Super Bowl Heroes & Villains: A Contextual Ad Experiment

Do you typically root for the underdogs? Well, according to a Super Bowl advertising experiment run by CatapultX called Heroes vs. Villians, the underdog seems to garner more spirit and action, almost an avenger mentality.

The experiment showed that whether aligned or opposed with the underdog (sorry Bengals, that’s you), creatives showing the Bengals in each city garnered 4.3X more engagement than creatives showing the LA Rams.

The Experiment

On-Stream ads are served contextually, meaning CatapultX's AI analyzes video content to find topics that align and moments within the topic that match the ad creative or sentiment.

CatapultX served two ad themes contextually within moments related to sports, football, Esports as well as contextually tied to heroes or villains. Ads were served during moments related to those topics. Both sets of ads were served to the Cincinnati and Los Angeles localities.

"Hero" ads for Cincinnati were Bengals-themed, while Los Angeles Hero ads were Rams-themed.

The test was set to determine:

  1. Which location would engage more?
  2. Does a villian/opposing creative garner more engagement?

Users were served ads asking them "Who's going to win the big game?" or whether they agreed with predictions about each quarterback. A conversion was recorded if the user clicked on the ad, then filled in a 1 question survey about who they thought would win.

The Results

Total click-to-conversion rate for the On-Stream ads was 9.07% (compared to .55% for a typical display campaign).

The Content showed the most engagement on the ads, but what was the most surprising was that the ad server identified a video about Avengers: The End Game as a prime location to serve these Super Bowl-related ads. 

The heroes and villains mentality, plus the sentiment from intense scenes during Avengers: The End Game was a prime location for contextually relevant game-related advertising.

Rams Vs. Bengals

The survey results showed that 55% of users responded in favor of the LA Rams winning. 45% responded in favor of the Bengals winning.

What was most interesting was that ads showing the Bengals, whether in Cincinnati or LA, had 2.38X higher conversion rate than ads showing LA, showing that the underdogs, really do elicit more passion and response.

Cincinnati Vs. Los Angeles

If hometown support of the game has anything to do with who will win, Cincinnati won out, with over 1.5X more engagement on the ads and 17X conversion rate over Los Angeles. Does LA even like football? 

Heroes Vs. Villains

Both heroes and villains had similar CTRs, meaning that users either aligned with the team of their town or were compelled by the taunt of the opposing team showing their face, but heroes won the day for conversion rate with a 36% conversion rate for the hometown hero.

The Future of Super Bowl Advertising

Not everyone who watched the Superbowl is tuning in to watch actual football. Last year, 76% of those who planned to watch the game, cited ads as one of the reasons that they tuned in, which might be the only time people actually want to see ads, because 65% of users on online videos skip ads as soon as possible.

Advertisers are finding it harder to capture people's attention with 30-second ad spots. The days of the $4 million price tag for a Super Bowl ad are over because brands are worried that not only will the spot won't garner results but also that viewers might find their ads offensive after massive media coverage of things like Pepsi's Kendall Jenner protest ad that had to be pulled due to negative press.

With contextual advertising, brands can be more targeted at content that aligns with their brand or offer and increase their chances at capturing people's attention.

Using CatapultX, brands will also have better peace of mind in advertising on live television or CTV due to better brand safety practices surrounding contextual targeting.