Measuring Super Bowl Ad ROI is...Complicated

People will do just about anything to escape the constant barrage of advertisements shoved their way every day...that is, unless we’re talking about the Super Bowl. In fact, according to Burson-Marsteller, 53% of Americans would be disappointed if the Super Bowl went commercial-free. The combination of a live TV event that reaches over 100 million people, along with the diverse and captive nature of its audience has caused the Super Bowl’s commercials to transform into a beacon for creativity in advertising.


So what’s the ROI of a Super Bowl ad in 2017? Well, it’s complicated.

Many people tune into the Super Bowl solely for the entertainment value of its commercials. For the commercials that spark a conversation, brands can sit back and watch as the commercial goes viral on various social media platforms.

As a result of the added cross-channel utility of Super Bowl commercials, the price for a 30 second spot has risen dramatically in recent years. To put things in perspective, in 1967, a 30 second spot cost $42,000 (~$300,000 in today’s dollars). Today, a 30 second spot costs over $5 million. That hefty price tag, coupled with the significant investment brands put into the actual production of these ads, makes the pressure for marketers to deliver a tangible ROI increase dramatically.

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Each brand comes into the world of Super Bowl ads with a basic understanding of the obstacles, benefits, and limits to what is achievable. Given that nearly 87% of viewers watch the Super Bowl solely for entertainment or social purposes, the fact that only 6% of viewers watch to discover new brands, products, or services (Fortune) is not lost on marketers.

Instead of shooting for purchase intent, the most sought-after metric for measuring ROI in the Super Bowl is called “brand lift,” or the likelihood of someone recognizing a brand after seeing an advertisement. The average brand lift of a Super Bowl commercial is nearly 13%, making it a more achievable goal for marketers.

In 2017 especially, brands rarely (if ever) rely on the 30-second spot to achieve their business objectives. Advertisers want more out of their Super Bowl ad investment. According to Adweek, “by activating their Super Bowl advertisements, brands can expand their reach, learn more about their most engaged consumers, and most importantly, drive outcomes with conversion-based activities that can measurably impact the business.” In other words, the Super Bowl has become one stop on a thoroughly-mapped out customer journey; one element in a fully-integrated, cross-channel marketing campaign.


How Brands Leveraged the 2017 Super Bowl to Achieve Business Objectives

To introduce a brand/offering

Marketers can’t imagine a better way to create awareness than the Super Bowl. There were a lot of movie trailers shown this year, but the clear winner was this ad National Geographic made for a new show called “Genius.”

To reinforce a brand with an already-established presence

Many brands like Bud Light and Coca-Cola purchase a spot every year to reinforce their already strong presence in American culture. This year, Coca-Cola opted to use an older advertisement for their Super Bowl spot.

To re-brand

The Super Bowl serves as an excellent stage to shift the way people view a certain brand. Tiffany & Co. and Anheuser-Busch expanded their target audience with a noticeable shift in their traditional advertising strategy.

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For Tiffany & Co., this meant positioning their brand beyond luxury, instead focusing on Lady Gaga talking about her creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

For Budweiser, this meant trying to appeal to a younger audience (where they are currently losing market share) with a crafty look/feel and inclusive messaging conveyed through the origin story of Anheuser-Busch.

To take a stance on social issues and tie in brand values

Marketers understand the value of humanizing their brand. One way to connect with people on a more personal level is to take a stance on social issues. Both Airbnb and 84 Lumber spoke out on social issues that aligned with their respective brands, despite the fact that they could be alienating others.

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To drive traffic to social media

Many commercials featured hashtags intended to drive social media engagement. This tactic is effective in driving the viewer to the next phase in the customer journey. Audi took a social stance by introducing the hashtag of “#DriveForProgress” in its spot.

To drive traffic to another piece of content

Another way to drive the viewer to the next phase in the customer journey is to leverage the commercial as a sort of teaser, and leaving the rest of the story to be discovered on a branded landing page. Wendy’s, a brand that has been amusing consumers via social media, did an excellent job in providing a clear call-to-action that drove viewers to a landing page with an even more entertaining infomercial spoof.

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According to Erna Alfred, an analyst at Forrester Research, “The real trophy for this Super Bowl will go to behind-the-scenes marketers who orchestrate paced, highly-targeted campaigns that maximize the audience potential per channel, while simultaneously working towards a common business goal.”