Are Super Bowl Ads Worth the Investment?

Even though the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, I did watch the game and of course, the ads. Super Bowl ads have created a stand-alone economy within the ad industry, complete with multi-million dollar price tags, months of teasers and branded merchandise. But is the investment worth it? How can ROI-driven marketers and their brand-focused counterparts justify the expense?

Every brand has its own way of quantifying ROI on its Super Bowl commercial. For some, it’s about brand recognition, for others it’s directly connected to increased sales. My company, Jumpshot, studied consumers’ browsing and purchasing behaviors in the auto industry following Super Bowl LI ad to see if we could quantify the ad’s popularity. We did this in partnership with location intelligence company Cuebiq, which examined in-store visits. The complementary analyses helped to paint a complete picture of the impact of each auto brand’s Super Bowl ads.

The auto brands that advertised during Super Bowl Ll were Alfa Romeo, Audi, Buick, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, so we took a look at each automaker’s website and “Find a Dealership” pages, as well as Google searches and “Contact a Dealer” forms filled out on to gauge overall interest.

Alfa Romeo used the Super Bowl LI as its U.S. launch pad, which definitely paid off. The Italian brand’s huge Super Bowl presence paired with its relatively small market share in the US led to drastic spikes in online activity. From our analysis, not only did the brand’s site traffic spike more than 800 percent but clicks to where consumers could find a dealership increased by nearly 600 percent. In contrast, traffic to dealership pages only increased by 33 percent on average.

On the flip side, Audi’s ad spot had mixed reviews. Cuebiq found that foot traffic increased the most week-over-week for Audi, by about 7 percent, but despite this increase in foot traffic, Jumpshot found that online traffic didn’t quite correlate. While Audi saw a 35 percent increase in Google searches following its Super Bowl ads, traffic to the company’s “Find a Dealership” page decreased by 35 percent — a possible result of #BoycottAudi. Furthermore, Buick and Ford had similar, albeit more drastic drops in traffic. After Buick and Ford’s Super Bowl ad, overall site traffic decreased by 16 and 9 percent, respectively.

While the auto industry didn’t see drastic changes in in-person consumer behavior following the Super Bowl, Cuebiq found that quick service restaurants did. Case in point: 1 in 10 Americans ate at a McDonald’s the week after the Super Bowl — up almost 10 percent week-over-week. This increase in foot traffic makes it easier for marketers to quantify the ROI on Super Bowl investments, but for auto brands, the ROI may be more subjective. Audi’s 35 percent increase in Google searches shows that consumers might have been interested in the ad, but its conversion success was minimal.

As ROI-driven marketers are pitted against their brand-focused counterparts, the debate over Super Bowl ad value will continue to thrive. Brand awareness is the overall benefit of participating, but quantifying the ROI is more challenging, especially when automotive brands like Alfa Romeo, Audi and Buick performed drastically different than one another.

If you’re interested, you can read the full analysis here.

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