Super Bowl Sunday is first and foremost about the two teams facing off for football supremacy. Coming in a close second? The advertising, of course, which at $3.5 million per 30-second pop isn’t a game so much as serious business. Trying to figure out which brands will come out on top is almost as hard as picking the winning team on the field.
But after the fact, the ad game becomes much clearer—pair Betty White and Abe Vigoda with a bunch of young guys playing pickup football, as Snickers did in 2010, and you’ve got an instant classic. Kill a poor defenseless dandelion, as weed-killer Roundup did, also in 2010, and you’ve got an instant dud.
To find the most effective Super Bowl advertisements—for the third year in a row—we started by accounting for the USA Today Ad Meter rankings for 2005-2011. An ad’s likability is the first step toward customers parting with their hard-earned cash. Then we compared the share price of the parent company for the Friday before the Super Bowl with the average price the month after, modeled after a study (PDF) that found a correlation between Super Bowl ads and share prices. (The majority of Super Bowl advertisers are owned by public companies; the median share price change was applied to privately-owned companies.) Then, we factored in mentions of the product in major U.S. newspapers and on cable news stations for the month before and after the ad aired. Finally, we included scores from the annual Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review, which evaluates each brand based on marketing criteria that try to translate branding into sales. All factors were weighted equally.
Overall, the 2011 Super Bowl ads were a big bust (compared with past years, anyway), with only one ad from last year’s big game cracking the top 20, and one landing in the bottom three. Let’s hope this year advertisers bring as much game as the New York Giants and the New England Patriots will.