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Get on the Party Train: Super Bowl Fans Plan on Going Big this Year
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Get on the Party Train: Super Bowl Fans Plan on Going Big this Year

By James Russo, Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Insight, Nielsen

Few people have the luxury of taking in the Super Bowl in person, which makes the big game one of the biggest television events every year. It’s also one of the biggest occasions to throw a party. And this year, Americans aren’t holding back in terms of how and where they plan to relish the key matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.

And right out of the gate, consumers have vowed to step up their games this year, as a recent Nielsen survey found that 18 percent of fans say they plan to spend more money for the game this year than a year ago, up 9 percent from last year. And what’s more, fewer people say they’ll be spending less (13% this year vs. 15% in 2013).

The Super Bowl is clearly a big celebration for football buffs, but this year’s game appears poised to welcome in both the die-hard fans as well as host of new admirers alike. In fact, the recent survey found that the number of people who say they won’t be watching dropped to 18 percent from 29 percent last year. And in looking at how Americans plan to fill their bellies during the big matchup, trends have taken a turn back toward the traditional.

Compared with last year, when consumers clamored for healthier food and beverage options, this year’s party train is headed right though the snack aisle. Salty snacks and dips stayed in the top two spots among the items consumers plan to serve or eat at 45 and 43 percent, respectively, but a resurgence in consumers’ desire for pizza and buffalo wings knocked healthier options like veggies and cheese/cracker trays out of the top five options. Healthy snacks like granola and trail mix slipped out of favor even more, dropping all the way to the bottom—just one spot above the least-favored option: pasta.

BEER IS NO. 1 AGAIN

And to wash it all down, beer took the top spot for the beverage most likely to be served or consumed, closely followed by soda (carbonated beverages). Bottled or sparkling water remained in the third spot, but the percentage of consumers who said they were drinking or serving it fell to 30 percent from 35 percent a year ago.

TOP FOOD CHOICES – RANKED BY PREFERENCE

2013 2014
Salty snacks Salty snacks
Dips Dips
Vegetables Pizza
Cheese and crackers tray Buffalo wings
Appetizers/finger foods Appetizers/finger foods
Fresh fruit/fruit salad Cheese and crackers tray
Pizza Nachos
Sweets/desserts/candy Nuts
Buffalo wings Vegetables
Nuts Sweets/desserts/candy
Sandwiches/deli tray Sandwiches/deli tray
Meat (barbecued/grilled/roasted) Meat (barbecued/grilled/roasted)
Chili/soup Fresh fruit/fruit salad
Nachos Meatballs/sausages
Healthy snacks (granola, trail mix, chex mix, etc) Hamburgers/hot dogs
Meatballs/sausages Chili/soup
Hamburgers/hot dogs Seafood
Seafood Healthy snacks (granola, trail mix, chex mix, etc)
Pasta Pasta
Source: Nielsen

Where (and How) We Watch

While there’s no place like home when it comes to taking in the game, more people plan to venture out this year than last year. Seventeen percent of people say they plan to watch at a friend/family member’s house, up from 11 percent last year, and 3 percent plan to take the game in from a bar or restaurant, up from 1 percent a year ago.

And the other aspect about watching the game that’s different this year is exactly that—watching the game. It’s a digital world and the way consumers watch content—including the Super Bowl—are quickly changing. For the first time, this year’s big game will be streamed live on the Internet, giving fans a little more flexibility than they’ve had in the past.

That access will likely have an effect on how people tune in, particularly with respect to keeping tabs on the action across other devices while watching TV. Fourteen percent say they’ll also watch on a personal computer, 15 percent plan to also check in on their smartphones and 11 percent plan to keep their tablets on hand.

In addition to the flexibility that digital brings fans, it also opens new doors of engagement, especially when it comes to the commercials. Thirty-three percent say they plan to use social media during or after the game to comment on the commercials, almost double the amount last year (18%). What’s even more telling, however, is the percentage of people who say they definitively won’t use social media during or after the game (47% this year, down from 81% last year).