The Third Team: 1/4 Watch Super Bowl For Ads; 81% See Them As Entertainment


The National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights released survey (PDF) data mostly focused on anticipated consumer spending on Super Bowl parties and related areas (i.e., new TVs, furniture). The survey also asked about interest in the commercials, which turn out to be a “third team” that people are tuning in for.

The Third Team

Unlike other recent surveys that have shown greater interest in the ads than in the game, the NRF survey reported that 47.5 percent of the 6,417 respondents were most interested in the action on the field. That was followed by 25 percent who said “the commercials:”

When you watch the Super Bowl, what is the most Of the important part for you? (one response)

  • The game 47.5 percent
  • The commercials 24.9 percent
  • Getting together with friends 17.3 percent
  • The half time show 10.2 percent

Interestingly 45-54 year olds was the age group that ranked commercials highest in terms of “importance.” Yet the vast majority of survey respondents said they regarded the commercials “as entertainment.”

Ads As Entertainment

Only small minorities indicated that the commercials might influence their shopping or purchase behavior: “they influence me to buy products” (8.9 percent); “they influence me to search online for more information” (7.9 percent). A somewhat larger number (16.9) said “they make me aware of advertiser brands”:

What are your opinions about Super Bowl TV commercials? (Check all that apply)

NRF survey commercials attitudes

Source: NRF and Prosper Insights (n=6,417); answers add up to more than 100 percent because multiple responses permitted 

With some exceptions, I’ve argued elsewhere that most Super Bowl advertising (though fun) is basically wasted spending. The NRF survey would appear to support that thesis. Of course the responses above reflect consumer attitudes and not necessarily behavior, which may be impacted in ways that consumers aren’t fully aware of.

In isolated cases Super Bowl commercials can be very effective, lifting brand awareness and purchase intent. Increasingly however, Super Bowl commercials are simply “anchors,” intended to create visibility or a kind of halo effect for a broad range of parallel and subsequent promotions online and elsewhere.

Will the $4 million per spot be wasted? Who will emerge as winners; who will fumble the opportunity? We’ll be covering all that in depth this week, during and after the game itself.

The full NRF survey data set is embedded below.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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