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The Nielsen Company’s Guide To Super Bowl XLIII


NEW YORK, NY – The Nielsen Company today released its annual Guide to the Super Bowl, which showcases a full range of consumer and media information about the most anticipated marketing event in the U.S. This year’s matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers is scheduled for February 1 in Tampa, FL.

Among the key findings from Nielsen:

* TELEVISION: Last year’s tilt between the Patriots and the Giants was viewed by a record 97.5 million people nationwide. As expected, the Super Bowl was the most-watched TV broadcast in 2008.

* ADVERTISERS: The cost of a 30-second spot in last year’s Super Bowl was $2.7 million. Total spending for the game reached over $195 million. Anheuser-Busch bought the most commercial time (4 minutes total). The highest-rated commercial minute was the Victoria’s Secret spot at 9:44pm, seen by 103.7 million viewers. The most-liked ad was produced by the NFL. The most-recalled ad was produced by FedEx.

* ONLINE: Super Bowl advertisers saw a 24 percent jump in Web traffic the day after last year’s Super Bowl. The Pepsi commercial featuring Justin Timberlake gathered the most Internet buzz.

* MUSIC AND MOVIES: In the week following Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ halftime performance last year, sales of their “Greatest Hits” album jumped 196%. Petty’s “Anthology: Through the Years” album jumped 240% that same week. Box office sales on the weekend of Super Bowl Sunday show notable decline. The NFL Super Bowl XLII DVD was the #1 selling sports DVD in 2008.

* SNACKS AND BEER: The Super Bowl is the 8th-largest beer-selling event each year. Markets with hometown teams involved in the big game are more likely buy more beer. Potato chips are the snack of choice at Super Bowl parties, but tortilla chips are quickly gaining.

* CONSUMER TRENDS: There’s a softer side to football fans. People identifying themselves as avid NFL fans outpaced total U.S. spending in skin care by 74% from 2005 to 2007. NFL fans are also more likely to own hi-tech electronic items than the average adult.

* DEMOGRAPHICS: About 138 million adults – or more than 60% of the adult population in the U.S. – are NFL fans. The league is slightly more likely to attract fans from higher education and income brackets. Fans are also generally more physically active than the average American.

In 2008, an average of 97.5 million Americans tuned in to FOX to watch the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots, making it the most-watched Super Bowl ever. The event averaged a 43.1% household rating, up from the 2007 game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, which was watched by 93.1 million viewers and an average of 42.6% of U.S. Homes.

The highest-rated Super Bowl of all time was Super Bowl XVI in 1982, with a 49.1% rating. It is the fourth-highest rated television program since 1961 just behind the final episode of M*A*S*H, Dallas, and Roots Part VIII. Of the top-40 sports telecasts since January 1961, all but four telecasts were Super Bowls.

The highest local market rating in 2008 – at nearly 56% -- was in Boston, home of the New England Patriots. The second-largest local TV audience, with an average of 54.1% was Indianapolis. Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Ft. Myers followed respectively as the next three markets with the largest Super Bowl audiences (see Table 1: “Super Bowl TV Ratings” in Full PDF Download version of release). The New York DMA, home of the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, had an average audience of 44.9% with 3.3 million viewers.

As expected, men watched the 2008 Super Bowl the most (42.9% rating, or 45.8 million viewers). But a significant amount of women tuned in to the game as well. Approximately 37.7 million women over the age of 18 watched Super Bowl XLII for a 32.9% average rating. Overall female viewership of the Super Bowl has climbed each of the last five years.

An average of 29.2% of African Americans (approx. 10.5 million viewers), and an average of 17.9% of Hispanics (approx. 7.5 million viewers) tuned in to Super Bowl XLII.

If the Super Bowl is the biggest TV event of the year, it’s even better in high definition. In 2008, even with HD penetrating only about 15% of TV households, 41% of Super Bowl viewers watched the game in HD, according to the Strategic Media Research Super Bowl Survey.

Networks broadcasting the Super Bowl often use the game as a lead-in for one of their regular shows. This year, NBC will broadcast a one-hour episode of The Office. Last year, 29.1 million viewers stuck around after the game to watch an episode of House on FOX.


The Buyers
The 2008 Super Bowl aired 50 minutes and 50 seconds of commercial time. Fifty-two unique brands aired commercials that competed for viewers’ attention for a total of 84 advertisements. The highest-rated commercial minute was the Victoria’s Secret commercial at 9:44pm., which was seen by 103.7 million people.

The cost for a 30-second spot during the 2008 game was $2.7 million, up from $2.4 million in 2007. Total spending for the game reached over $195.7 million.

