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Winning the first Sunday in February: Your guide to the Big Game in 2020

Allan Stormon
Senior Content Marketing Manager

The Super Bowl—or the Big Game for those who aren't official sponsors—remains one of the key media buying events of the year for marketers. With people tuning in from all over the world for the on-field action and halftime glitz, advertisers are expected to pour in hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure their brands get a share of the limelight. In addition to the highly publicized commercials on broadcast television, digital also plays a significant role before, during, and after the game when the conversation moves online. Whichever way you look at it, the final NFL game of the season is a frenzy of marketing activity, and it’s never been harder to reach audiences in the moments that matter.

Whether you need last-minute optimization tips or you’re still adding the final touches to campaigns, in this post, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about this year's event and reveal 2 audience strategies to aid advertising performance.


Declining TV viewership, yet still dominant

Despite attracting its lowest TV audience in more than a decade, the number of people who watched the game in 2019 reached 98.2 million, according to Nielsen. Nielsen also estimates that the event generated more than 32 million interactions online. It’s not surprising that the Big Game attracts unrivaled levels of attention from consumers online and offline; and while TV viewership is decreasing, it still represents a significant opportunity for brands and advertisers to cash in.


How it compares to other sporting events online

The Big Game ranks as the biggest and most popular sporting event with online users. We conducted a bespoke contextual analysis of major-league sporting events over a 52-week period and discovered that the Big Game was the event that generated the most engagement online. Given these high levels of engagement, brands and advertisers across multiple verticals can capitalize on the ensuing moments of consumer intent that occur in the lead-up to the game and on game day.


The Big Game ranks as the most popular sporting event in North America based on page categorizations.


Consumers plan to spend approximately $81 on their Super Bowl experience.

There are multiple ways in which football fans spend their money in preparation for the big day. The important thing for marketers to remember is that consumers go into this event with a willingness to spend money with the hope of maximizing enjoyment. The National Retail Federation estimates $81 per person is spent on the event, with the most common purchases being made on snacks, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, and pizza. This represents an opportunity for brands in the CPG industry to capitalize on moments of intent. There will also be ample opportunity for retail, food, and leisure brands to insert themselves into the shopping mission with relevant products and advertising.


People are interested in more than just the game

A significant portion of the popularity around the first Sunday in February relates to the ads that air during commercial breaks. The widespread interest in these commercials is why a 30-second ad spot during the game costs an eye-popping $5.6 million.

The fact that this event transcends football and sports fans, drawing in audiences with varied interests and backgrounds, is what makes it such a lucrative event for advertisers—the widespread attention around this event is unrivaled. Whether they’re casual sports fans, attending a game-day party to spend time with friends, just waiting to see the commercials, or tuning in simply because it’s a once-a-year event, the diverse audience is a gold mine for advertisers across industry verticals.


Social media is where the commercials thrive

Despite being the most expensive commercial spot on television, a large number of people watch the ads online via social media before and after the game. This can be considered good news for advertisers who get more return for their investment through extended reach and increased awareness. If the commercial is particularly popular and goes viral on social media, so much the better. Of the various social media channels, Facebook wins as the preferred channel for watching the ads before or after the game, followed by YouTube.


Using purchase-based and context-based audiences for better digital campaigns

The Big Game is a uniquely American event that attracts everyone from the die-hard, jersey-wearing football fan to the casual observer more interested in the famous halftime performances. The key to a winning Super Bowl campaign is considering all the adjacent consumer missions that are related to the event, beyond the game itself.

For example, consider the effort that people will go to in order to plan, organize, and attend game-day parties. This party-planning mission will draw in a diverse set of consumers—from avid sports fans to casual observers. And within this party-planning mission is a multitude of smaller consumer missions that will likely take place online and offline in the week before game day, such as cooking and recipe research. The point is, the Big Game is more than a sporting event—it draws a diverse audience with equally diverse interests. Therefore, your digital strategy needs to be set up to capture all these consumers and interests.


Let’s focus on one of the major consumer missions that emerges around the Big Game: food.


Your context-based audience strategy

Activate segment: gs_predicts_superbowl

Food ranks as the #2 domain category among pages categorized around the Big Game. This means that there’s a significant portion of football-related content being categorized on food and recipe sites. We can assume that this is because of the interest around game-day snacking and party planning.

To capitalize on this mission, activate gs_predicts_superbowl. This context segment covers the multitude of consumer missions occurring around the Big Game, including food and recipe research. In addition, the keywords within the segment are updated automatically based on engagement online, so if any unexpected content trends emerge, activating this segment will ensure you can secure the corresponding inventory associated with that content before CPMs get too expensive.


Your purchase-based audience strategy

Activate segment: Oracle football fans audience

Continuing on the food mission, in the week before the game, certain snacks see a substantial increase in sales compared to the 52-week average. Here are the top-5 categories that see a sales increase during this time. While chips and crackers at a total category level don’t realize a significant sales increase, products that specifically pair well with dips see a 66% increase in sales. Frozen appetizers, pizza, dips, and popcorn round out the top 5.


Connecting your brand message with football fans, at scale

No matter which teams make it to the final Sunday of the season, this year’s event will stir up a frenzy of online and offline buzz. Cutting through the noise and reaching viewers with relevant advertising at moments of high intent is paramount to ensuring your campaigns succeed. Use the above strategy recommendations and insights to meet your KPIs and deliver on your clients’ goals.


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