honda – Yearbooks
Honda will be sitting out of this year’s Super Bowl, and looking into their performance last year might help shed light on why.
Honda’s Super Bowl LI advertisement, “Yearbooks”, was meant to the 20th anniversary of the Honda CR-V, by showing animated childhood “yearbook photos” of icons like Tina Fey, Magic Johnson and Steve Carrell.
In spite of this start-studded cast, the Honda CR-V saw only a slight, very temporary bump in searches right after the Super Bowl. It could be that the car model itself was too much of an afterthought in an otherwise popular, entertaining commercial.
Honda’s traffic ranking compared to other auto manufacturers also remained stagnant after the Super Bowl — although its worth noting that ranking increases are harder for larger auto brands like Honda to achieve (they require a much greater increase in traffic to jump rank). Meanwhile a smaller brand like Kia could reasonably expect more dramatic gains from such wide exposure.
Audi – Daughter
As of this report’s publication, Audi has yet to announce whether or not they will pursue a Super Bowl spot this year. Their 2017 commercial, “Daughter,” stoked a lot of controversy, but also may have foreshadowed wider trends in this year’s public discourse.
Audi leaned more towards social commentary rather than humor in their Super Bowl LI advertisement, using 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.
Their success in promoting Audi on a brand level was modest. Because they
didn’t emphasize a particular model in this advertisement, there was little change in search volume for any popular Audi models.
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.
That being said, 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 — but for advertisers, this message must be accompanied by authenticity and clear alignment with business values.
Budweiser – Born the Hard Way
Anheuser-Busch will be back in full force this year promoting all four of its beer brands: Stella Artois (for the first time since 2011), Bud Light, Budweiser, and Michelob Ultra.
Last year, Anheuser-Busch went full-on traditional nostalgia, spinning the tale of perseverant German immigrant, Adolphus Busch, coming to America and meeting his soon-to-be business partner Eberhard Anheuser.
The heartwarming story was likely an attempt to drum up popularity for Budweiser beer, which has been losing sales in the wake of the craft beer movement. There was a sudden spike in “budweiser” searches, but they appeared to be short-lived (and only related to the commercial).
The relative rankings of budweiser.com within the Food & Beverage industry appeared to jump dramatically after the Super Bowl, likely from people seeking the commercial (as seen above). However, this sudden jump didn’t seem to stimulate Budweiser sales. According to CNN Q3 shares for Anheuser Busch fell by 2%, as sales for Budweiser and Bud light struggled. Meanwhile brands like Michelob and Stella helped pick up the slack.
This may be why Budweiser has decided to invest more heavily in smaller brands like Stella Artois this year, with different branding than the traditional “All American” Beer Brand that Bud once was. Stella Artois’ pre-released “Buy a Lady a Drink” commercial for Superbowl LII focuses on a more progressive, cause-based message. It will be interesting to see whether Anheuser-Busch continues elevating and evolving their smaller brands in an effort to remain competitive in a changing beverage market.
Tide – #BradshawStain
Tide has only ventured into the Super Bowl sporadically, with 2017 only being the brand’s third Super Bowl commercial in a decade.
In their 2017 ad, Terry Bradshaw went on a goofy journey in search of a solution to a BBQ sauce stain on his shirt. This commercial appeared to be minimally effective in stirring up search interest in Tide in general, as seen below.
However, a lack of search volume does not necessarily negate success. Most people who buy Tide detergent don’t search for “Tide” — they just go to the supermarket and buy it. That being said, searches for “tide coupons” climbed steadily for several months after their 2017 commercial aired, suggesting a strong purchase intent (and that perhaps Tide did succeed in increasing collective desire to purchase their particular brand of detergent).
Tide.com also increased its relative website rank amongst Home & Garden websites by 38 spots after the Super Bowl, suggesting an overall increase in brand engagement. This also underscores the various ways to measure “success” after airing a Super Bowl commercial — particularly the distinction between immediate interest, and long-term gains from sustained brand recognition.
It seems that the positive halo effects were proof enough for Tide (and their umbrella company, Proctor & Gamble). In spite of their sparse Super Bowl participation in previous years, they’ve already released a teaser for their 2018 commercial featuring Terry Bradshaw yet again.
AUDIENCE: It’s tempting to assume Super Bowl viewers represent all Americans, but they are a unique group. How does your target audience overlap with Super Bowl fans? Can you speak to a specific segment of Super Bowl fans, and their interests?
SOCIAL MEDIA: Between Super Bowl ads, half-time clips and game highlights, YouTube in particular appears positioned as the top channel for engagement this year.
SOCIAL ISSUES & AUTHENTICITY: Politics remain top-of-mind for viewers this year, but consumers have made it clear that if brands incorporate social justice in their messaging, it must feel entirely authentic.
ADVERTISING: Telling a story, addressing an important issue and making people laugh are great goals, but it’s equally important be specific about the product you’re selling. Last year Kia successfully coupled humor with a positive environmentalist message, all while placing their hybrid Kia Niro at the center of the story.