This is our annual review of Super-Bowl LV 2021 Advertising Effectiveness Review. Like prior reports, our primary data source is from a database of advertising copy testing data from Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX) covering 59 TV ads run concurrent to the CBS broadcast on February 7.
This is the first post Covid Super-Bowl event, one with limited attendance due to NFL imposed restrictions. As shown on Exhibit 1, below, this game had the lowest overall Nielsen audience size in a number of years; and a fairly substantial decline in measured ad effectiveness from last year’s record high.
A number of perennial and large advertisers, such as Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Hyundai Motors, Kia & Discover Card, were among the dropouts from this year’s advertising roster. As a result, as shown on Exhibit 2, this was the first year, since 2007, that the cost for Super Bowl ads did not increase.
The Top 10 most effective ads from the 2021 Super Bowl
When we look at the most effective ads (Exhibit 3), all of those tested scored below ABX’s 90th percentile for all tested advertising. This contrasts with the top 10 ads for the 2020 Superbowl, where all of those ads were in or above the 90th percentile. In fact, the top ad from 2021 would have only been the 38th most effective ad in 2020.
This insight paints the picture that the 2021 Super-Bowl really did not produce outstandingly effective advertising commercials. This probably was the main cause for the decline in overall ad effectiveness versus prior years. By all of our measures, these ads were pretty mediocre.
Ad Effectiveness Shifts by Demographic Group
From Exhibits 4 & 5 below, we see answers to the key question of where (or among whom) did these major ad effectiveness declines or shifts occur? If we were to create a simple profile of where the concern or issue is most pronounced, it is among Caucasian or Asian males who are 35-54 years old, and are in higher income brackets. These are the viewers where the ad effectiveness decline is most pronounced. This profile describes a major element of the NFL fan base! Various reasons for this could be linked to the overall decline in TV ratings for most sports since the Covid Pandemic began. It could also be influenced by “Pandemic fatigue”. With restrictions on parties and gatherings and limits on attendance, plus a football game that was not close, all of these could explain why the Super-Bowl audience was smaller and the advertising was less effective.
Viewing the Top 10 Super-Bowl ads
Here, in order, are links to these ad clips.
Super-Bowl Advertising: Where to now?
The 2021 Super-Bowl turned out to be a disappointment to many. The network CBS ran four of their own spots, indicating that some of them were not sold. The audience watching declined substantially from last year. The advertising effectiveness was mediocre, at best. We think that Pandemic fatigue probably played a part; but all sports TV ratings have declined since the Pandemic began. Fans who can not attend and put on their big Super-Bowl parties lose interest, especially when the game is one-sided.
The likelihood for the coming year is that there will be more doubters and probably more dropouts. The fact that the ROI of Super-Bowl advertising will likely put a downside pressure on what networks can charge for advertising on this event. The jury is out.
Written by: Michael Wolfe, CEO of Bottom-Line Analytics LLC & Marketing Effectivenes Expert