Super Bowl: it’s all about the ads (and Taylor Swift) 

Its influence presents an opportunity for advertisers beyond the US

Super Bowl LVIII came to our screens last weekend, with many tuning in to see the Chiefs take the win, Taylor Swift celebrating from the sidelines and Usher roller skating while headlining the half-time show. As can be expected, it was quite the event. It’s been reported that it was ‘the most-watched TV programme ever’, with over 120 million fans tuning in to watch the sporting event across US channels like CBS, Univision and Paramount+. But it wasn’t just a big moment for sporting fans in the US — the fanfare crossed over into the UK.

Broadcast on ITV as well as Sky’s NFL channel, the event gripped the nation, with over a million tuning in live despite the time difference, making the run time the early hours for those in the UK. This points to a wider trend we’ve seen in recent years, which is the rising popularity of the NFL outside the States. Our research shows that the number of UK consumers who follow the NFL has grown 24% year-on-year — so much so that it’s now more popular than the Ryder Cup and the Tour de France. 

So what does this mean for brands? 

It’s no secret that the Super Bowl has become a big opportunity for advertisers, and what we’re seeing now is that it’s almost as much of an advertising event as it is a sports event. Some of the biggest brands play a core part in the championship, with advertisers vying for fans’ attention. The commercial breaks are in a whole league of their own. Featuring hosts of famous faces (from Beyonce and Kris Jenner to the Beckhams) the ads are known to have some of the biggest budgets of the year. And it’s not hard to work out why. With viewership in the hundreds of millions in the US, the potential exposure for brands like Uber Eats, M&Ms, and BMW is hard to match.

It’s more than reach though — brands know that ad spend on Super Bowl is investing in a platform that has a seriously engaged audience. The beauty of a live sports event, especially one that’s the kind of spectacle that Super Bowl is, means that sports fans are hooked and their attention is grabbed in a way that isn’t guaranteed with on-demand viewing. They don’t want to miss a thing. And so viewers are watching the ads rather than skipping ahead. In fact, our research shows that almost half (41%) of US viewers who planned to watch the event actually prefer watching the ads to the game itself. The influence of the sport has also presented a core opportunity for advertisers beyond the US. In the UK, the sport has garnered a far-reaching fanbase, spurred on in part by partnerships with brands like TikTok — and maybe the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce’s new romance — which is helping to pull in new audiences since the NFL’s first touchdown on British shores in 2007. 

Brands have certainly got it right when it comes to nailing their Super Bowl ads. And with a growing fanbase, it’ll be interesting to see what’s next.  

Featured image: Dave Adamson / Unsplash

Chris Beer, Trends Analyst at GWI

Chris is a Trends Analyst at GWI. Starting out his professional life in a recording studio, he now spends his time listening out for consumer trends on the horizon.

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