$5.6 million. $6.5 million. $7.2 million. As the price of a 30-second Super Bowl spot increases roughly 10% annually, brands and marketers question the value of the media and production costs to show up in advertising’s premiere showcase. In hindsight, this year’s answer is clearer, with audience numbers forecasted to exceed the record of 115 million average viewers. In particular, the matchup between Taylor Swift (dating, if you somehow missed it, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce) and Olivia Culpo (engaged to 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey) might attract new and younger fans, giving brands the bonus of reaching a coveted Gen Z audience.

In a bid to work out the state of Super Bowl commercials, we asked 328 US online adults in Forrester’s CommunityVoices Market Research Online Community (MROC) panel about their plans for the game. We found that:

  • Two-thirds say they plan to watch the Super Bowl. This means the game’s total viewing audience could exceed 200 million people in the US. The NFL remains the biggest show in town, especially compared to an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Consumers — who are otherwise split across social media and streaming platforms — get back together to watch the game. Brands who don’t participate forfeit access to a massive, captive, and engaged audience. As one member of Forrester’s ConsumerVoices panel told us, “We generally tape everything we watch and fast forward through commercials, but one of the few shows we don’t tape is the Super Bowl so we can watch the commercials.”
  • Three-quarters say they will wait for the live broadcast to watch the commercials. Advertisers releasing their Super Bowl commercials early in hopes of generating engagement ahead of the game will be disappointed. The technique can be effective: Social media is buzzing over Sir Patrick Stewart throwing Hey Arnold in Paramount+’s ad and the return of the Budweiser Clydesdales. But with most of the audience waiting for the game to watch, the higher-impact option is to save a strong commercial for live consumption. As one member of Forrester’s ConsumerVoices panel put it: “It’s almost like Christmas. I don’t want to open the gifts until the holiday. I love the Super Bowl ads and don’t want to watch any of them until the game.”
  • Super Bowl ads can still have lasting impact for brands. We asked members of Forrester’s ConsumerVoices panel to identify a commercial or set of Super Bowl commercials that they particularly remember watching. Of course, there were many mentions of “Mean Joe Greene,” Apple’s “1984,” Cindy Crawford, and the aforementioned Clydesdales. But panelists also thought of more recent material from lesser-known brands, such as E-Trade’s baby spots, GoDaddy’s controversial ads, the “Avocados from Mexico” series, and 2023’s “Forever” commercial from the Farmer’s Dog. Brands can make their names from Super Bowl commercials, assuming they can afford the cost and their ad hits the mark.

Of course, we also asked the members of Forrester’s ConsumerVoices panel to tell us whether they were rooting for the Chiefs or the 49ers — it was split right down the middle. We’ll see who wins, both with the teams and (perhaps more importantly) the advertisers.