In these divided days of political campaigns and social upheaval, one event that always brings the country together is the Super Bowl. It’s a marketing and celebration bonanza surrounding the two best teams in the National Football League, this year being the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. More than a cultural phenomenon, the Super Bowl is a chief bellwether of American consumerism.
Moreover, the Super Bowl seems to be an increasingly family affair unaffected by past NFL scandals. These are just two of the findings from a joint study by qSample and QuestionPro, surveying more than 300 panelists from a general population sample. Nine-nine percent of respondents claimed they would watch Super Bowl 50, another exclamation point to the popularity of this quasi-holiday.
Nevertheless, the Super Bowl is famed for being an extravaganza stew of sports, entertainment and advertising. Why are people tuning in primarily on Super Bowl Sunday, then? It appears the game itself still dominates the country’s attention span, according to the data:
1. The game (39%)
2. To enjoy a social event (22%)
3. The commercials (7%)
4. The half time show (1%)
It should be mentioned that 33% of respondents claimed they were participating in the Super Bowl for all the reasons mentioned above. Only 18% of these said they were avid football fans who typically bought NFL merchandise. A majority (48%) stated they were casual fans, with 28% being avid fans that rarely bought merchandise.
As far as interest levels, one ought to wonder if the halftime show might garner more significance if an American or more blue-collared act than Coldplay was performing. As far as commercials, the low percentage may not bode well with advertisers spending a record $377 million for Super Bowl 50.
Will bars and restaurants fare better, even if the winter weather is more clement on Super Bowl Sunday? According to the study, ranking on location preference of the game, not likely:
1. At home (78%)
2. A party (12%)
3. At a bar/restaurant (6%)
As with other extroverted, national celebrations like New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, it seems Super Bowl is becoming more of a home festivity instead of a going-out occasion.
Supporting this, most respondents said they will spend the night with family members (53%), followed by friends (32%). Eight percent will watch the Super Bowl alone (and unfortunately Coldplay as well). A vast majority (91%) will watch the game on television.
With the Super Bowl becoming a family event, does this mean that this year it might lose viewers due to the recent NFL controversies like Deflategate and the Ray Rice video? That doesn’t seem to be the case, according to the study, when ranking respondents’ view of the NFL as a brand, as shown in this graph:
With this in mind and considering that nine out of ten most-viewed shows in history are Super Bowls—and that last year’s game was the highest-rated Super Bowl—the viewership this year should be extremely high.
Along with bars/restaurants and passionate interest in commercials, social media is not a main player during the plays of Cam Newton and Payton Manning. The exception is Facebook. With 47% of respondents claiming they will be active on social media during the Super Bowl, 41% of those will be on Facebook. All other social media channels receive less than ten percent. This percentage includes Twitter, once the primary social media channel for real-time cultural events, revealing the deepening trouble with the company.
Of course, these findings do not mean social media is irrelevant during the Super Bowl. Last year, Facebook saw 265 million posts, likes and comments during the game, the most measured for any Super Bowl. At the same time, Twitter generated over 28 million global tweets, making it the most tweeted Super Bowl ever. What it does mean is that engagement on social media is potentially not as high as brands would desire.
Speaking of engagement, there are social critics who propose that the Monday following any Super Bowl should be a national holiday. The argument has merit. The study found that 26% of respondents will not go to work after the game. Furthermore, it’s estimated that last year 1.5 million people missed work the day after Super Bowl (at a loss of roughly 12 million hours of productivity for that Monday), while 4.4 million workers showed up late to their jobs.
What about the game itself? Is there a favorite team to win the Super Bowl, according to the study? Indeed there is, with respondents giving the edge to the Broncos over the Panthers (45% to 41%).
But as they say: that’s why they play the game and on any given Sunday. On Super Bowl Sunday it will be clear who wins, not just the team, but also consumers, marketers, work bosses and perhaps even Coldplay.
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