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The “Big Game” is almost here. Come February 7, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will meet in Santa Clara, CA to determine who will reign supreme in the football world, but for as much noise as the game itself makes, it’s the commercials who will generate just as much – if not, more – buzz from start to finish. That’s why today, we’re going to take a look at Super Bowl ads, their impressive numbers, and what to expect this year.

The Super Bowl is not only the biggest sporting event of the year, but also the biggest television night. A record 114.4 million viewers tuned in to last year’s game, shattering the previous year’s record of 112.2 million. In fact, this was only the seventh time in history a television program topped 100 million viewers. Six of those have been Super Bowls. The only one that wasn’t? The series finale of M*A*S*H, which drew 106 million.

But it’s not just about the football. The ads have becoming as much a spectacle as anything on “Super Sunday.” According to a study, roughly one-quarter of viewers said that the commercials were the most important part of the show.

With so many people watching the game – 75.8% of American adults – that makes ad space during the game prime real estate for those who want to market themselves.

But be prepared to pony up if you want to buy ad time. During last year’s Super Bowl, NBC – the network carrying it that year – sold out of ad space at a record $4.5 million for 30 seconds. To put that into perspective, ad space during The Walking Dead – the highest rated show on cable – goes for around $400,000.

Some brands have no problem with the steep price tag. Familiar favorites such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and most automotive companies tend to pop up several times throughout the game, but for other, smaller brands, it can turn into a gamble. Case in point, last year, Loctite spent nearly their entire advertising budget for the year on one 30-second ad in the 4th quarter of the game.

Do the ads work? That’s where it gets a little trickier.

According to a survey, 1 in 5 viewers said the ads made them aware of the brands, but those don’t necessarily translate into direct sales. Some studies have indicated that up to 80% of Super Bowl ads don’t increase purchases and sometimes people have a hard time remembering which brand was selling what (see: RadioShack). Others have said that a well-placed ad can increase the likelihood of making a purchase by 6.6%.

And since it’s 2016, your ad has to do more than just make an impression on the television audience.

In recent years, it’s been all about the social buzz an ad can generate. Think about it, how many commercials did you watch during last year’s game that included a #hashtag or encouraged you to go on social media right after? (about 50% if you go by the numbers).

Last year, 28.4 million tweets were sent with terms related to the game from beginning to end, and 265 million posts were generated on Facebook. Sunday click-through rates spiked 9% over previous Sundays, and conversion rates increased by 415%.

Plus, let’s not forget about online shares and how long the ad lingers after the Lombardi Trophy is hoisted. Online shares increased 82% from the previous year, with YouTube being the big winner with 125.7 million views. The next closest? Facebook with 60.7 million.

So what can we expect this year?

While familiar favorites like Doritos and Anheuser-Busch will pop up, newcomers like Amazon and Pokémon will be broadcasting their first ever Super Bowl ads. As always, expect a plethora of celebrity cameos, over-the-top production, humor, statements, and more throughout the game’s 3+ hour broadcast.

Enjoy the game and enjoy the ads. Who will be the big winner this year? Tune in February 7 to find out.


“Super Bowl 2015 Data (Updated).” MarketingCharts. February 12, 2015

Breech, John. “Super Bowl 49 watched by 114.4M, sets U.S. TV viewership record.” CBS Sports. February 5, 2015

Griner, David. “Five myths about Super Bowl ads.” The Washington Post. January 30, 2015