The Super Bowl Ads Winners and Losers: What Does the Data Say?

Sunday’s Super Bowl itself, the lowest scoring in history, was perhaps one for the purists. And the half time show wasn’t a crowd-pleaser either – the official YouTube video currently has 600,000 dislikes to 77,000 likes. But how did the third pillar of America’s biggest sports event, the Super Bowl ads, fare?

Everyone will have their personal highlights and lowlights of the ad breaks, but what does the data say about which ads were best received by the millions watching, and which caught the most attention? VAN spoke with some of those tracking the data behind the ads the find out.

Favourability and Memorability (Alphonso/Survata)
TV measurement company Alphonso found The Washington Post’s ‘Knowing Keeps Us Free’ was the most watched spot during the live broadcast, airing just as viewership peaked. T-Mobile, Girls Inc., CBS and Michelob Ultra all came in joint second.

Alphonso also worked with brand intelligence platform Survata to measure brand favourability and memorability via real-time surveys.

Bud Light topped the charts for memorability for its Game of Thrones and Trojan Horse spots, scoring 3.09 out of a possible five. Pepsi followed in second with a score of 2.89 for its series of “More than OK” ads, while M&M’s came third with its “Bad Passengers” ad scoring 2.69.

For favourability, again ranked out of five, Amazon’s Alexa ad and the M&M’s spot tied for top place, scoring 3.13. Google came close behind in second, 3.09 each.

Views, Likes and Dislike (YouTube)
YouTube measured how audiences engaged with Super Bowl ads on its own platform. YouTube says it’s increasingly common for audiences to track down their favourite ads from the Super Bowl on YouTube after they’re aired – the company said that viewership of Super Bowl ads on YouTube during the game rose 58 percent compared to last year.

The most watched ad on YouTube on game day itself was Verizon’s ‘The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here’ spot – though the ad has had a mixed reception. It’s currently has nearly 16 million views on YouTube, but has 7,800 dislikes, compared to 12,000 likes.

Amazon’s ad was the second most watched on YouTube on Sunday, with Jeep, Hyundai and Microsoft rounding out the top five.

Purposeful vs Non-Purposeful (Sprinklr)
Sprinklr mapped out how fans reacted to the ads on Twitter specifically, but also looked at the difference between “purpose-driven ads” and standard spots. Sprinklr used the World Advertising Research Centre’s (WARC’s) definition of purpose as “a reason to exist beyond making profit”, combining “the ambitions and beliefs that motivate the organisation and the changes that it wants to make in the world”.

Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller ad, which featured kids with disabilities talking about how the specially designed controllers allowed them to play with their friends, was the most talked about purpose-driven ad.

Microsoft was mentioned over 8,500 times on Twitter between 5.30-10.15 ET, with 1,866 of these mentions explicitly positive. Verizon and Google rounded out the top three, picking up 1,063 and 858 mentions respectively.

But it was non purpose-driven ads which dominated the conversation, and Bud Light was the most talked about brand on Twitter. Bud Light was mentioned over 19,400 during the time period, massively ahead of the next most discussed non-purpose driven ad for Doritos, which picked up 6,340 mentions.

Microsoft’s spot did however get the highest positive sentiment on Twitter out of any Super Bowl commercial. Avocados from Mexico was next, receiving 1,434 positive mentions, while Bud Light got 1,274 positive mentions.

Social Media Engagement (Brandwatch)
Brandwatch measured how fans reacted on social media immediately after they aired, tracking impressions between 6pm-10.15pm EST.

Bud Light’s Game of Thrones crossover ad was one of the top performers. Bud light was mentioned 57,000 times across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit during the time frame, the most of any brand, and comfortably ahead of second-place which was the NFL itself, attracting 45,000 mentions. Bud Light also triggered the biggest ‘conversation spike’ immediately after its ad, picking up 1,900 mentions in the minute just after it aired.

“If there is any question as to which ad was the most discussed of the evening, Bud Light and Game of Thrones see their Twitter handles in the top three of the most-mentioned handles,” said a Brandwatch spokesperson.

But Avocados from Mexico, a Super Bowl staple, got the most positive reception by Brandwatch’s metrics. Ninety-seven percent of the brand’s mentions were categorised as positive by Brandwatch, with the NFL coming in second with 94 percent positive mentions.

The three most negatively discussed were TurboTax with 80.5 percent negative mentions, Stella Artois with 71 percent negative, and Mint Mobile with 65 percent negative. That’s not necessarily to say these ads performed badly – audiences felt TurboTax’s robo-child was “creepy” and were grossed out by Mint Mobile’s mention of “chunky milk”, and these reactions were both probably intended by the brands (certainly in the latter case, as the gross out factor was the theme of the ad).

Emotional Engagement (Realeyes)
Emotional engagement measurement business Realeyes tracked emotional responses to all the Super Bowl ads, monitoring the facial expressions of 1,300 US consumers via webcam and using AI to judge how strongly they responded. Realeyes did not measure specifically whether these emotional responses were good or bad, but rather which were most powerful.

The M&M’s commercial was found to be most engaging, scoring 9.72 out of 10 for emotional impact and level of attention. Bubly’s “Michael Bublé vs Bubly” spot came second, scoring 9.68, while Mint Mobile and Dietz & Watson came joint third with a score of 9.66.


Interestingly, a couple of ad which scored well elsewhere didn’t perform so well by Realeyes’ metrics – both Amazon and Google failed to make the top twenty. Bumble’s ‘The Ball is in Her Court‘ ad, which featured tennis star Serena Williams, ranked last.

Social Distribution (BrandTotal)
BrandTotal tracked the ads’ reception across social media, while also mapping out how they were targeted and distributed on different social platforms.

BrandTotal found Budweiser’s ‘Wind Never Felt Better’ campaign to be the “pregame winner”, scoring well in terms of audience sentiment towards the ad. Forty-two percent of mentions were positive, and 21 percent were neutral according to BrandTotal (which might seem low, but was still the highest of those BrandTotal tracked).

Amazon and Stella Artois meanwhile were most successful in creating viral ads that were widely shared by audiences over social media. Stella’s spot managed an organic viral score on Facebook of 97.94 percent, meaning 97 percent of impressions came from users posting the ad on their timelines, rather than paid placements. Amazon meanwhile achieved an organic viral score of 84.38 percent.

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