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Super Bowl Puts Sports In the Spotlight

4 February 2015 in Trading Ideas

Last Sunday’s big game between the Patriots and the Seahawks came down to the final seconds, but there was an off-the-field accomplishment that was also up in the air – whether this year’s Super Bowl would capture both the largest TV viewership and ratings in the game’s history.

As Yahoo Sports pointed out before the game, viewer totals have been something of a piece of cake, with the game setting a record four of the past five years. Last year, more than 112 million watched the contest.1

Ratings-wise, however, last year’s game “only” captured 46.7% of households. That’s a ton of attention, but it actually once again fell short of the 49.1% mark that was set in 1982.

On Sunday, however, the game delivered a 49.7% rating – the highest in Super Bowl history.

Of course, what really counts is that advertisers know each year that the event going to come with the No. 1 captive television audience, as marketing departments focus campaigns to catch the night’s buzz that they hope to sustain as long as possible.

Even before Sunday’s game was over, scores of online outlets were declaring the best and worst ads. A piece by Reuters, for example, suggested that spots by Snickers and Anheuser-Busch were among the night’s top performers.2

“I think Snickers is a home run,” said Jay Russell, chief creative officer at advertising agency GSD&M. “It stood out. It’s simple and quick.”

And make no mistake — the Super Bowl is a high-stakes gamble for advertisers. Reuters reported that brands paid up to a record $4.5 million for 30 seconds during the championship game televised on Comcast Corp’s NBC network.

In addition, many companies attempted to garner “pre-buzz” buzz by posting commercials or shorter teasers on the Internet ahead of the game to stoke interest. The ads were viewed more than 170 million times before kickoff, according to iSpot, which tracks video views and social media comments.

Snickers, for example, released its commercial early, and enjoyed 2.5 million social-media “engagements” before the game even kicked off.

While many advertisers are pushing products that have nothing to do with sports, the Super Bowl is also a reminder that our love for sports can be seen in the money going to purchase sporting goods. In 2014, consumer sales of US sporting goods were expected to total $63.6 billion, nearly 15% above where it was in 2011.3

If you think the stocks of makers of sporting goods and apparel could get a bump from either the Super Bowl or America’s focus on getting fit, you may want to consider the World of Sports motif.

The motif has declined 1.7% in the past month, which matches the S&P 500 performance during that same period. In the past year, the motif is up 26.4%; the S&P 500 has risen 18.4%.

1Charles Robinson, “Super Bowl XLIX could make TV history thanks to deflate-gate, star power,” yahoo.com, Jan. 29, 2015, http://sports.yahoo.com/news/deflate-gate-controversy-could-help-super-bowl-xlix-make-tv-history-004358738-nfl.html, (accessed Feb. 1, 2015).

2Lisa Richwine and Jennifer Saba, “Budweiser, Snickers win in high-stakes Super bowl ad battle,” reuters.com, Feb. 1, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/02/us-nfl-super-ads-idUSKBN0L602Y20150202.

3“Consumer purchases of sporting goods in the US from 2002 to 2014, statista.com, http://www.statista.com/statistics/200773/sporting-goods-consumer-purchases-in-the-us-since-2004/, (accessed Feb. 1, 2015).