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An Audio Playbook for the Big Game
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An Audio Playbook for the Big Game

By kickoff time on Sunday, football fans and casual observers everywhere will be settling in to watch or listen to what is an unrivaled broadcasting spectacle in American sporting culture. Yet for as widely appealing as the Super Bowl has become, there’s still nothing quite like the connection that fans have on the local level with their teams and the broadcasters that bring those exploits to life each week.

And in looking at this relationship through the lens of our portable people meter (PPM) data for Feb. 3, 2013, Nielsen found an interesting phenomenon that occurs each year in the hometowns of the two participating teams: the local radio audience tends to spike at different times than TV viewership does, specifically just before kickoff and immediately after the game ends.

In reviewing the data from last year’s Super Bowl XLVII, Ravens and 49ers fans really wanted to hear the perspectives of their local radio sportscasters and personalities in the moments leading up to the game, and then afterward to either commiserate the loss or celebrate the win with the same hosts they’re accustomed to hearing week in and week out.

In Baltimore, starting around 5 p.m.—90 minutes before kickoff—the radio audience to the flagship station broadcasting the game more than tripled (a 255% increase!), while the main sports station’s audience across town jumped 62 percent. Then, as soon as the game ended, the radio audiences spiked again: 326 percent for the flagship station and 65 percent for the sports station.

On the other side of the country in the Bay Area, the main sports station in San Francisco that was carrying the game followed a similar pattern: the audience grew by 55 percent for kickoff and 68 percent after the game concluded.

Whether it was to bask in the glory of Baltimore’s second championship in franchise history, or to wallow in despair following the 49ers’ first ever defeat in a Super Bowl, sports fans sought out and found that local connection on the radio on Super Bowl Sunday, just as they will this year in Denver and Seattle.