Celebrities Lose Influence in Super Bowl Ads, Researchers Find

EAU CLAIRE, Wis.  (Profitable.com)  If the companies that spend millions to advertise in the Super Bowl want viewers to like their ads, the ads should feature a cute kid instead of a pop star, say University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire marketing professors Dr. Chuck Tomkovick and Dr. Rama Yelkur, who have done multiple studies on Super Bowl advertising.

“In the past, including a celebrity in your ad was a no-brainer,” said Tomkovick. “For years the use of celebrities was among the top predictors of popular Super Bowl ads. But our most recent research shows that’s no longer true. Celebrities have lost their influence when it comes to popular Super Bowl ads.”

With most Super Bowl ads are now running 30 seconds, ad length also is no longer a predictor of likeability, Tomkovick said.

Instead, including children has become a top predicator of Super Bowl ad likeability, as has the amount of information shared about a product, Yelkur said.

“Humor, animals and product category have endured for 20 years as high predictors of popularity,” Tomkovick said, noting that categories like beverages and chips continue to be popular. “New to the list are children and limiting the amount of information shared about a product.”

Super Bowl ads are more powerful than ever because they are available in so many formats, often long before and after the football game, Yelkur said.

“The ads are seen by millions of people who don’t see the football game, and they can be viewed multiple times in a variety of formats,” Tomkovick said. “Running a 30-second Super Bowl ad is no longer a one-time thing.”

Yelkur and Tomkovick’s research involved studying all 538 Super Bowl ads that aired from 2000-09. The research replicated and extended research that they’d completed in the 1990s.

Additional research by Tomkovick and Yelkur found that the aggregate stock prices of publicly traded firms that ran in-game Super Bowl ads outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 by more than 1 percent during a two-week period of time (Monday before the Super Bowl through the Friday after the game).

“One percent doesn’t sound like much until you realize that it translates into tens of billions of dollars,” Yelkur said. “The stock price performance wasn’t related to ad popularity or any industry category. Our research suggests that advertising in the Super Bowl is a tradable event independent of ad content or other predictors.”

Researchers studied data from 1996-2010 and found that the Super Bowl advertising firms outperformed the S&P’s 500 during the two-week timeframe in the vast majority of those years, Yelkur said.

For details, contact Dr. Chuck Tomkovick at 715-836-2529 or tomkovcl@uwec.edu, or Dr. Rama Yelkur at 715-836-4674 or yelkurr@uwec.edu.