Super Bowl ads cost millions of dollars, so brands better make them worthwhile. But how can that be measured?

Last week, we determined that it is, in fact, a worthwhile endeavor to advertise in the Super Bowl. Different brands have different intentions, depending on how big they are. The Loctites are looking for attention in a way that the Buds and Cokes simply don’t need to, for instance.

That variance extends to the brands’ definitions of success – to an extent. No matter the advertiser, their success metrics will ultimately have some common themes.

Solidifying the message

Super Bowl marketing has the largest possible audience and the best examples of it stick with people long after the game is over. People still remember Budweiser’s back-to-back puppy ads and that famous Oreo tweet still comes up all the time, despite being three years ago.

“Budweiser was looking to reinforce its role in the culture as a staple of Americana; it’s about family and people coming together and the working man,” says Tom Lyons, managing director at HYFN. “I don’t think Budweiser has tons of delusions about people seeing that ad and then going out to buy Budweiser.”

Though Lost Dog was questionable from an ROI standpoint, Lyons still considers the ad a success. He also thinks GoDaddy was successful, in a different way. Not being a household name, the web hosting company Lyons refers to as “The Donald Trump of Super Bowl advertisers” doesn’t have the same kind of brand message to reinforce. Instead, GoDaddy just aims to get people to its website, by any means necessary.

GoDaddy ads are notoriously controversial – last year’s was a spoof of Lost Dog that never even aired. While not all attention is good attention, it worked for a brand that was simply (Read more...) to drive traffic. Lyons doesn’t think the same can be said for Nationwide, a brand that isn’t returning to the Super Bowl after running last year’s most divisive ad.

“The negative attention may have hurt Nationwide, even though it got a lot of attention, because insurance is a serious product,” says Lyons. “The brand’s slogan says, ‘We’re going to be on your side,’ but then it shows a TV spot that says fairly graphic and disturbing. That doesn’t feel like a brand that’s on your side.”

Social sentiment

Today’s Super Bowl advertisers can generate pre and post-game buzz in a way that wasn’t possible before social media. It’s so commonplace to have branded hashtags and teasers that not taking advantage of social and leveraging the hype it provides seems like a recipe for failure.

Earlier this week, Marketing Land reported that of this year’s ads, the relatively-unknown Avocados From Mexico has by far the most traction on Twitter. In addition to the most mentions – 33,000 as of Wednesday night, 50 percent more than second-place Pokémon – nearly all have been positive. The game hasn’t aired yet, but it’s safe to say Avocados From Mexico considers #AvosInSpace a success.

“Twitter data gives us a really good sense of what people think about something. We can see in real-time how people are actually reacting to something they see on TV. It’s 30 to 90 seconds, and suddenly all these people are saying, ‘Oh my God, did you see that?!'” says Jenn Deering-Davis, editor in chief of Union Metrics. “It’s the real life zeitgeist of what you see on TV.”

Social media serves as a focus group on a grand scale. But it also provides advertisers a platform to address that sentiment, whether it’s good or bad. A brand can use social to apologize and attempt to put out a fire it may have started, or a brand can use social to build on engagement.

Search traffic

Search is another solid tactic for measuring how much buzz a Super Bowl ad is generating. Are people intrigued enough by your brand and its message to seek out more information?

“Most beer sites are designed for brand engagement. You can’t buy beer on these sites, but they have ways for you to interact with their brands and their campaigns. Bud Light, for example, does a good job letting you know they’re sponsoring music festivals and sporting events,” says Alex Schumacher, vice president of marketing at Hitwise.

Analyzing Hitwise traffic after last year’s Super Bowl, Schumacher points out that Bud Light’s website saw a 220 percent increase. On a normal week, Bud Light’s website will see 6,000 visitors; it was 90,000 the week following last year’s Super Bowl.



Just as there are a lot of different factors in determining if a brand should advertise in the Super Bowl, there are many ways of measuring whether that choice was ultimately a successful one. However, there are a few common themes, such as social sentiment and search traffic patterns.

From a buzz standpoint, advertisers also have to determine what kind of attention can benefit them. Shocking people can raise a brand’s profile, but it’s a much riskier strategy if your product requires consumers’ trust.

Will Bud Light have another successful run? Will Avocados From Mexico’s momentum on social continue? Can any of this year’s newbies make a splash? Check back Monday for our next round of Super Bowl coverage.

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