Most Americans say Super Bowl isn’t appropriate for political messages

by | Feb 2, 2018 | Public Relations

Even as player protests have split public opinion during this NFL season, 63 percent of Americans firmly believe the Super Bowl is not appropriate for political messages, according to a national survey commissioned by Burson-Marsteller‘s Fan Experience sports and entertainment specialty and fielded by research consultancy PSB. The survey analyzes viewers’ attitudes toward professional football and the Big Game.

However, Millennials are more welcoming of a political statement than other demographic groups, with 51 percent saying the game is a very appropriate (21 percent) or a somewhat appropriate (30 percent) venue for a political message. Only 20 percent of Baby Boomers and 36 percent of Generation X respondents believe that, with more than half of Baby Boomers saying the Big Game is not appropriate for a political message.

Bring on the commercials!

The fifth annual Burson-Marsteller Super Bowl Survey also uncovered very encouraging news for brands advertising during the broadcast, with notable opportunities for engaging fans on a second screen. Over half (55 percent) of both Millennials and Gen Xers would be disappointed if the Super Bowl were ad-free, compared to 41 percent of Baby Boomers. Further, 60 percent of viewers—and 87 percent of constant social media users—are interested in content brands provide on their social channels in addition to the commercials.

“The Super Bowl is an event when consumers want to be entertained and marketed to, which is why the game continues to be a key moment in time for brand marketers,” said Kyle Farnham, Burson-Marsteller’s U.S. practice chair of Consumer and Brand Marketing, in a news release. “The marriage of on-air and online storytelling and the growth of the two-screen experience gives brands more opportunity than ever to extend their engagement with viewers.”

Overall, 55 percent of respondents like the spectacle surrounding the game, including the commercials and halftime show, rather than just the game itself. However, there are considerations, as 24 percent of fans say the halftime show is too long, 22 percent say there are too many commercials and 19 percent would like fewer timeouts or instant replay delays.

The game vs. the spectacle

When it comes to enjoying the game versus enjoying the spectacle of the game, fans are clear: 73 percent prefer a great game with boring commercials and only 27 percent prefer a boring game with great commercials. When asked about last year’s dramatic, come-from-behind victory for New England over Atlanta, 28 percent of respondents say it was the best game to date. The 2015 game between New England and Seattle ranked a distant second, with 12 percent saying that was the greatest game.

Given fans see the game as a spectacle, they want to be entertained while viewing ads, as 67 percent say funny ads should be the priority. Most want to be informed as well, as nearly half (46 percent) want to learn something new about a product. And, they want to wait for the ads as 69 percent of fans say they will see the ad for the first time during the game, while 13 percent say they will learn about ads prior to the game as part of a news story and 12 percent will seek previews on social media. This jumps to 19 percent for Millennials seeking previews.

For fans who do want to preview ads before the game, 72 percent will seek them on Facebook while 50 percent will turn to YouTube. When it comes to social sharing of ads, it is a blowout: 87 percent of respondents will use Facebook, followed by Twitter (29 percent), Instagram (27 percent), YouTube (26 percent) and Snapchat (15 percent).

During the game, it is clear fans will engage with a second screen

Sixty-four percent of respondents say they are likely to use social media during the game. That figure jumps to 78 percent when it comes to Millennials and drops to 42 percent for Baby Boomers. Once again, Facebook is the top choice to share content during the game with 53 percent saying it is their preferred social channel, followed by Instagram (22 percent), Twitter (20 percent), YouTube (17 percent) and Snapchat (16 percent).

“For brands looking to succeed during the game by creating enduring impact with fans, the formula is simple: Entertain fans, drive engagement by delivering social content and make it effortless for fans to share across their networks,” said Jason Teitler, chair of Burson-Marsteller Fan Experience, in the release. “A one-channel approach is a dated strategy, as brands need to surround and engage consumers through a variety of different platforms to foster relationships long after the game.”

Party time!

When it comes to Super Bowl parties, fans overwhelmingly support smaller gatherings at home with friends and family (62 percent) over going to the game (30 percent) or watching in a public place, such as a sports bar (7 percent). Most fans (59 percent) say they will not attend a party, with 41 percent saying they would attend. By gender, 66 percent of men do not want to go to a party, while nearly half of women (47 percent) plan to attend.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 73 percent of respondents would rather watch the game with people who care about who wins
  • 40 percent of Americans say ‘wings’ are the best food for the Big Game, followed by pizza (33 percent) and nachos (16 percent)
  • Most Americans have been turned off by on-field protests during games (61 percent) but most plan to watch the game even if there is a protest
  • Stories of concussions do not affect viewership of the game for 77 percent of fans, as two-thirds believe player safety has been prioritized
  • When it comes to weighing in on the game, 59 percent of fans do not want brands to comment on social media during the game

“This year’s survey results show fans are most interested in what happens on the field, with social media playing a prominent role in enabling discussion and activity related to the game’s action,” said Curtis Freet, CEO of PSB, in the release.

These findings are based on a survey conducted by PSB in partnership with Burson-Marsteller and Fan Experience from January 11th-13th, 2018. The survey was conducted online among a national sample of N=1000 people who plan to watch the Super Bowl this year and who watched the Super Bowl last year. Additional information available upon request.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter