Touchdown for Big Game Automotive Ads?

The Big Game arrived with great fanfare. And once again many brands touted that they were players in the Big Game ad arena. In 2011, many of those brands were automakers. Compete compared un-aided ad recollection with changes in in-market automotive shopper behavior to inform whether these ads are worth the effort—and help drive sales.

First Down: Recollection

Compete asked about 700 online consumers which auto brand first came to find when thinking about the Big Game. Respondents could choose any brand. Of those that watched the game, one in five recalled seeing a Chevrolet ad, with Chrysler and Volkswagen second and third.

leading auto brand recalled from 2011 super bowl ads

Second Down: Stated Influence

We asked the same consumers the extent to which Big Game ads were more or less effective than other ads in influencing automotive research and buying decisions. The strongest results were on brand, with 16% of respondents reporting Big Game ads better influence which brand to research (sum of the two columns) and the brand to purchase. However, the most respondents stated Big Game ads have the same impact as other ads (not shown).

super bowl ads relative influence on research and buying

Third Down: Changes in Share of Shoppers vs. Recollection

As Brand Type had the strongest “influence” results, Compete compared top-10 ad recollection with month-over-month changes in brands’ share of all in-market automotive shoppers (Share of Market Interest, or SMI). SMI leverages Compete’s patented processes to normalize behavior across the internet.

Chrysler, with ads featuring Eminem, posted the strongest combined values: second-highest recollection (14.1%) and highest gain in SMI (+44.9%) among brands shown. VW posted the second-strongest overall results (10.8% recollection, 15.3% SMI increase).  Chevrolet’s recollection was the highest of all brands (20.4%) but its SMI decreased 5.4%.

However, despite lower m-o-m results, Chevrolet’s SMI was 18.0% in February, meaning nearly one in five in-market shoppers shopped a Chevrolet. For context, Chrysler’s was 3.6% and VW’s 5.4%. So at a high level the brands that gained the most may have been those with the most to gain.

ad recollection vs change in share big game

Fourth Down: The Rest of the Story

Overall, the above indicates a positive correlation between ad recollection and gains in shoppers relative to the market: Many of the most-recalled brands gained SMI, but there is always more to the story. Logical next steps include:

  • Measure ad efficiencies by correlating Super Bowl ad spend with changes in shopper behavior, and do so within the context of other ad spend in those same months (i.e., consider share of voice).
  • Gauge the lagged impact of Super Bowl ads, such as the extent to which SMI changes in March and April
  • Quantify the impacts of ancillary exposures to Super Bowl ads, such views on YouTube or Likes on Facebook as SMI changed.  For example, VW’s Darth Vader ad has been viewed tens of millions of times on YouTube.
  • Consider the impact of non-Super Bowl drivers of shopper action. For example, Kia’s SMI gain coincided with its front-and-center presence in the February NBA slam dunk contest (the winner actually dunked over a Kia Optima). This can be measured by the extent to which auto shoppers visited related digital properties, such as or in Kia’s case.
About Lincoln Merrihew:
Lincoln Merrihew is the Senior Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.