Why Taking A Gamble At The Super Bowl Can Really Pay Off

Just over 98 million viewers tuned into last year’s Super Bowl live broadcast last year — the fewest in 11 years.

The game, which saw the New England Patriots beat the LA Rams 13-3, was heavily criticised by many fans for being too defensive, with neither team taking any chances.

These risk-averse strategies were not just limited to the playing field, with the majority of Super Bowl advertisers also playing it safe with their content, which was reflected in various marketing stats.

Unruly tested last year’s crop of ads using its UnrulyEQ testing tool and found that overall Super Bowl 2019 failed to reach the level of performance of some recent Super Bowls.

For example, when compared to the 2016 Super Bowl, 38% of viewers overall said they would share 2019s Super Bowl ads compared to 40% in 2016, while 41% said they wanted to find out more after viewing the ads compared to 43% in 2016. And 42% were willing to make a purchase off the back of the ads, down 5% compared to 47% in 2016.

However, Super Bowl 2019 was a slight improvement on the previous year, with Super Bowl 2018 scoring 37% for shareability, 35% for finding out more and 38% for purchase intent.

2019s ads were also unremarkable on an emotional level compared to the past four years we’ve been testing Super Bowl ads using UnrulyEQ. The only emotion that scored highly was Hilarity, with 11% of viewers stating they laughed at the ads, just a 1% increase on 2018.

One of the few ads that did take a risk was Microsoft’s ‘We All Win’, which showcased its gaming console’s Adaptive Controller, designed to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility.

This spot is the most emotionally engaging Super Bowl ad we’ve ever tested. Forty-two percent of respondents felt inspired by the ad, a huge increase on the US average of 10%, while 35% said the ad made them happy, again much higher than the US norm of 13%. Feelings of warmth (35%) while watching the creative were also a lot higher than the US norm of 8%.

This translated into powerful business metrics, with the ad dominating the top of last year’s charts in brand favorability (68% compared to a US norm of 39%) and brand recall (72% compared to a 61% US norm).
The second most emotionally engaging ad from last year’s Super Bowl behind Microsoft was Google’s 100 Billion Words.

Like Microsoft, Google took a risk with its 2019 Super Bowl ad by not going down the traditional Super Bowl ad approach of trying to make people laugh. Instead, they chose to take audiences on an emotional journey around the world to showcase the translation services offered through Google Assistant.

The ad scored a huge 90% for credibility and authenticity, and 88% for relatability, indicating viewers felt the ad rang true to their experiences and perceptions of Google’s translation software.

The campaign also scored highly for brand recall (76%), most likely due to the use of both audio and visual branding, combined with the familiarity of the brand and lingering on the end-screen to allow viewers to ensure a strong link back to the brand.

As previously stated, the ad evoked an intense emotional response among viewers (47%), well above the US norm (31%).

The emotional response was led by feelings of warmth (26%), happiness (25%) and inspiration (24%), all above the respective US norms.

The high levels of warmth and happiness were most likely related to the ad featuring a number of relationships and human connections throughout the ad. Meanwhile, inspiration was likely dually fuelled not only by the narrator telling an inspirational story of the power of words but also by the ad depicting a wide range of ways in which you can use Google Translate, which viewers might not have been aware of previously.

With Super Bowl 2020 on the horizon, it’s going to be interesting to see which brands choose to take a risk this year and whether it pays off.

We will be running the biggest ads of this year’s Super Bowl through our emotional targeting and testing tool UnrulyEQ to see which ones come out on top. Sign up here to receive our Super Bowl LIV insights right in your inbox.