Average 30-second Cost
2008 - $2.7 millions
2007 - $2.4 million
2006 - $2.5 million
2005 - $2.4 million
2004 - $2.3 million

The categories that advertised the most in 2008 included Automotive, Motion Pictures, and Beer. In the top slot, Automotive aired 5½ minutes of commercial time, adding one minute to its total from 2007. Motion Pictures followed, airing 4 minutes and 15 seconds of ads, significantly increasing from under 2 minutes in the 2007 game. Finally, the Beer category, which has traditionally led the Super Bowl, dropped to the third largest category with 4 minutes of air time, compared to 5 minutes in the prior year.

Top Categories Super Bowl 2008
Category Minutes of Exposure
Automotive 40645
Motion Pictures 30322
Beer 30424
Source: The Nielsen Company

For the eighth year in a row Anheuser-Busch was the leading advertiser. The beer category included advertising for Bud Light and Budweiser. As the brand did in 2006, Bud Light aired three minutes of ads (six 30-second spots). Budweiser ran one 60-second commercial.

Among automotive brands, Hyundai Genesis ran 2 ads at 30-seconds each; Audi R8 ran one minute-long commercial; Toyota Corolla and CarMax Auto Dealership each ran a 30-second commercial; GMC Yukon Hybrid Trucks ran one 60-second spot; and Acura MDX, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Toyota Sequoia each ran one 30-second commercial to promote their truck brands.

A breakdown of the Motion Picture category shows eight movies were advertised in 2008, compared to only 4 in 2007. During the 2006 Super Bowl, 9 movies advertised totaling 4 ½ minutes. Buena Vista was the only studio to advertise more than one motion picture (Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian and Walt Disney Wall-E). It was also the only movie studio to air a 60-second ad (for Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian).

Dell, Schering-Plough (Claritin) and Hyundai emerged as newcomers on the Super Bowl scene, advertising in the big game for the first time since Nielsen began tracking Super Bowl advertisers in 1993.
Top Advertisers Super Bowl XLII Commercial Time
Anheuser-Busch Inc. 4 minutes
Coca-Cola USA 2 minutes
Buena Vista Pictures 1½ minutes
Frito-Lay Inc. 1½ minutes
Pepsi-Cola Co. 1½ minutes
Source: The Nielsen Company

To view full-motion commercials, storyboards, and ratings that aired during the Super Bowls since 1999, visit our creative website at

Due to a combination of uniquely strong ad attention and higher quality creatives, Super Bowl commercials have achieved effectiveness levels that are well above-average. Super Bowl ads in the last three years generated an average of 31% higher break-through and 93% higher likeability, compared to the typical ad on television.

Last year’s best-liked Super Bowl ad was produced by the NFL itself, hitting 172 on the likeability index. FedEx aired the most-recalled ad, with a recall index of 150. Anheuser-Bush aired three of the top-10 best-liked ads and four of the top-10 most-recalled ads of Super Bowl XLII.
(See tables “Top Ten Best Liked 2008 Super Bowl Ads” and “Top 10 Most Recalled 2008 Super Bowl Ads” in Full PDF Download version of release).

Viewing the game in HD also translates into better advertising recall. Respondents who viewed the Super Bowl in HD set were able to recall 21% more commercials than those who didn’t.

Advertising in the Super Bowl also results in longer-term brand benefits, which typically last at least one week past the game. Both Brand Opinion and Purchase Consideration significantly improved in the week following the 2007 and 2008 Super Bowl. (See chart on Brand Opinion and Brand Consideration in Full PDF Download version of release).

Super Bowl advertising isn’t just limited to standard commercial breaks. On-field and in-program sponsorships account for a significant exposure to viewers. Cadillac was the top in-program sponsor in terms of time on screen and gross impressions during last year’s Super Bowl. The automaker sponsored the game’s MVP award given to New York Giants QB Eli Manning, and used on-screen graphics for a total of 23 minutes and 11 seconds during the 4th quarter and immediately following the game.

Other top sponsors included Gatorade (sideline cups, coolers, and towels), Motorola (Coach’s headset), SoBe Life Water (on-screen graphics), and halftime sponsor Bridgestone (on-screen graphics).

(See table “Top In-Program Sponsors, Super Bowl XLII” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

Collectively, Super Bowl 2008 advertisers saw a 24 percent increase in Web traffic after the big game last year.

