Super Bowl reaches millions


When Super Bowl XLIX kicks off in Phoenix, more than 72,000 lucky fans with tickets will be able to see the big game in person, but another 100 million-plus also will get to see it – on television and the Internet.

The Super Bowl isn’t merely the championship game of the National Football League; over time it has become a media and entertainment event that attracts multiple audience demographics. For good reason, the game often is the launching pad for memorable marketing campaigns ranging from Internet services to cars and trucks to soft drinks. In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII was a lopsided football game, yet it was also the most-watched television show in American history, drawing an audience of 111.5 million, according to Nielsen.

Few televised events can boast that kind of reach, let alone achieve it annually. When not everybody can be present personally, TV is an amazing tool to engage large audiences. In recent years, audience engagement has included online social media. Nielsen also now measures TV events in tweets, and Super Bowl XLVIII generated more than 25 million of them. The fact is, audiences are interacting with what they watch on TV more than ever.

Here’s an interesting finding from Nielsen research in 2013: the more tweets about a TV show, the more audiences tune in. Nielsen found there is a causal relationship between watching TV and tweeting, and each activity influences the other.

To me, that suggests strongly that broadcast programming can have both the greatest reach and highest engagement when it combines compelling action onscreen with interactive elements. If you were televising a show that you wanted a big group of people in many places to tune in and watch, you’d also want to give them the opportunity to share their opinions and comment on it. Chances are very good that they not only would spend more time watching, but they also would come away with a richer experience of the event – they would remember what they saw.

Speaking of memorable Super Bowl moments, a 2012 commercial featuring Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood stirred emotions and told a story that most viewers found positive. This was a serious message, one of the few ads aired during the Super Bowl that wasn’t meant to elicit laughs. Either way, there is a place for all kinds of messages on TV. When you have something you want people to pay attention to, you need to deliver it with a strong story.

Like a lot of people I know, I’m hoping for a great football game between the Seahawks and the Patriots. But I’m also eager to experience some memorable messages.