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A Data Dose of NFL, Ahead of the Big Game

We’re mere days away from what’s basically the biggest TV event of the year: Super Bowl LV. Leading up to kickoff, we took a look back at some recent viewership and advertising insights around NFL broadcasts, using data from iSpot.tv and Inscape. There’s also a little preview to what some brands have planned for the Big Game. 

According to Inscape, VIZIO’s data unit with insights from a panel of more than 17 million active and opted-in smart TVs, of all the live, linear minutes watched in January, 6.44% of the time was spent on NFL games, putting it in first place for percent share duration (i.e., watch-time). By comparison, the No. 2 program by watch-time was college basketball, capturing 0.89%. CBS snagged the most NFL minutes (2.32%), followed by Fox (2.24%) and NBC (1.36%). 

After the final whistle is blown, where else can NFL fans be found when it comes to TV screens? Inscape’s crossover data reveal that (not counting news or other sports) reality, game shows and comedy series are tops. 

Turning to the advertising side of things, NFL games racked up 42 billion TV ad impressions last month, per iSpot, an 11.75% increase from January 2020. Top industries by impressions over the month included automakers, insurance, wireless communication and quick-serve restaurants. The most-seen spot (573.7 million impressions) during NFL games in January was State Farm’s “Barbershop,” featuring Patrick Mahomes II. (State Farm will also be advertising during the Super Bowl, and has already released multiple teasers, which you can watch here.)

While some advertisers have benched themselves for the Big Game, others are putting their bucks behind ads with positive and/or philanthropic messages; Michelob Ultra, Chipotle, and DoorDash are among several brands that have appeared to forgo typical brand messaging. It’s worth noting that, per iSpot’s Ace Metrix, surveyed viewers ranked the characters as the Single Best Thing about each of the ads below.

Michelob Ultra: Happy 

Michelob Ultra’s spot features numerous exuding happiness, emphasizing that “it’s only worth it if you enjoy it.” According to iSpot’s Ace Metrix, the ad’s attention (658) and likeability (638) were both above average. The top emotion the ad conjured in viewers was “thirsty” — not shocking given all the images of Michelob Ultra bottles throughout. When surveyed about the Single Best Thing about the ad, 17% of viewers said it was the characters, who were primarily athletes like Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, Peyton Manning and Anthony Davis. 

Michelob Ultra also shared the spot on social media, and its Twitter post has racked up 19.2 million views, making it the brand’s most-watched Twitter video ever, as well as the No. 9 Twitter video from U.S. creators uploaded so far in 2021, according to Tubular Labs. Another ABInBev brand, Bud Light, released one of its Super Bowl ads on Twitter last week, and it’s generated 16.2 million views, making it the No. 15 Twitter video from U.S. creators so far this year, per Tubular. And Budweiser, which is sitting out the Big Game for the first time in 37 years, has received 4.8 million views on its Twitter video explaining how it’s helping bring America back together safely.

Chipotle: Can a Burrito Change the World? 

Rather than focus on its products, Chipotle is leaning into sustainability and corporate responsibility with its 2021 Super Bowl creative — it’s first Big Game spot ever. The ad features a young boy talking about how Chipotle’s process of making burritos can teach us about various ways to conserve energy and natural resources, putting a spotlight on farmers over the brand. Per iSpot’s Ace Metrix, the ad’s attention (680) and likeability (677) were both well above the average, and 29% of survey respondents said the message was the Single Best Thing about the ad. “Healthy” was the top emotion from audiences, in response to the spot’s discussion around fresh and sustainable ingredients.

DoorDash: Sesame Workshop – Reading 

After a year in which DoorDash increased its TV ad impressions by more than 79%, the brand’s first-ever Super Bowl spot doesn’t waste time explaining how the service works. Instead, this creative features Cookie Monster and actor Daveed Diggs telling viewers — conveniently, during an event when many will get food delivered — that for a limited time, $1 from each delivery will be donated to Sesame Workshop. The ad’s attention (715) and likeability (706) both scored well above the average, according to iSpot’s Ace Metrix, and “love It” was the top emotion from audiences. According to 41% of viewers, the Single Best Thing was the characters.