Super Bowl XLVI Turns Social Media Savvy

Super Bowl XLVIBuilding Momentum Online

In what can be called one of this year’s biggest sporting events in the USA, Super Bowl XLVI generated tremendous buzz even before the kick-off on 5th February 2012. Super Bowl Sunday, when the New York Giants took on New England Patriots, saw fans thronging networking channels like Facebook and Twitter to post game updates, talk about their favorite teams, and guess the winners. Unlike before, when people were glued to their television sets in anticipation, in the age of social media, Super Bowl fans: a) are constantly posting updates on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, even as they are watching the game on TV b) took to YouTube to watch the ads online, with majority of brands releasing their ads much before the game. Research by the Brand Monitor team on what made Super Bowl XLVI the most social media-savvy sporting event so far revealed some interesting findings:

  • New York Giants - Google+ PageThe launch of official Super Bowl pages on Facebook and Twitter isn’t something new; however, what made this year’s game different was the launch of New York Giants‘ and New England Patriots‘ Google+ pages.
  • Major brands like GE, Volkswagen, PepsiCo, Chevrolet, Audi, Kia etc made the most of the opportunity to unveil their Super Bowl commercials and teasers online, much before Sunday’s kick-off.
  • According to IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), 56% of smartphone owners and 45% of tablet owners said they planned to use their devices during the game. The study also shows that 4% smartphone owners had decided to watch the entire game on their phones.
  • The Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee’s social media command center responded to a question via social media every two minutes, and managed 1,500 interactions a day.
  • Considering the high-cost of Super Bowl tickets ($2,800), many Americans decided to either watch the game on TV, or online. This contributed to exponential online buzz, as those who watched the game on TV also tweeted or posted comments about Super Bowl.
  • Advertisers, who previously focused on TV commercials, were seen multitasking by also promoting their brand on various social media sites.

Super Bowl XLVI: The Social Media Buzz

According to research conducted by the Brand Monitor team, for the time period between 7th January and 6th February 2012, conversation volumes spiked on 5th February (100,510). This was unsurprising, considering it was on this day that the Giants beat the Patriots in a dramatic fourth quarter comeback.

Daily Volume Breakup - Super Bowl

  • Pop star Madonna’s performance during half time on Super Bowl Sunday also contributed to the online chatter. Madonna, being the first female Super Bowl halftime headliner since the Janet Jackson wardrobe fiasco in 2004, was greatly discussed by the networking community.
  • The gradual increase in buzz after 30th January indicates the buildup in momentum before the big game. As the day of the game drew closer, excited fans took to social media to talk about their favorite teams.

Top Media Volume and Sentiment Breakdown

Top Media BreakdownM and M Super Bowl Ad

  • Of the total 807,898 posts registered during the one month period, Facebook accounted for the maximum buzz at 31%.
  • This was closely followed by discussion forums at 28%.
  • Twitter and blogs registered 17% volumes each. On sifting through the tweets, we found that the conversations were centered on Eli Manning, the various Super Bowl commercials and Madonna’s sizzling half time performance.
  • Popular Twitter hashtags for Super Bowl XLVI included: #SuperBowl, #Madonna, #Patriots, #NFLExperience, #SB46, #Superbowltrivia and #NFLgreen.
  • An interesting observation is that two of the biggest social networks, i.e. Facebook and Twitter collectively made up for almost 50% of the buzz. This indicates the growing popularity of the networking sites in comparison to other channels.
  • As far as Facebook posts were concerned, most of the discussions involved Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Commercials.

Sentiment Breakup - Super Bowl XLVI

  • A large percentage of conversations (59%) pertaining to Super Bowl XLVI were neutral in tonality. The neutral posts were mainly centered on the commercials that were aired and game updates in general.
  • While the positive conversations were a healthy 36%, we were curious about the negative posts, which were a marginal 5%. Contributing to the negative buzz were posts from disappointed New England Patriots’ fans who ranted about their team’s loss.

Sentiment Daily Breakup - Super Bowl

  • On further analysis, we found that both the positive as well as negative sentiment was up on 5th February 2012. As seen above, there was a sudden rise in positive sentiment during the finals, followed by a significant drop soon after. The positive conversations mainly included posts and updates from ecstatic Giants’ fans.


Top Country Breakdown

Heat Map - World
Heat Map - US

  • Unsurprisingly, USA registered the maximum buzz at 77%, followed by Canada at 8%.
  • Among the US states, California accounted for the highest volumes (3,735 mentions) followed by New York (2,983 mentions).

Age and Gender Distribution

Age and Gender - Breakup

  • Although the male population, at 56%, appeared more enthusiastic about Super Bowl XLVI, the women were not too far behind, at 44%.
  • Most of the Super Bowl enthusiasts were in the 20-35 age bracket (35%), followed by the 51-65 (26%) demographic.
  • The demographic breakdown clearly indicates that the +65 population was inactive (0%) in discussions pertaining to American’s biggest football championship, while the <20 demographic was reasonably active (15%) in discussions pertaining to Super Bowl XLVI.
  • Research shows that the younger demographic was not as interested in the game as they were in the ads associated with Super Bowl.


The exponential online buzz generated during this year’s Super Bowl game is a sign of things to come. This year’s game witnessed enthusiastic fans tweeting and posting updates, even as the finals were broadcasted live on TV. Over the next few years, we expect to see Super Bowl watching take on new dimensions, with people not only exchanging information and posting updates on social media sites, but actually watching the entire game on their Smartphones. Considering the fact that social media usage on mobile devices is set to grow, with 65.6 million users projected in 2016 (eMarketer), it won’t be surprising to see more and more people either keeping their mobile devices handy while watching the game, or preferring to watch the complete game online via smartphones.

As far as brands are concerned, Super Bowl XLVI presented them with the perfect opportunity to get noticed and unleash their creative best. While skeptics continued to debate over the enormous marketing budgets invested in Super Bowl promotions online, brands, in the meanwhile, went all out with highly imaginative endorsements. From Coca-Cola’s Polar Bear creative to H&M’s YouTube commercial featuring David Beckham, for the big names in the Super Bowl advertising world, it was all about making hay while the sun shines. In fact, the Super Bowl ads were such a huge hit that many people admitted to watching the game only for the ads. The spike in conversation volumes on Super Bowl Sunday can be attributed to two factors: a) the game itself and b) the Super-Bowl special commercials that accounted for a big percentage of online chatter.

With Google+ having only recently opened up its Brand Pages to marketers, we anticipate to see more brands advertise on this channel during the Super Bowl championships in the years ahead. Although television will continue to remain the preferred channel for Super Bowl viewing, especially among the older audiences, the relationship between the younger, social media-savvy demographic and digital media will only grow stronger. That said, with marketers increasing focus on online advertising, making their Super Bowl ads more creative than before, the phenomenon of double-screen multi-tasking (watching the game on TV and posting updates on social media channels simultaneously) is all set to grow.

Team Position²

Team Position²

Position2 is an innovative digital marketing agency that accelerates demand through integrated Content Marketing, Paid Acquisition, and Marketing Technology solutions. Our demand acceleration solutions map the buyer’s journey across multiple touch points such as search, social, mobile, media, and email. These integrated campaigns are powered by cutting-edge content creation, digital advertising, web design/development, marketing automation, and analytics. We serve hundreds of clients ranging from VC funded startups to Fortune 500 multinational firms. Our 200-member team is based in Silicon Valley and Bangalore and consists of marketing gurus, engineers, data scientists, writers, and designers. Founded in 2006, Position2 is backed by Accel Partners.