Are SuperBowl Ads worth it? BY THE NUMBERS

Super Bowl ads are expensive. $5 million for 30 seconds, not including production. And it doesn't stop there; you (the brand) still have to tweet out the ad at least 500 times and try to win over your critics on social media.

2017 is the first year I've been at home to watch the SuperBowl. I'm usually traveling, either for work or pleasure. This year was an exciting SuperBowl as my home team, the Atlanta Falcons were playing. #RiseUP!!! This year, instead of just posting my favorite SuperBowl ads, I'll provide my overall impressions from a marketing perspective, ad success by social media numbers, and highlight my favorite ads.

Celebrity Sightings

If you're going to pay $5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad spot, you can't skimp on the production quality either. You've got to put together an entertaining and compelling story in 30 seconds in hopes of creating buzz, reach, impressions, memorability, and eventually sales of your products or services. I noticed a lot of the ads featured A list celebrities including Tina Fey for Honda, LeBron for Sprite, Justin Beiber for T-Mobile, Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake for Bai, Lady Gaga for Tiffany, and the list goes on and on.

Even a video game developer employed the talent of Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote their new game. MCV reports that the developer, Machine Zone may have paid $5 million to Arnold to appear in the ad. This is on top of buying the spot and all production costs. What does this mean? This means that acquiring gaming players is extremely competitive. MCV reports that "it now costs mobile publishers an average of $4.23 to acquire a new player…and that price is going up…due to increased marketing costs."

Technology Ads are Challenging

I'm fascinated how technology commercials have evolved over the years starting with the famous 1984 Apple Super Bowl commercial to today. There's a level of customer education in every technology commercial. Advertisers need to explain the technology in terms of how it will help you (the audience) solve a problem, save time, or money.

I was really surprised to see H&R Block go the IBM Watson technology route in their Super Bowl spot. Are my personal taxes really that complicated? This was a tough ad on 2 counts, first the ad has to explain who is IBM Watson, and second, how Watson will save you money on your taxes. I think it was too much to explain in a commercial. People have been doing their taxes by hiring an accountant or on paper for years, not sure I believe that Watson will save me money.

Telecom Wars

No question, it's fierce competition out there in the telecom space. What I witnessed in this Super Bowl was an all out war between Comcast XFINITY vs. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile vs Verizon.

Comcast went as far as to picture a puppet ('dummy') wearing an AT&T polo shirt in their ad. T-Mobile coined the hashtag #TheSafeWordisUnlimited in their attack on Verizon. Here are the competitors by number of spots aired during the Super Bowl.

  • T-Mobile - 4 spots, 4 different commercials
  • Sprint - 2 spots
  • AT&T - 2 spots - local broadcast*
  • XFINITY - 2 spots - local broadcast*

Local broadcast* means that I saw the commercials on my TV at home (Atlanta), but the commercial was not on the "official list" of Super Bowl commercials according to MarketingLand. This means that while I saw the commercial, not everyone else did.

Was this telecom war effective? Let's look at the numbers. How do we as marketers measure success of our campaigns?

Here are just a few examples:

  • Viewers
  • Unique viewers
  • Social Media Buzz


As an "outside looking in" method of measuring Super Bowl ad success, I ran queries on the hashtags on The hashtag query turned out to be a bigger challenge than originally expected as only 30% of all Super Bowl commercials featured a hashtag according to MarketingLand.

I wasn't surprised to find #UnlimitedMoves received the most number of impressions by far. After all, Justin Beiber personally asked us to show him our moves in this T-Mobile commercial.

I've listed each hashtag in the order of first appearance during the Super Bowl with reach and impressions from Reach is defined as the number of unique people who saw the post, while impressions is the total number of potential views.

*All stats compiled as of Monday, Feb 6, 2017

Next, I compiled total views of the top 14 commercials on YouTube on their official brand channel. Many commercials were posted by bloggers and other entities; those were not counted since many were compilations. The number of views on the "re-posts" of the commercials were significantly lower than the brand channel's views and do not change the overall stats of success. The commercials are posted in order of first appearance during the game.

The 'breakout ad' of the night was Avocados from Mexico. I personally had never heard of the brand per say, "Avocados from Mexico" before last night. They put together a funny, high production ad with John Lovitz, aired their ad early in the game, and got significant impressions. They did better in impressions than LeBron with Sprite and more YouTube views than Bai which featured 2 A list celebrities.

T-Mobile spared no expense at this Super Bowl. They purchased the most number of airtime, produced 4 high-quality unique ads, hired A list talent including Justin Beiber, Snoop Dogg, and Martha Stewart. T-Mobile is in an all out war attacking big dog Verizon. Quality and money pays off. T-Mobile got the most buzz in their category, far more than Sprint and made themselves the belle of the ball. Was this all for survival or are they going to take a bite out of Verizon's market share? Only time will tell, but I'm glad to see T-Mobile out on the offense after their unsuccessful bid to join ranks with AT&T and Sprint.

84 Lumber took a long-form approach with a 1.5 minute ad during the SuperBowl and then asked their viewers to go online and get the rest of the story, which is almost 6 minutes long. They received 3.6 million views (as of Monday morning) on their 5 minute, 45 second journey on YouTube. Their goal was post-Super Bowl engagement, and 3.6 million views is nothing to sneeze at. Personally, watching the 1.5 minute commercial felt like watching a 3-hour long documentary; the commercial felt out of place for the SuperBowl. The football game was fast paced and exciting, while the commercial moved a bit too slowly in comparison to the other commercials. Then again, I'm not the target demographic; when was the last time I bought lumber?

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo has been very successful in customer adoption and sales. At one point, Amazon sold out of their Echos over the busy holiday season. #GoodProblemtoHave

Now Google has a competitor product and needs to play catch up. They had a good strategy by buying an ad near the beginning of the game. The beginning of the game is when the average consumer is more open to watching commercials. The psychology is that we're "looking forward" to the exciting commercials we're about to view. Google did a good job of simply providing some examples of what their product does. They kept it above the belt by not mentioning Alexa. On the other hand, Amazon Echo played 3 short spots near the end of the game. Same concept, and kept it clean.

There's no such thing as bad publicity

No surprise that the overall Super Bowl ad winner in views and social media buzz was Budweiser. They win every year (in my memory). The social media buzz around a misspelled tweet #boycottbudwiser was probably not what they planned, but they knew they were pushing the envelope with their ad, and I think the folks at Anheuser-Busch took it all in good stride. The goal is to generate buzz and keep the conversation going to increase sales. Budweiser's ad team are seasoned experts and will long continue the proud tradition of SuperBowl ads. Congrats.

Caroline's Picks of Super Bowl LI

My personal favorite commercial was the Michelob ULTRA because it was targeted to my demographic. I'm into running races (5Ks to full marathons), and while I won't reveal my exact age, my age group knows the theme song to the 1980s sitcom, Cheers, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name." Michelob Ultra did a great job appealing to that demographic (Gen X runners, gym rats, crossfit, and spin addicts) with their ad, "Our Bar."

The commercial that had me LOL and spared no expense, was Melissa McCarthy for Kia. Beyond the great production value, they did a good job educating the environmentally conscious consumer why they should choose Kia.