The word fan comes from the word fanatic, meaning an enthusiastic devotee, usually as a spectator. And on Sunday, February 13, there will be inspiring moments both on the field and on screen—for fans around the globe to experience.
Not surprisingly, the NFL is the most popular sports league among Americans; 92 of the top 100 most watched telecasts in 2021 were either live NFL games or NFL studio programming. What is surprising, however, is that the two teams headed to Super Bowl LVI rank 27 and 29 (in terms of the number of fans) among the 32 teams in the NFL. But we know it takes a lot more than a fanbase to get to the big game. That said, these two teams have the opportunity to gain some new fans amid the season-ending hype. While this is a tale of two teams, it’s also an epic matchup of two dynamic quarterbacks and their conference-winning teams.
First, we have the Cincinnati Bengals: an “against all odds” team with an offensive Rookie of the Year wideout, an All-Pro running back and a defensive line–with two of the NFL’s sack leaders–all guided by a Joe Cool quarterback versus the Los Angeles Rams: a team formed through a compilation of coincidences; garnering an outstanding quarterback, supported by a defensive lineup of superstars and a wide receiver—coincidentally from the other Ohio NFL team, the Cleveland Browns. Add another coincidence to the list for this Rams team: they will play with a home-field advantage, as the league determined the game would be played at SoFi Stadium well before the 2021-22 season began.
Fandom growing outside the U.S.
And this Super Bowl experience for fans is going to be exciting everywhere—with NFL.com touting the 2022 ways to watch the Super Bowl across countries and languages. While the NFL is historically an “American” sport, it does have a very large global fanbase, with fandom growing globally through its international games in Mexico and the U.K.
In the U.S. alone, sports programming accounted for 98% of the most-viewed programs across broadcast and 72% of the most-viewed programs on cable television between January and September 2021, with last year’s Super Bowl LV accounting for 20.3 billion minutes viewed. Despite both teams’ rank in fanbases, the NFL is still the most popular sport in both Cincinnati and Los Angeles, with interest levels the highest for the NFL in both markets, trailed only by Major League Baseball.
Is it really about the game–or the ads?
With the NFL enjoying a big increase in regular season TV viewership, the Super Bowl LVI ad game got off to an early start this year, and the final handful of ad units available were sold just last week, securing as much as $7 million for 30-second spots.
As brands seek ways to establish deeper, more personalized connections with consumers, awareness and engagement remain paramount. Now, given the wealth of information known about consumers, marketers can do more. In a recent interview with Forbes, Nielsen CMCO Jamie Moldafsky highlighted how consumers increasingly expect brands to understand them better, including their shopping behaviors, attitudes, needs and interests. With that data in hand, brands can put consumers at the center of their strategies and campaigns to create experiences that matter. Importantly, marketers must be more focused than ever on their target market, desired behaviors and a real-time insight. And while many people focus on the on-field action of the Super Bowl, many think of the ads.
Let’s take a look at some of the highest spending brand categories during the 2021 NFL regular season and see how they compare to purchase habits of Super Bowl watchers.
The automotive category spent nearly $1 billion on ad spots during NFL games and pre/post game shows across factories, dealerships, dealership associations, and automotive accessories–putting autos as the top brand category in terms of ad spend in the 2021 regular season. That spend will play well among the 19.5 million Super Bowl watchers who plan to get a vehicle in the next 12 months, per Nielsen Scarborough: 18.8% plan on getting a new/used/leased vehicle, 5% above the general population, and 43% of those plan on getting a new/used/leased vehicle.
Of those planning to buy a new vehicle, SUVs, pickup trucks, and midsize cars are the most popular among Super Bowl watchers:
- SUV: 40.1%
- Pickup truck: 26.5%
- Midsize car: 12.6%
While 7.5% of Bengals fans in Cincinnati plan to buy a new vehicle in the next 12 months, 46% of them plan to buy an SUV, followed by pickup trucks (21.2%) and midsize cars (15.8%). Of the 10% of Rams fans in Los Angeles who plan to buy a new vehicle in the next 12 months, 29% plan to buy an SUV, followed by hybrids/EVs (27%) and pickup trucks (25%).
Quick Service Restaurants
The restaurant category is one of the largest TV ad spenders across football programming—and is largely dominated by quick-service restaurants (QSRs). Super Bowl watchers and fans of both teams have a strong category fit with both QSRs and sit-down restaurants, as 89% of national Super Bowl watchers have used a QSR in the past 30 days. Bengals and Rams are bigger QSR fans than the general public:
- 94% of Rams fans have visited a QSR in the past 30 days
- 95% of Bengals fans have visited a QSR in the past 30 days
Despite the wide array of advertisements we see during the football season, alcohol spending is always high, with beer brands leading the charge.
Across cable TV, network TV, and spot TV during NFL pre-game, post-game, and in-game broadcasts in the 2021 regular season, there was an estimated ad spend of $201 million by the beer, wine and liquor category, per Nielsen Ad Intel. The alcohol category’s ad spend is dominated by beer brands; however, seltzer has cut into the market share. Approximately 73% of the spend ($148 million) beer brands account for, while 26% of the spend ($53 million) in the category is for hard seltzer brands.
- The Bengals fans in Cincinnati are drinking light beer, with approximately 36% having consumed a domestic light beer in the past 30 days.
- Alternatively, imported beer is the most popular beer category of Rams fans, with 41% of Rams having consumed an imported beer in the past 30 days.
- Super Bowl watchers are 22% more likely than gen pop to have consumed beer in the last 30 days.
As the two teams take the field on Sunday, fans around the world will be watching arguably one of the biggest sporting and cultural events of the year. For the unprepared, this means you still have time to buy your snacks and beer. And for those not interested in whether the Bengals or the Rams win the game, put on your “I’m only here for halftime show sweatshirt,” fire up social media and enjoy the power of creative storytelling through the ads.
The insights in this article were derived from:
- Nielsen Fan Insights
- Nielsen Scarborough January – July 2021 USA
- Nielsen Ad Intel
- Nielsen TV Ratings