Last Years’ Super Bowl Fizzled

The Super Bowl is due for a comeback, as the luster of “the big game” has waned over time. Last year’s viewership, originally reported at 92,000,000, was the smallest Super Bowl audience since 2007 — an audience that has dropped steadily since 2015, when a record 114,000,000 Americans tuned in.

More notable is the widening disparity between Super Bowl audience size and ad rates. NBC’s average cost per 30-second spot this year is reported at $6.5 million, with rumors of some going as high as $7 million. Yet Super Bowl audiences grow at significantly smaller rates than Super Bowl ad costs:

  • Average Super Bowl audience growth, 2007–2021: 0.18%
  • Average Super Bowl ad cost growth, 2007–2021: 3.89%

In fact, Super Bowl CPMs for 30-second commercials have increased, at 111% in 2018 and 74% last year.

The Cultural Conditions Coalesce For A Buoyant Big Game

Expect a different game this year. We see a number of signals suggesting a strong Super Bowl LVI this Sunday, in both viewership and in advertising. Our research and analysis indicate that this year’s game’s status as a tentpole media event will benefit advertisers because:

  • Brands appear upbeat for 2022. As Forrester’s Kelsey Chickering writes, brands are showing swagger with bullish media moves in 2022. These include upward-trending advertising spend projections ranging from +9–12%; a return to live events such as Super Bowl LVI and its expected full-capacity, 70,240-strong crowd; and the return of storied Super Bowl advertisers Nissan, Budweiser, and Gillette.
  • Audiences appear engaged. Forrester conducted a poll on Super Bowl and advertising interest with 306 US adults from January 31, 2022 to February 7, 2022 in its ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community.* Sixty-three percent (194 of 306 respondents) indicate that they intend to watch Super Bowl LVI this Sunday.
  • The national mood is one of moving on from the pandemic. Unlike last year’s game, which came on the heels of a winter spike of COVID-19, limited access to newly rolled-out vaccinations, and a rancorous election year, this year is different. A recent Monmouth University poll shows that 70% of Americans are ready to accept COVID-19 and move on with daily life. And it’s more than sentiment, as numerous states have set out plans to roll back COVID restrictions.
*Note: This poll was administered to a sample of 306 online consumers in the US in Forrester’s qualitative ConsumerVoices online community. This data is not weighted to be representative of total country populations.

Forrester Projects That Super Bowl LVI Will Come In Second

We developed a statistical regression model to project Super Bowl audiences using household rating and household share from a five-year average of Nielsen Super Bowl audience data. This model predicted the last several years of Super Bowl audiences within a 95%-confidence threshold. We project a Super Bowl audience of 112,262,000 viewers and a prediction interval of 105,563,000–118,962,000. This projection represents a 21% year-on-year growth from Super Bowl LV and the second-highest audience in Super Bowl history, behind 2016 (114,000,000).

Source: Forrester Analysis of Nielsen audience ratings

We’ll be watching closely to monitor audience size and performance. Between now and Sunday, look for another blog post featuring our assessment of the Super Bowl ads. If you have questions, you can reach me at Enjoy the game!