Super Bowl ads v. Super Bowl


The Super Bowl draws more than 100 million viewers, with advertisers paying up to $4 million for a spot. Photo via

On Sunday, many viewers will be tuning in to see more than just the Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos.

Ad bowl

Many viewers are just as interested in the advertisements as they are in the outcome of the game.

In fact, 55 percent of U.S. adults who plan to watch Super Bowl XLVIII said they’ll be tuning in as much or more for the commercials as for the game, according to the latest poll by Gravity Six Alliance, a network of branding firms in the region, and conducted by Harris Interactive earlier this month.

The poll surveyed 2,035 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, and found that Super Bowl ads remain a big draw and, therefore, a good investment for advertisers.

Interest in the ads is strongest among women, with 67 percent of female viewers saying they watch as much or more for the ads, compared to 44 percent of male viewers.

The variation is even more significant among those viewers who said they tune in predominantly or exclusively for the ads — just over 28 percent of women in 2014 versus 9 percent of men.

“Ads continue to be an important part of the full Super Bowl entertainment package, especially for women,” said John Sawyer, chairman of Gravity Six Alliance and principal at partner agency Grey Matter Group in Grand Rapids. “For brands, this is the one time each year when over 100 million people will engage with their message. Not just notice it, but beg the room to quiet down, so they can hear it, and then post and tweet about it. No wonder advertisers line up to pay $4 million for a spot."


In an effort to capitalize on a Super Bowl advertisement’s powerful draw, in the past few years, many companies began releasing their Super Bowl ads or teaser ads prior to game day.

Despite a few pre-releases that got tongues wagging, that move has not been nearly as successful as advertisers would have hoped.

Only 15 percent of U.S adults said that they plan to watch Super Bowl commercials that are available online before the game — and the figure drops to 12 percent among the 55 and older crowd.

U.S. adults ages 35-44 are most likely to get into the pre-game action, with 17 percent saying they would watch ads online in advance of the game.

Sixty percent of U.S. adults said they would not watch the ads online before the game, and 25 percent weren’t sure.

Pre-game viewing by men and women varies by eight percentage points, with 19 percent of U.S. adult men saying they plan to watch Super Bowl ads available online before the game, versus 11 percent of U.S. adult women.

“To date, brands haven’t found the right formula to capture attention for their ads prior to the Super Bowl,” said Gregg Palazzolo, chief creative officer at Ada-based Palazzolo Design, a Gravity Six Alliance partner agency. “This probably calls for new tactics. We’re starting to see some of those this year — like using buzz-worthy celebrities in teasers about the ads. We’ll just have to watch how that turns out.”

If you do want to get an early look at Super Bowl advertisements, there are several teasers that have been released online.

The big game

As for the game, 72 percent of U.S. adults plan to watch Super Bowl XLVIII, a number that has remained fairly steady since Gravity Six Alliance partner agency DO MORE GOOD | Hanon McKendry began the poll in 2006.

The study also confirms consistently strong interest in Super Bowl advertising over the past nine years, with a solid 54-57 percent of adult viewers each year saying they tune in as much or more for the ads as for the game.

The Nielsen Company estimated that last year’s Super Bowl XLVII drew 108.4 million U.S. viewers, down from 111.3 million viewers in 2012, making it the third most-watched Super Bowl and third most watched single program of any kind in U.S. television history. 

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