Social Issues Lead Super Bowl Advertising Online Buzz

Social Issues Lead Super Bowl Advertising Online Buzz

Ads for social advocacy issues planned for the Super Bowl are generating more marketing buzz than traditional brands in the lead up to the game, according to an analysis released today by The Nielsen Company. Ads for the pro-life organization “Focus on the Family” featuring college football star Tim Tebow and gay dating site ManCrunch earned some of the most pre-game buzz for their controversial subject matters.



“Focus on the Family” earned 33.4% of total Super Bowl buzz in a two-month period ending January 31st. ManCrunch achieved 6% of the total online buzz in that time, even though its commercial will not air during the Super Bowl after CBS declined to run it. Similarly, Pepsi is the second most discussed advertiser associated with the Super Bowl in the last two months, despite company plans to not advertise the brand during this year’s game.

“The early buzz data makes one thing clear — controversy drives conversation,” said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of digital strategy at The Nielsen Company. “Both the anti-abortion ad and the gay-themed ad have triggered significant levels of conversation. Other advertisers looking to drive buzz on top of their ads may need to work a bit harder to navigate around the controversial content.”

Even though the “Focus on the Family” ad has earned the most online buzz, 75% of it is not directly linked to the organization. Consumers instead often refer to it as the “Tim Tebow ad” or the “Tim Tebow pro-life ad” without directly mentioning “Focus on the Family.”

The emergence of hot-button social issues alters the landscape of where Super Bowl marketing is discussed. While online sports communities remain a force in the Super Bowl marketing dialogue, political message boards are driving 21% of the buzz.


There’s a reason why products, brands, and issues associated with the Super Bowl generate so much hype. According to Nielsen’s historical data, ten Super Bowls rank among the 20 highest rated U.S. broadcasts since 1961. Meanwhile, the top 50 sports broadcasts of all time include 40 Super Bowls – meaning only three of the game’s telecasts do not make the list.

Last year’s game was the most viewed Super Bowl ever with an average of 98.7 million viewers. It was the fourth consecutive year of overall viewership growth since Super Bowl XXXIX was viewed by 86.1 million in 2005. The trend is also clear when broken down by men and women.