Is the Super Bowl worth it?

By AdNews | 9 February 2024
David and Victoria Beckham for Uber Eats.

The best of the Super Bowl ads are the peak of commercial creativity, smart and fun. 

But are they worth it for a brand?

Eight to 100 commercial spots at 30 seconds, each costing between $US6.5 million to $7 million, a big investment.

Last year's broadcaster, Fox, pulled in nearly $US600 million in ad dollars from the Super Bowl.

“We have found that a Super Bowl ad is typically more than 20 times as effective as a typical TV ad when it comes to driving brand perceptions,” says marketing data and analytics group Kantar.

“Strong” Super Bowl ads receive three times the ROI of “average” ones and drive 40% higher ad recall. 

Research from The University of Minnesota shows that that Super Bowl advertisers see: 16% increase in total word-of-mouth (online and offline) for around a month after the game; 22% increase in total word-of-mouth in the week following the game; 68% increase in online word-of-mouth in the three days following the game.

Linda Ferrell and O.C. Ferrell, professors at Auburn University in the US, say advertising at the Super Bowl is clearly worth it for some.

“Consider that the most effective ads – those that stand out above the crowd – are visible long before the game begins and for weeks and even years afterward,” they write.

“Teasers, trailers and sometimes the full ads themselves are typically released in the weeks prior to the Super Bowl and reviewed on TV, online and across social media.

“That coverage also continues after the game, with polls and feature stories ranking which ads worked and which didn’t as Monday morning advertising quarterbacks weigh in. 

“Some of the best Super Bowl ads even take on a life of their own that lasts long after they first ran.”

The 1980 Coca-Cola commercial featuring Pittsburgh’s Mean Joe Greene tossing a young fan his jersey, originally aired in late 1979, reached a broader audience during the game a few months later.

But why are the big four automakers advertisers forsaking the big game this year?

“Gen Z, in particular, is not impressed by Super Bowl ads, and complicating the matter is their lack of interest in broadcast TV,” the researchers say.

“Marketers know TikTok and other social sites are better platforms for delivering messages to targeted demographics.

“The return on investment for advertising is far easier to track in these venues, and the ad spend is easier to justify – especially considering how often these ads will be shared with family and friends in a matter of seconds with just a few keystrokes.

Mikayla Hopkins, head of marketing at brand tracking company Tracksuit, says no other consumer event attracts as many eyeballs to its advertorial and sponsorship deals as the NFL extravaganza.

“While an ad at the halftime show is often out of reach for most brands, the NFL event is a perfect case study showcasing impactful advertising and marketing lessons which can be scaled to suit any budget,” says Hopkins

“Sure, you can reach a ton of people online, but are they really paying attention? For the Super Bowl audience, they're locked in, no distractions. It's a simple case of quality over quantity.

“There’s also a lesson in cultural resonance and tapping into what's hot at the moment. Take Uber Eats, for example. They hit it out of the park by riffing off David and Victoria Beckham's 'be honest' viral moment. That's the kind of savvy move that gets people talking.

“But simply being in the game isn't enough. Creating a flash in the pan moment that disappears once the event is over won’t drive results. You have to play before and after too. 

“That means creating content that has longevity whether it’s on social media, your website or in the press. It's about building that buzz and keeping it going long after the final whistle blows.

“And of course, we can't forget about metrics. Data should be every brand’s best friend, tracking results before, during, and after ‘the big event’. With the right data in hand, such as brand awareness, consideration and preference, you can fine-tune your strategies and make sure you’re getting the best results 

“So, whether you're a big player or a scrappy startup, there's plenty to learn from Super Bowl advertisers. It's all about staying nimble, staying relevant, and most importantly, staying ahead of the game.”

But are the big, expensive and splashy ads memorable? asks Ben Baker, managing director APAC at Vistar Media, a programmatic DOOH platform.

Studies show that the increase in word-of-mouth is high the month following the game, but the results are short lived.

“It begs the question as to whether such a major financial investment into one buzzworthy opportunity is worth it for brands in the long term, and whether a smarter approach is through a sustained and purposeful media presence. 

“Thinking back to the marketing rule of 7 (which has been around since the 1930s), customers need to hear or see a brand’s message at least seven times before they make a purchase. 

“While merely a marketing principle, there’s certainly some truth here. With so many brands vying for attention today, the big splashy moments are fun and buzzworthy but they come and go in an instant.

“In order to make your message stick, you need to couple the big splash with sustained efforts to get in front of your audience. Out-of-home (OOH) advertising offers brands the perfect opportunity to reinforce their message once the 30 second ad finishes. Research shows that brands see 26% additional returns when combining OOH with Digital and TV media activity.” 


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