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The Big Game is consistently the most-watched television event of the year. Last year it drew an estimated 208 million viewers, according to Nielsen and the NFL. Equally impressive, NBC was able to ask for as much as $6.5 million for a 30-second spot in the game. Advertising in the Big Game has become big business, with surveys showing that as many people watch the game for its commercials as for its on-field action.
Dallas-based TMA (The Marketing Arm) is one of the biggest buyers of celebrity talent for these Big Game commercials. Last year, the agency fielded its first TMA Super Poll in order to gauge viewers’ attitudes and preferences towards these ads. With reports that 95% of commercial time for the 2023 game is already sold – and prices for 30-seconds of airtime are approaching $7 million – the agency has fielded its 2nd annual TMA Super Poll.
The survey was conducted in October 2022 among a representative sample of 1,000+ people across geographies, genders, ages and ethnicities.
Below is a summary of these findings. Also included are implications for marketers.
1. Viewers continue to watch the Big Game as much for the commercials as for the action. But “the experience” is paramount.
WHAT DO YOU WATCH THE BIG GAME FOR?
2. More than half of viewers want Big Game ads to make them feel entertained, while a third want humor. Although Big Game ads are often sentimental, only 5% say this is their preference.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER TO FEEL WHEN WATCHING A BIG GAME AD?
3. Marketers will be happy to know that 80% of viewers report watching every commercial in the game. Interest does not wane as the game goes on.
AS THE GAME GOES ON, I TEND TO…
4. Three out of four viewers prefer to see ads for the first time during the game. It enhances that all-important experience.
I PREFER WATCHING THE ADS FOR THE FIRST TIME DURING THE GAME.
5. The appearance of celebrities in Big Game ads can be a powerful and persuasive selling approach. Nearly two out of three viewers believe people are more likely to buy a product when it is endorsed by a celebrity. That belief is even stronger among Black, Hispanic, and younger viewers.
PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO BUY A PRODUCT ENDORSED BY A CELEBRITY.
6. For the second year in a row, Dwayne Johnson tops the list of celebrities viewers would most like to see in a Big Game ad. Musical artists are next, led by Rihanna, Beyonce and Eminem.
WHAT CELEBRITY DO YOU MOST WANT TO SEE IN A BIG GAME AD?
7. Rihanna is also the artist viewers would most like to see perform in the halftime show. As the new sponsor of halftime, Apple Music delivered a crowd pleaser in Rihanna, who was already confirmed as this year’s headliner at the time of the survey. They are also eager to see two of last year’s acts, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, again.
WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT TO SEE PERFORM IN THE HALFTIME SHOW?
8. The use of social media influencers in Big Game ads appears to be mixed. Overall, more than half of viewers would prefer to keep these influencers in their social media channels. However, casting them in ads can be a welcomed approach, especially among viewers who are Black, Hispanic, or under 25.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS IN BIG GAME ADS?
9. His on-field performance may be declining, but Tom Brady is still viewers’ favorite Big Game quarterback of all time. And it’s not even close. The next active quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, at #5.
FAVORITE BIG GAME QUARTERBACK? TOP 5 RESPONSES…
10. Long-standing Big Game advertisers top the brands that viewers recall as their “favorite” from last year. This was an open-ended question, reflecting memorability as well as preference.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE BIG GAME AD FROM LAST YEAR? TOP 5 RESPONSES…
Doritos’ spot last year was a Doritos/Cheetos combo featuring Salt-N-Pepa’s classic “Push It”. Budweiser’s “A Clydesdale’s Journey” was about a horse overcoming injury. Pepsi had no ad in the typical sense, but was the halftime sponsor with an ensemble of hip-hop stars. Bud Light could refer to Bud Light Next’s “Zero in the Way of Possibility” or Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda’s “Land of Loud Flavors” with Guy Fieri. Amazon ran “Mind Reader” with Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson for Alexa and “TNF Football is Open” for Prime Video. What do the 5 brands behind this mixed bag have in common? Consistent presence in the Big Game.
IMPLICATIONS FOR MARKETERS
If you want your brand to be associated with the game, consider a long-term commitment. Most one-and-done campaigns are easily forgotten.
It’s no surprise that marketers continue to employ celebrities in their Big Game ads. They work. Viewers want to be entertained. And people are more likely to purchase a product endorsed by a celebrity.
Social media influencers would appear to be emerging as viable Big Game talent among some audiences.
Marketers can take comfort in the knowledge that viewers continue to watch the Big Game for the commercials; and that the majority claim to watch all of them throughout the game, regardless of the score.
The jury is still out on whether marketers should debut their Big Game ads prior to the game. It depends on your KPIs.
In sum, while the cost and clutter of Big Game ads continue to rise, viewers’ interest has not waned. There is a captive audience and hearts to be won…assuming the ads resonate.