MySpace successfully capitalized on the popularity of Super Bowl advertising by hosting those ads online; unique visitors to increased 104 percent from Sunday to Monday. Fox Sports on MSN and Chase took the No. 2 and 3 spots among advertisers when ranked by daily traffic growth, increasing 72 and 56 percent, respectively. (See table “Top 5 Fastest Growing Super Bowl Advertiser Web Sites” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

Overall, the Super Bowl commercials placed on YouTube received over 6 millions views in two days. Thanks to a pre-Super Bowl push, Pepsi’s commercial featuring Justin Timberlake was the most-viewed Super Bowl ad on YouTube with nearly 1.3 million hits. Pepsi also claimed the second-most views on YouTube with a SoBe ad featuring Naomi Campbell (399,202 views). E*TRADE followed up in the third and fourth spots with commercials featuring a talking baby. (See table “YouTube Super Bowl AdViews ” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

One-third of online conversations about the Super Bowl the day of and the day after last year’s game were driven by Super Bowl advertising. The most-discussed ad online with 6.7% buzz volume was Pepsi’s spot with Timberlake, followed by E*TRADE (5.2%) and Audi (4.4%). (See table “Top 10 Super Bowl Ads as a % of Super Bowl Ad Discussion ” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

From The Rolling Stones and U2, to Prince and Tom Petty, halftime and pre-game performances have provided sales growth for artists from a wide variety of musical genres since the early ’90s.

After last year’s halftime performance by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Billboard reported that the band’s catalog album “Greatest Hits” made a 196% jump in weekly sales, shifting 33,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan. Outside of the always-busy Christmas shopping season, that was the biggest sales week for any catalog album since 2004. Additionally, Petty’s “Anthology: Through the Years” moved 7,000 the week following the Super Bowl (up 240%). It was the album’s best sales week since December, 2000.

The Super Bowl’s impact was also felt in Petty’s digital track downloads. Key hits like “Free Fallin,” “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” all saw a weekly gain of more than 150% in paid digital downloads.

This year, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will rock the Super Bowl crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Springsteen’s new album “Working on a Dream” will be released January 27, just days before the game.

Other recent Super Bowl spikes that Billboard spotted in Nielsen SoundScan data:

* Prince in 2007: His catalog of albums more than doubled in sales in the week after his halftime performance to 31,000 - up from 14,000 the prior week. Similarly, digital downloads of all his available songs almost doubled, with Nielsen SoundScan posting 102,000 paid track downloads for Prince, compared to 59,000 the week before the championship game.

* Rolling Stones in 2006: Their album “A Bigger Bang” showed a 34% increase over the week before the Super Bowl.

* Paul McCartney in 2005: His 2002 live album posted a 542% increase in sales, while two of his greatest hits sets more than doubled (“All the Best” by 246% and “Wingspan: Hits and History” by 161%). Beatles’ hits album “1” showed 72% growth.

* Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake in 2004: Despite - or maybe because of - controversy generated by their halftime appearance, sales for three of her albums more than doubled, while his “Justified” increased 160%. Current albums by participants Nelly (up 56%) and Kid Rock (up 25%) also gained.

* Shania Twain in 2003: Twain’s “Up” led the Super Bowl field, with a 41% increase, while No Doubt’s “Rock Steady” gained 23% and Sting saw “Very Best of Sting & The Police” grow by 39%.

* U2 in 2002: Sales for three of the band’s key albums more than doubled (“All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” up 142%; “Best of 1980-1990,” up 154%; “The Joshua Tree,” up 144%).

As usual, movie-going plunged on 2008 Super Bowl Sunday. Nielsen EDI found that U.S. box office receipts, which averaged $30.7 million on a typical winter Sunday in 2008, fell to $26.5 million on Super Bowl Sunday 2008 (2/3/08) – a 14% decline. Over the past five years, the average domestic box office for Super Bowl Sunday versus the average winter Sunday is down by about $11.4 million.

Consumers purchased nearly 52 million cases of beer1 during the two-week period surrounding the 2008 Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is ranked 8th among the highest beer selling occasions for the year: (See table “Top Holidays/Events for Beer ” in Full PDF Download version of release.)

Beer consumption is especially prevalent in markets that are participating in the Super Bowl. Phoenix grocery stores (home of last year’s Super Bowl), beer sales grew nearly 5 percent overall and were 23 percent higher than non-holiday weeks in Q1. Beer sales also grew 3 percent in metro New York and 12 percent in New England as the Giants and Patriots battled for the title. Meanwhile, grocery store beer sales in other markets declined nearly 2.5 percent.

Super Bowl Sunday is the most important Snack purchasing day of the entire year, followed by the day before the big game. Snack sales in U.S. food, drug, and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) are expected to reach $595 million during the two weeks surrounding Super Bowl Sunday. While Potato Chips enjoyed the largest dollar and volume sales during the Super Bowl period, Tortilla Chips generated the largest incremental gains with $20.7 million and 8.3 million pounds above average sales figures. But what’s a chip without a good dip? Dip Mixes (+38% vs. two-week average) and Canned Dips (+24.5%) saw the biggest percent surge in sales compared to other snacks for the Super Bowl.

