On February 7th, 2010 the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. This event, as nearly all Super Bowls before it, came with a tremendous amount of media attention, marketing savvy, and fanfare. In fact, this particular Super Bowl was the second most-watched single-game television program in American history behind Super Bowl XLV (5).
In addition to the football game, the Super Bowl television broadcast offers a definitive glimpse into the competitive and creative world of sport marketing and advertising. Consumers anxiously anticipate new commercials unveiled during the Super Bowl. These commercials, which cost as much as $3 million per 30 seconds for Super Bowl XLIV (16), have become a cultural phenomenon that create nearly as much buzz as the game itself (1,3,5,16). In essence, the commercials are considered part of the overall Super Bowl entertainment package. McAllister (22), as well as Apostolopoulou, Clark, and Gladden (1), illustrated the integration of Super Bowl commercials into popular culture by examining their content and relative importance. McAllister (2) found that the discourse surrounding the pre, during, and post-Super Bowl advertising led to special status for Super Bowl commercials. Specifically, Super Bowl commercials "often have characteristics more in line with entertainment media messages than stereotypical commercial media messages" (p. 421). Additionally, McAllister explained that Super Bowl commercials are more likely to include celebrities, are much more expensive, and are more thoroughly scrutinized by the public when compared to non-Super Bowl commercials. Blackshaw and Beard (4), echoed these sentiments by noting the uniqueness of Super Bowl advertising is partly due to their entertainment value, their ability to create a "free media" dividend, their high anticipation levels, and their growing ability to engage consumers beyond television (e.g., internet, telecommunications, etc.).
Given the elevated status associated with Super Bowl entertainment, Apostolopoulou et al. (1) surveyed 1,101 Super Bowl viewers and NFL database subscribers to determine what elements of the Super Bowl contributed most to their enjoyment. Not surprisingly, the primary contributor to viewer's enjoyment was the competitiveness of the game itself. The second largest contributor was the specific teams competing, indicating more enjoyment is based on the level of fanship towards a specific team. The third largest contributor was the Super Bowl commercials. The commercials were rated higher than the pre-game show, the celebrity coin toss, the national anthem, the team introductions, the halftime entertainment, and the post-game show. Furthermore, Elliot (9) reported that approximately 4% of the Super Bowl viewing audience watches the Super Bowl only for the commercials. Results from Apostolopoulou et al. (1) and Elliot (9) suggest that beyond the game, commercials have a tremendously powerful influence on Super Bowl viewing patterns.
Although the popularity of Super Bowl commercials is well-documented (1, 4, 16, 22), there is limited evidence to suggest whether a return on investment (ROI) is realized by the companies producing such commercials. Because the Super Bowl is an isolated event that has limited advertising time, in addition to the extreme cost, it is logical to question if ROI is attainable. O'Reilly, Lyberger, McCarthy, Seguin, and Nadeau (25) found a tremendous amount of volatility surrounding the influence of Super Bowl sponsorship. This volatility is caused by the many extraneous factors influencing advertising during this unique event (e.g., presponsorship awareness levels, existing brand associations, increased clutter in the marketplace, etc.). Despite this instability in the marketplace, there has been evidence for increased intent to purchase sponsored products, as well as a willingness on the part of consumers to pay higher prices for goods advertised during the Super Bowl (17, 25, 28). …