It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s truly the Super Bowl!

Rentrak has been effectively tracking the Super Bowl for a number of years from millions of TVs projected to the U.S. population and it is interesting to see that the game is still so dynamic.

First off, spending has continued to rise over the past four years and will continue to this year. The chart below (with data from Kantar Media: shows that the 2014 game produced more 14 percent more ad dollars than the previous year. Why was this so?

What drove the increase in total ad revenue for the 2014 game was the number of ad units sold as shown in the next chart. Even though the 2014 game with the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was a blowout (43-8), and shorter in time (due to the fact that the 2013 Baltimore Ravens versus San Francisco 49ers had a 20-minute blackout the previous year), the network was able to sell 8 percent more paid ad time in 2014. The increase in the number of ads allowed the high growth in total ad revenue.

Percent Change Year over Year Super Bowl Ad Minutes

Of course, the real value to advertisers is the number (and quality) of eyeballs delivered by the Super Bowl. The overall audience is determined in part by the quality of the game, which was pretty good from 2011 through 2013. In 2011, the New Orleans Saints were in the championship for the first time. There was a lot of “heart” for them in the country after Hurricane Katrina. The game featured a Saints comeback as they pulled away in the last two minutes against Peyton Manning’s Colts. In 2012, there was the bitter rivalry and Super Bowl rematch between the Giants and Patriots, with a last-second New England “Hail Mary” pass falling incomplete. In 2013, the bi-coastal game of Baltimore versus San Francisco drew in more viewers with the help of an unforeseen “blackout” and eventual 49er comeback that fell short in the final minute. However, in 2014, the Super Bowl featured two Western teams with Seattle and Denver, as well as a 43-8 blowout that just wasn’t too compelling.

Rentrak Super Bowl HH Ratings

One thing all these games have in common is their power to deliver engaged audiences as indicated in the next chart. Rentrak has included commercial ratings since 2012 in our national TV service. When one looks at the commercial rating compared to the game’s rating, they are virtually the same. People like Super Bowl ads. They stay tuned in at a very high rate. In addition, people stay tuned to the game. Rentrak has a patent on a “Stickiness Index,” a measurement of program engagement that looks at how long people watch a program compared to other shows. The Super Bowl is about three times more likely to hold its audience. This is important because independent research has shown that the more of a program people watch, the more powerful the advertising’s impact is. Staying with a game means you are engaged with it and with the commercials. That is good for advertisers. 

Super Bowl 2011-2014

The 2014 game, even with the lack of excitement, still held both the commercial and the program audience throughout, as seen in the next chart. In fact, the rating delivery of a Super Bowl ad is directly tied to where it is in the game, not to audiences switching away when the ads are playing. As the game built in the first quarter, commercials were lower than the program average, but the game itself didn’t reach its peak. Once the peak was reached at about 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, ads from then on delivered higher ratings because of the overall audience level. At the very end of the game, there was a decline in overall audience, not just the commercial audience. 

Okay, I could prattle on about social media and the Super Bowl, and the attractive Advanced Demographics of the Super Bowl, but I can save that for another time. The evidence is clear, advertisers value the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl delivers value. Rentrak will provide a snapshot view of ad levels the day after this year’s Feb. 1 game.

By the way, I think this was a pretty good overview for a guy whose decisions in last year’s football championship pool were based on the style of each team’s uniform.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


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