The Edge: Competitive Edge Blog

Super Bowl Branding: Show Us The Numbers

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In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, it’s hard to miss the hype. It goes far beyond the game to the half time show, the commercials, the merchandise, and especially the eye-popping costs for anyone involved.

Lots of hype means lots of money changing hands. It’s one thing when the cheapest ticket 72 hours before game time is $8,000, or when a 30 second commercial costs $4.5 million, both of which are records. It’s quite another when the money being spent comes from the taxpayers. The need to show a return on that investment directly benefitting the community is paramount.

Determining the Super Bowl’s ROI has proved to be elusive, and that’s a problem.

The Super Bowl is the world’s biggest single branding opportunity from a standpoint of sheer volume of visibility. In one of the most recent attempts to quantify the benefits, research firm YouGov BrandIndex suggests last year’s Super Bowl advertisers enjoyed a lift in “positive buzz” no longer than two weeks after the game. “Buzz” then presumably returned to whatever was considered normal. YouGov BrandIndex defines “positive buzz” based on a survey asking people whether they remember certain ads, and whether they had a positive, neutral, or negative impression.

Everyone wants to justify they are spending to promote themselves, their product or, in the case of the host city, their town. “Results” aren’t really results unless they are measurable. The effect of advertising, and marketing in general, is almost never quantifiable. But if a company chooses to throw several million dollars at Super Bowl ads, it has to answer to shareholders.

However, if a city decides to spend hundreds of millions on facilities, infrastructure and services in order to host a Super Bowl, it has to answer to the taxpayers. Here the stakes are a lot higher than a GoDaddy ad that blows up.

Part of the equation when it comes to cities is whether they make out in terms of public perception. You see, host cities likely break even at best on the actual game, but hosting the Super Bowl is often justified as beneficial because of the eyeballs trained on the city. Mayor Jerry Weiers of Glendale, Arizona, where this year’s game will be played, believes having the city’s name in front of hundreds of millions of people will help. The Mayor is only partially correct. It’s not the name as much as it is the good visuals that accompany it.

How do I know? Competitive Edge Communication & Research has been quantifying the effect of the Super Bowl on host cities for more than a decade with its annual national research survey. Sometimes hosting the game does improve perceptions, sometimes it doesn’t and other times it hurts (see Arlington, Texas, and Miami, Florida).

Consider a host city’s time, effort and, yes, taxpayer money, as an investment not only in the hope of hard visitor dollars, but also in generally raising the city’s profile. Competitive Edge can measure that. Wouldn’t you want to know the odds of achieving positive ROI before making such a big commitment?

The results of our annual Competitive Edge Super Bowl Survey will be released for the city of Glendale, Arizona on February 5. Stay tuned.

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