(Note: this is a longish one, but you’ll be able to read it in 20 percent of the time it would take you to heat up more Totino’s Pizza Rolls.*)
Personally, I don’t care much for football; my significant other is the one who knows the difference between the shotgun and pistol formations and what DVOA means. (FYI, the last half of that sentence was supplied by said S.O., who is currently writing a book on the subject.)
I do, however, enjoy the cheesy grandeur of half-time shows, and the gossipy fun of deconstructing the latest commercials. But the analyst in me also thinks about how I would evaluate the opportunity were I a digital marketer, and what answers I would be working on if I were a marketing analyst. So in that spirit, here’s what I want to know about Super Bowl XLIX.
1. Have recent discussions about traumatic brain injury (TBI), Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and #deflategate had any impact on online conversation on game day? To what extent did the hit Julian Edelman took late in the fourth quarter reignite this conversation?
I’d want to know if these themes were present, and in what numbers. If I were the NFL, beyond wanting to know viewership trends, I’d want to know topic drivers: what is driving positive and negative sentiment. Is there any evidence that social conversation is a leading indicator of a turning tide and reduced revenue in the future?*
One corollary to this question: did the fact that this was expected to be a great game affect the tone of the conversation in a way that we can detect?
Thought experiment: can we figure out whether there is something like a “great game” dividend that changes the direction of online conversation?
2. What were the most discussed themes about the game?
Crimson Hexagon and Offerpop posted an infographic with some good stats, but let’s drill down a bit further. What did people talk about, other than the expected play-by-play, shouts of joy or groans of misery? What did they say about the commercials they loved and hated? The teams they loved and hated? What about the fight that broke out in the last moments of the game?
The infographic reported 460,000 social posts for the Patriots versus 360,000 for the Seahawks. But what did the delta mean? Does that count as a “win dividend” or geographic reality, or is something else at play? To understand that, you’d have to “day-part” the data to see when the preponderance of posts occurred. That would be good to know for next year. What are the drivers of conversation, and how can we leverage them next time?
3. What was different this year from a marketing point of view?
If I were a marketer, I’d want to know the big trends (not just talking ad content here). The biggest one I saw on the Crimson/Offerpop infographic was that 56 out of 90 commercials included a hashtag or call to action (CTA) of some kind.
[Brief pause while we digest that. Ninety commercials?!?]
I don’t have figures for last year, but wow. It suggests a trend toward more measurability for commercials and other forms of content, wherever they reside. Today, brands that ran ads during the Super Bowl are feverishly working to understand the results of those CTAs: clicks, downloads, promotion redemptions, conversation volume, conversions (for products that are direct to consumer). It’s complex to quantify, but that’s why Rebecca Lieb, Jess Groopman and I are working on a content measurement report set to publish later this quarter.
4. Was the Nationwide commercial successful? How do we know?
I can imagine there are buckets of TUMS® being passed around at Nationwide today. They took a huge risk on that commercial. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s of a young boy narrating all the things he won’t be able to do, because he died in a preventable home accident.)
If I were analyzing conversation about this commercial, I’d want to be extremely meticulous about separating negative emotions about the content from negative emotions toward Nationwide overall. It’s not enough to do a straight “positive/negative/neutral” analysis. I want to know whether people are talking about whether it affected their intention to do business with the company.
Given the topic, I’d seriously question the veracity of any conversation tagged “neutral.” More likely it’s mixed, as in “I don’t know [whether] to love or hate the nationwide ad” (actual Tweet). A Brandwatch blog post today argued that part of the backlash was due to the fact that financial services companies tend to suffer from negative sentiment to begin with, and that the context of the ad (during the Superbowl, a happy time) played a part in the backlash.
I’m not sure I agree with that argument, but I definitely want to know whether we can learn from topic drivers whether the commercial affected trust in the brand. To what extent was Nationwide lauded for the risk, versus criticized for its scare tactics? This could also have been exacerbated by the fact that so many of the commercials this year (Coke, McDonald’s, Nissan) were sentimental and family-focused.
5. What can we learn about the impact of celebrity presence in Super Bowl ads? Is the celebrity dividend shifting? (I’m looking at you, Liam Neeson.]
To do this, I’d want to see viewership, sharing behavior and conversation drivers for commercials featuring a celebrity (or a certain celebrity) versus those featuring unknowns. And, although you’d never get access to this data industry wide, you have to wonder whether ads with celebrities have higher conversion on CTA than those without.
There are so many more questions to ask, and I’m sure many of you are asking them. If you have good ones, leave them in the comments, and we’ll link to any best practices we find.
*Totino’s had no idea I would write this, and did not compensate me in any way.
**TBH, I doubt it, but I’d want to look at it anyway.