The 2013 Super Bowl is now history but its legacy lives on, both in record books and in the world of advertising. As we’ve seen for years, the game’s TV ads get about as much attention as the game itself, including online “leaks” and “teases” before the game and news coverage afterwards. Super Bowl ads are alluring for marketing executives because they’re high-profile and one-stop shopping (one concise effort to gain exposure to a massive audience). As in past years, that allure was tempting to several automakers. And in our own Super Bowl tradition, Compete compared un-aided self-reported ad recollection with changes in in-market automotive shopper volume to inform whether these ads were productive in driving near-term new vehicle demand.
This analysis compliments Compete’s earlier week-by-week assessment of changes in consumer behavior, available here.
First Down: Recollection
Compete surveyed thousands of its panelists on which auto brand first came to mind when recalling the 2013 Super Bowl. Respondents (845 total) could choose any brand.
Of those that watched the game, 18% said Ram, the most of any brand in 2013. For context, the highest recollection Compete has recorded is Chevrolet’s 21% both in 2011 and 2012. Chevrolet was #3 (9%) in 2013.
As in 2012, Ford was the surprise brand. Surprise because Ford did not advertise during the Super Bowl—at least at the national level. In 2012 Ford ranked #3 at 11%, driven potentially by the mention of Ford models in Chevrolet ads. 2013 is more of a surprise, with the possibility that respondents assigned the imagery used in Ram ads to Big 3 products in general and/or the Ram farm imagery evoked Ford tractors (sold as recently as 2000). Other options are that Ford ran pre-game or regional ads, or simply that it’s often the most shopped brand in the US. Independent of the cause, it’s the second year running of a “secret” (and likely cost-effective) success for Ford.
Second Down: Changes in Recollection
Recollection in 2013 was less concentrated across the top brands. In 2011 and 2012, the top five brands captured over 60% of recollection share. In 2013, that dropped to 53%. Likewise, the top 10 brands captured 83% and 84% total in 2011 and 2012 respectively, but only 78% in 2013. The lower recollection dominance by the leading brands in 2013 may mean less success differentiating themselves.
Third Down: Changes in Recollection vs. Changes in SMI
To connect stated recollection and behavioral results, Compete compared recollection with m-o-m changes in those brands’ Share of Market Interest (SMI). SMI is the share of all in-market shoppers each brand captured based on consumers actively engaged with specific vehicles. Calculations leverage Compete’s patented data and normalization process and avoid false positives from double-counting consumers.
In 2013, greater recollection generally correlated with a higher SMI as evidenced by the upward sloping trend line. A positive correlation was also seen in 2011 results, but the correlation was negative in 2012 (an inverse relationship between recollection and SMI change). A positive correlation suggests that recollection directly influences in-market shopper activity, although other factors, such as spend outside the Super Bowl, can obviously impact results.
While overall the relationship was positive, results were still not stellar brand by brand. For example, while Ram/Dodge was tops in recollection, its SMI was essentially unchanged. That doesn’t mean the ads failed, but it may mean a lagged impact. In contrast, Toyota and VW have lower recollection but set-best results in terms of SMI changes. Ford is still the surprise, with relatively high reported recollection (#2 among all brands) and also the third-best gain in shopper results.
Fourth Down: The Rest of the Story
This is the third year of this Compete Super Bowl analysis and like the game itself, results vary from year to year. In 2013 there is an overall positive correlation between recollection and gains in shoppers (as in 2011) but there is clearly more to the story given Ford’s surprisingly positive results (without advertising during the game nationally) and several brands with top-10 recollection but loss of shopper strength vs. the market (lower SMI). So clearly, this analysis is just the pre-game part of more complete research; the following still needs to be tackled:
Identify how Ford once again secured high recollection and near-best SMI gains without advertising in the Super Bowl
- Investigate whether Ram or other brands’ ads suggested Ford
- Compare Ford’s total ad spend for the month with the set to assess if Ford had a Share of Voice advantage that drove results
- Investigate whether Ford advertised regionally and/or during pre-game events and whether those tactics had a positive ROI
For brands with relatively high recollection but neutral or negative SMI results, assess the extent to which game advertising ROI will be realized on a delayed basis
- Measure cost per shopper over time, including before and after the Super Bowl. A successful lagged impact would be evidenced by a lower cost per shopper after the game.
- Consider whether Super Bowl ads are more effective as part of a broader, continuous strategy vs. more of a one-off effort
Determine the Super Bowl’s automotive share of voice during February (i.e., it’s share of all automotive ad spend in the month) and the total number of automotive ads vying for consumers’ attention (i.e., clutter)
- Identify each brand’s share of ad spend allocated to the Super Bowl
- For example, Toyota’s total February ad spend may have been significant given overall support for the RAV4 launch
Reveal the impacts of ancillary exposures to Super Bowl ads, such as views on YouTube or Likes on Facebook as SMI changed. For example, Ram’s “Farmer” had 15 millions views at the time this analysis was completed
- Don’t forget to include Dodge as well, given even mainstream media reported on the Dodge farmer ads.
Quantify whether Super Bowl ads influence the path to purchase
- Compare whether consumers watching the game were already in-market for new vehicles, or became in-market after watching the game
 Results for Ram and Dodge combined based on the newness of the Ram brand, the length of time the Ram pickup look of has been associated with Dodge, and general consensus that not all consumers have yet recognized Ram as a brand.
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.