And it’s not just junk foods that saw their sales jump for last year’s big game. Rice Cakes enjoyed an 11.3% bump in sales in the days surrounding the Super Bowl last year, while Health Bars & Sticks (i.e. PowerBars, LUNAbar, etc.) saw a 3.1% increase. (See Table on Snack Purchasing in Full PDF Download version of release).

While football fans are known for their love of beer and chips, data suggests that more fans are developing a taste for grapes – as in wine. According to Nielsen, avid NFL fans spent 14% more on wine in 2007 than in 2006, outpacing the US growth in wine by 14%.

Are these refined tastes causing a shift in other areas? Nielsen reports that beneath the rough and tough exterior, the NFL has a growing softer side among its fan base. Did you know…

* Skin care (which includes but is not limited to acne remedies, face cleansers and hand & body lotions) spending by the average avid NFL fan increased 19% from 2005 to 2007.
* During 2007, head of households who identified themselves as avid NFL fans, purchased $36.10 in skin care, an increase of $2.30 from 2006 and $5.70 from 2005. This resulted in total sales in the category reaching 1.3 billion - up 23% from 2006.
* Avid NFL fans outpaced total U.S. spending in skin care by 74% from 2005 to 2007.

NFL fans (defined as those adults who are “very, somewhat, or a little bit interested” in the NFL) also do not skimp on household technology, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing. They are more likely than the average U.S. adult to have all types of hi-tech items in their household, from DVRs and MP3 players to HDTV. (See Table on High Tech Household Items in Full PDF Download version of release).

Pittsburgh and Phoenix – the two markets represented in Super Bowl XLIII – show very particular consumer behaviors, according to Nielsen.

Pittsburgh residents, for example…

…are nearly three times more likely than not to drink domestic wine, and nearly half prefer to drink domestic beer such as Pabst Blue Ribbon.

…are more than four times likely to drive a General Motors car, such as a Buick or an Oldsmobile

Meanwhile, Phoenix residents…

…are eight times more likely to eat at casual restaurants like Bob’ Big Boy and Chuck E Cheese.

….enjoy Reader’s Digest, with nearly 60 percent of the market’s predominant segments reporting that they read it in both the English and Spanish versions.

According to Scarborough Sports Marketing, 138 million adults – or more than 60% of the adult population in the U.S. – are NFL fans. Almost 80 million men and more than 58 million women count themselves as NFL fans, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing. The league draws fans across generations and races. While people across all socioeconomic backgrounds are NFL fans, the league is slightly more likely to attract those in higher education and income brackets.

NFL fans are physically active. They are more likely than the average U.S. adult to engage in all types of sports-oriented leisure activities, from biking and running to snow skiing and golfing. They are 11% more likely than the average adult to belong to a health/fitness club.

A detailed analysis and comparison of the Pittsburgh and Phoenix markets (DMAs) reveals several enlightening insights, courtesy of Scarborough Sports Marketing:

* INCOME: Cardinals attendees2 in Phoenix have more disposable income than Pittsburgh’s Steelers attendees. 23% of adults in Phoenix who went to a Cardinals game during the past year have an annual household income of $100k+, versus 13% of Pittsburgh’s Steelers game attendees who are in that income bracket.
* CHILDREN: Cardinals attendees are more likely to have children at home – 56% have at least one kid age 17 or younger in the household, versus 39% of Pittsburgh’s Steelers game attendees.
* AGE: Both Cardinals and Steelers game attendees are more likely than others in their respective cities to be young. Steelers attendees are 31% more likely than other Pittsburgh adults to be ages 18-34, and Cardinals attendees are 23% more likely than other Phoenix adults to be in this age range.
* MARITAL STATUS: Cardinals and Steelers game attendees are equally likely to be single. One-third of game attendees in each of their home city markets are single, and these attendees are more likely than others in their home cities to be single.
* EMPLOYMENT: Pittsburgh is known as a blue collar town, and Steelers game attendees are 12% more likely than the city as a whole to be blue collar. By contrast, Phoenix’s Cardinals attendees are 18% less likely than all Phoenix adults to be blue collar.
* GENDER: Phoenix’s Cardinals game attendees have almost an even gender split. 52% of those who attended a game during the past year are male, and 48% are female. In Pittsburgh, 58% of Steelers game attendees are male, vs. 42% who are female.

1 U.S. food, liquor, convenience and drug stores

2 “Attendees” are defined as those adults in the local market (DMA) who attended a game during the past year.

The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA. For more information, please visit,

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