11 Metrics on Super Bowl 51 Commercials

Sarah Steimer and Hal Conick
AMA Podcast
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Key Takeaways

What? The Super Bowl is the largest advertising event of the year.

So what? Brands made political statements and paid big bucks for extra air time during the first ever overtime.

Now what? Ads perceived as "bad" by viewers have a more significant impact on purchase decision than ads deemed "good," according to an Adweek survey. Advertisers must carefully weigh the ROI on Super Bowl spots, both pot-stirringly bold and forgettably timid.

​Feb. 6, 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Forgettable

Super Bowl LI has come and gone.

And while we come away from the best-ever big game knowing that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are both GOATs at their jobs, the commercials were a mixed bag. 

You watched the game, now see the data. Here are the top 11 metrics that describe Super Bowl 51’s commercial lineup. 

Watch every commercial that aired on Super Bowl Sunday.

Don't forget to:

1. Top hashtag: 27.6 million mentions

The most tweeted hashtag didn’t belong to a brand, but the league itself. According to Twitter, conversation in the #SB51 tweet received 27.6 million mentions during the day of the Super Bowl from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST.

Brands may want to take note, as creative (and don’t forget legal) use of the Super Bowl’s official hashtag may be a key to success on game day.

2. Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ the Most-discussed In-game Ad

While the Super Bowl’s official hashtag clearly dominated the discussion on Twitter, a Netflix show dominated discussion among game-day ads. Social media measurement company Amobee reports, per the New York Post, that between 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST, Netflix’s “Stranger Things” ad drew 307,000 tweets.


 Stranger Things 2


Other notable brands during the game included:

Tweets by Brand

3. Lady Gaga, Tiffany and Einstein

Prior to Lady Gaga’s halftime performance, Tiffany and Co. jumped back into TV with their spot featuring Lady Gaga talking about her rebellious side and Genius, the upcoming Nat Geo series, featured a Lady Gaga song.

Both of these brands may be able to ride the Lady Gaga wave. The word “Gaga” received 41,000 tweets per minute during her performance, Forbes reports, with Twitter adding the end of her performance was the second most-tweeted moment of the game. Fox’s media stats also show that 396,000 people per minute were discussing Lady Gaga during the performance.

Twitter reports the moment after Lady Gaga’s performance was the second-most active time of the game.

4. Pepsi Tops Twitter Across the Entire Day

Pepsi won Twitter across all of game day, as it was mentioned more often than any other brand during the course of Super Bowl Sunday. One of Pepsi’s in-game tweets, which featured Lady Gaga, received more than 4,500 retweets.


 Pepsi Tweet


The top 10 Super Bowl brands ranked by Twitter activity:

1. Pepsi

6. Audi

2. T-Mobile

7. Skittles

3. Avocados from Mexico

8. 84 Lumber

4. Budweiser

9. Doritos

5. Mr. Clean

10. Intel

5. Two-thirds of Mentions, Five Brands

Social media tracking company Brandwatch tracked 630,000 mentions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Almost two-thirds went to five brands.

Numbers broke down as follows:

6. Controversy Crashes 84 Lumber’s Website

A brand you may not have recognized on either of the previous lists—84 Lumber, a building supplies company—actually got so much attention from its commercial that the company website crashed.


 84 Lumber - 'The Entire Journey'


The Fox network allegedly refused to air the second half of the company’s commercial for being “too controversial,” as it featured a shot of a border wall, a culturally and politically divisive visual. The company pointed people to their website to watch the rest of the spot, but it was able to tweet a YouTube link to the commercial, which received nearly 16,000 retweets and 29,000 likes. 

7. Boycott Bowl Commercials

Courting controversy, as 84 Lumber did, may mean a lot of views and retweets, but it could also mean a boycott from disapproving fans. Many Trump supporters across social media called for the boycott of 84 Lumber.

CNN Money reported at least six brands that came under fire, including Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Kia and Tiffany. Also landing itself in the sights of boycotters was Budweiser. The company’s Super Bowl commercial focused on immigration, focusing on company founder Adolphus Busch, an immigrant himself. Many voiced disapproval on Twitter under the misspelled hashtag #BoycottBudwiser; many others took the time to note they would be drinking a Budweiser.

“It’s always risky to take on what could be perceived as a political position,” Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School, told CBS’ Moneywatch. What was interesting was how those advertisers tried to avoid taking a stand, even as they went out and talked about very hot topics.”

8. Grading the Ads, from A to D

No ad was bad enough to earn an F this year, but a panel from the Kellogg School ranked which ads received As and which were bad enough to deserve a D. Criteria was based on positioning, distinction and attention.

This year’s A-team includes:

While the D-team features:

Mr. Clean






Google Home

84 Lumber


American Petroleum Institute


World of Tanks



9. Ratings Down, Still Best-Ever for Fox

Overnight ratings for the game, per Nielsen, were 48.8, down from last year’s 49.0 ratings and the prior year’s rating of 49.7. Even so, Fox called this Super Bowl their best ever metered market rating.

This 48.8 rating was taken from 56 U.S. markets, according to CNN Media. A rating of 48.8 means 48.8% of households in these markets tuned into the Super Bowl.

While total numbers are still unknown, last year’s rating of 49 brought in 111.9 million viewers, the third most-watched broadcast in U.S. television history.

10. Social Numbers Massive, but Not Best Ever

Although the numbers of mentions and interactions on social media were downright gaudy, they were not record breaking. TechCrunch reports that although Facebook had 64 million people posting 240 million interactions, an increase from last year, it didn’t quite reach the level of 2015, when there were 65 million people posting 265 million engagements.

Twitter was similarly down from its record of 28.4 million tweets in 2015. Still, there were 27.6 million tweets posted during the live telecast.

Two reasons Techcrunch gave for the inability to break the record was the NFL’s drop in popularity this year and other social media sites eating into users’ time. Facebook-owned Instagram, for example, saw 44 million people have 150 million reactions during the game.

Snapchat, which has yet to release viewership numbers, may have also stolen time from Twitter and Facebook. The site had its own official Super Bowl sponsor—including Amazon, Budweiser, Marriott and Pepsi–and passed Twitter in usage earlier this year, per Bloomberg.

11. Extra Time? Extra $20 Million

Fox has more to celebrate than just best-ever ratings. Adweek reported that the first-ever overtime period in Super Bowl history meant an extra $20 million of ad revenue for the network. A network executive called this the “highest revenue day in Fox history.”

What did overtime mean for the ads? Even with the overtime quickly ending, Fox was able to air four additional spots, two of which had already aired and two which had not, Adweek reports. The company had negotiated deals with these companies to air their commercials in case of an overtime period.

It is not known whether these companies paid more than the approximately $5 million other businesses were paying for advertisements during the game.

Answers in Action Podcast: Final (Informal) Thoughts

Managing editor Michelle Markelz and staff writer Zach Brooke join host Sarah Steimer to recap the themes (cough, immigration, cough), and list their choices for advertising hits and misses of the evening.

Included are in-depth reviews of Mr. Clean’s “Cleaner of Your Dreams” by Leo Burnett Toronto, 84 Lumber’s “The Journey Begins” by Brunner, Audi’s “Daughter” by Venables Bell & Partners, Michelob Ultra’s “Our Bar” by FCB Chicago, Honda’s “Yearbooks” by RPA and many others.

Be sure to check out previous episodes here.


 Episode No. 5


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Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer and Hal Conick
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at ssteimer@ama.org or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer. Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at hconick@ama.org or on Twitter at @HalConick.
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