The one and only Super Bowl must be the most frustrating global sport event in the entire world. Not only because American football is certainly the most complicated sports to understand in the world, but also impossible to enjoy fully as you have to watch it at 4am if you’re located in Europe. But the main reason might be that this is the only sports event that people are watching for other reasons than sports. I know I’m exaggerating a little bit…not so much. Just ask anybody in the US who were the winners in the last 5 years, not sure anybody knows apart of the real fans.
Who are all the sports enthusiasts, who commit a good 5 hours of their life to sit in front of a TV, really paying attention to the game. The fact that the screen is showing the Super Bowl does not by any means imply that people actually care about the game itself. It seems that advertising and Pepsi half-time show raises more interest. That was a simple assumption but I was looking for proofs. I found this study from Claudia Perlich (data scientist working for Dstillery, a programmatic platform) and it says it all.
What do people do when they are getting bored? They start fiddling with their phones. And programmatic platform can definitely detect when things are moving because of the bidding systems and other data flows. It can tell when users turn to their apps because many of those are being ad supported. This means that Dstillery is receiving bid requests in real time asking me, whether I want to bid on the opportunity to show them ads. In fact, the company receives easily more than 70 Billion such bid requests from mobile devices on a regular Sunday. But what happens if everybody in the country is completely focused on the Super Bowl game, leaving their mobile on the table: a notable reduction in such ad requests from mobile devices. And this is exactly what is captured in the graph below: the reduction of mobile bid requests between 6 and 11 PM during the Super Bowl by the minute compared to the exact same time one week earlier.Overall, the phone attention as measured in bid requests decreased on average by 15% during the 5 hours of the game relative to the week before. But that is hardly interesting. More interesting is the timing of major spikes of such decrease in phone activity by up to 40% as shows below (graph from 2018)
There is an surprisingly strong correlation between high attention and important events. Nearly every peak in the above graph has a clear event associated with it. This suggests that our simple absence of mobile activity is indeed a great measure of attention. And as we were talking before, show times are beating game action. The clear highlight of the 5 hours was Pepsi half-time (this year was The Weeknd stepping on stage during the show — maybe not the best performance of the decade), we see a drop of nearly 40% in mobile bid requests. In fact, half of the top 10 moments for commanding viewer attention during the broadcast was non-football events. So, now, we have to check on the adverts that are so popular and crafted especially for the event: most dips in viewer attention seem to correlate perfectly with the commercial breaks. Also, viewers paid more attention to the early ads, and lost interest as the game went on. Well, you can blame it on the quality of the game in general.
In a nutshell, what can we say. The Super Bowl is obviously a weird event, it seems infatuated by the brands and the organization, but the attention of the people proves that it is far to be the big international event they would like us to believe it is. Entertainment is biased and driven by adverts, shows and music but not by sports anymore. They fabricated a complete platform for advertising…fine but they lost the values that were making the event special: sport performance and thrill.