February 4, 2013, 5:18 PM

Who won the online Ad Bowl?

Retailers and brands spent record amounts for ad airtime during the Super Bowl.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

Besides the game itself, the antics of Ray Lewis and the artery-clogging but oh-so-irresistible snacks, one of the biggest draws of yesterday’s Super Bowl was the advertisements.  Retailers and brands that advertised paid a hefty price, but appear to have generated a significant amount of online traffic as a result.

Advertisers doled out hefty chunks of change for the coveted spots. According to CBS, the television network that aired the game, the average price for 30 seconds of air time during the Super Bowl this year was $3.8 million, up 8.6% from $3.5 million last year and nearly 27% from $3 million in 2011. Consumers look forward to the annual burst of ad creativity. A recent poll by Harris Interactive finds 66% of women and 45% of men watch the big game as much for the ads as the action on the field.

Best Buy Co., Skechers USA Inc. and active wear retailer Gildan Active are a few of the retailers that aired ads during the big game.

Best Buy, No. 11 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, ran a commercial featuring actress and comedian Amy Poehler as a technology challenged shopper pacing the aisles of a Best Buy store asking such questions as “What’s an LTE? Is it contagious?”

David Johnson, CEO of public relations firm Strategic Vision, says that tweets about Best Buy on social network Twitter spiked 400% after the retailer’s ad ran.

Eric Smallwood, senior vice president at Front Row Marketing Services and Front Row Analytics, notes how Best Buy’s spot featured products from many brands it sells, including Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. This, he says, provided great value to those brands—close to $500,000 for all brands combined based on the amount time they were featured in the $3.8 million 30-second spot.

A Best Buy spokeswoman wouldn’t not share specific results in terms of increased sales or traffic to BestBuy.com stemming from the ad except to say it is “very happy with the response to the ad.” “In addition to Amy Poehler making the spot very entertaining to watch,” she added, “people understood the message we were trying to convey about Best Buy being the place to have all of your technology questions answered.”

Skecher’s, No. 441 in the Guide, chose a more serious tone with its two spots. In one, NFL great Joe Montana praises the comfort of the brand’s relaxed fit shoe while holding a football and is then caught by surprise when a man comes and snatches it out of his hand. However, Ronnie Lott, another former NFL player, saves the day, tackling the thief. In the second spot, a cheetah takes center stage, going head-to-head with a human wearing Skechers GOrun 2 shoes. The ads paid the retailer back in traffic, according to web measurement firm Experian Hitwise. Skechers.com experienced a 14% increase in total U.S. visits on Sunday’s game day compared with Saturday and a 37% increase over the previous Sunday.

Gildan Active’s spot meanwhile, gets a little racier, featuring a man awaking after what appears to be a risqué one-night stand to find his partner from the evening sound asleep, and wearing his favorite Gildan Activewear T-shirt. The ad generated a lot of comment on Twitter, positive and negative. One tweet regarding the ad reads: "Blindfold, handcuffs, sleep-stripping...good luck to parents explaining that Gildan Apparel ad to the kids."

“Retailers like Skechers, Best Buy and Gildan that advertised during the Super Bowl appear to be seeing the results they desired,” says Johnson. “People are talking about the ads but even more they are engaging on social media with tweets and Facebook likes about the ads and the brands.  The ads created the buzz that advertisers were looking for.”

Other brands used more thrifty tactics to catch consumers’ attention. When most of the stadium lights went out mid-game, cookie brand Oreo tweeted: “You can still dunk in the dark!”

Car research site AutoTrader.com meanwhile says the car manufacturers that advertised during the game experienced a 245% increase in search activity on AutoTrader.com during the hour after their ads ran. The Hyundai Santa Fe experienced the greatest increase in search activity, with a lift of 1,004%. The Kia Forte nabbed the second highest increase at 750%, while the Kia Sorento came in third at 521%.

"Hyundai really benefitted from their sponsorship and ad buys during the pre-game," says Rick Wainschel, AutoTrader.com's vice president of automotive insights.

Automakers that chose to use their ad time to promote their overall brand or a product that's not yet available to consumers experienced on average a 79% increase in search activity, AutoTrader says. For example, the Mercedes-Benz commercial for the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA vehicle contributed to a 75% increase in search queries for current Mercedes-Benz current models on the site. AutoTrader.com analysts looked for percentage lifts by comparing search activity at the make and model level in the hour immediately after the ad ran and compared it to activity the hour before the game for its analysis.

Some brands continued their Super Bowl promotions after the final play of the game. Online diet products and plans retailer Nutrisystem Inc., No. 93 in the Guide,  is seeking to extend the popularity of the Super Bowl by declaring today “Super Monday”—one of the top 10 diet decision days of the year for men based on its sales data. To further promote the day, it kicked off a “Pledge To Lose” Facebook contest. Consumers can like the company’s Facebook page and enter the contest for a chance to win the Nutrisystem diet program for one year, autographed memorabilia from famous football player and Nutrisystem spokesman Dan Marino and a grand prize of an all-inclusive trip for two to the Bahamas.

User-generated ads continue to be a growing trend as online fans had a hand in creating several advertisements, according to data from TiVo Research and Analytics Inc. For example, in vehicle maker Audi of America's commercial, fans chose the ending via online voting prior to the game. And, as in recent years, many major brands previewed their Super Bowl advertisements on the web before the big game. Car manufacturer Volkswagen's ad, for example, garnered more than 8,373,067 views on YouTube before it aired on TV. 

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