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3 Lessons From the Most-Watched Super Bowl Ever   

This year’s Super Bowl will go down in history with electric plays, record-breaking viewership, and, of course, hilarious ads. We sat down with TEGNA’s Lori Clark and David Crouch to discuss lessons learned from the big game, what this means for brand advertising, the effectiveness of sports marketing, and how the combination can help grow a brand’s business. 

Meredith Cunningham Published: February 19, 2024
3 Lessons From the Most-Watched Super Bowl Ever    image

Throughout history, we’ve seen that few things bring American audiences together, like live events. In 1964, an estimated 73 million viewers tuned in to watch The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, making it the most-watched television event. But this audience was quickly eclipsed in the years that followed

  • In 1969, 150 million Americans (and a global audience of 650 million) tuned in to see Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land and walk on the moon.  
  • In 1983, the season finale of M*A*S*H set an episodic TV series viewership record with 160 million viewers, equalling 60% of homes in the U.S. 
  • 1985’s Live Aid concert brought $70 million in relief for Ethiopia’s famine and 1.9 billion viewers in 150 countries.  

Fast forward to the present day. This year’s Super Bowl amassed an average of 123.7 million viewers across CBS, Nickelodeon, Univision, and streaming on Paramount+ and NFL digital platforms, making it the second-most-watched TV event ever in American history.  

Lesson #1: Live Sports Are a Great Opportunity to Reach a Wide and Engaged Audience 

This audience is a valuable and coveted audience for brands and advertisers.  

“Sports is a tremendous way to reach an engaged audience,” says David Crouch, Director of Sales at TEGNA’s 10 Tampa Bay, which is also a CBS affiliate. “With the Super Bowl, it’s a double whammy. Not only is it an incredible event with an engaged audience, there are also people specifically tuning in to see the commercials and what kind of creative messages there are.” 

“If you’re looking to capture a live audience that’s engaged, live sports is it. 

Lori Clark, Director of Sales at TEGNA’s KHOU, which is also a CBS affiliate, agrees wholeheartedly.  

“We are seeing increased demand and viewership on those high-profile sporting events,” Clark notes. “Our partners are also seeing a great return on investment because they’re getting their message in front of more engaged audiences than ever, mostly because viewers are watching live. They’re not recording and watching it later. They are in the moment, and that’s what really matters.”  

Lesson #2: Funny Ads Reign Supreme 

With so many tuned into a single, shared, emotional experience, it’s no secret that advertisers look to capture the hearts and minds of this massive audience to create brand awareness and ultimately drive business outcomes.  

While last year’s Super Bowl LVII’s ad champion was The Farmer’s Dog, which made an extremely emotional connection with pet owners, more advertisers turned to comedy – and it worked.  

USA Today’s Ad Meter crowned State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbaaa” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito, as the night’s winner and top-ranked ad, earning a 6.68 rating out of 10. 

“We thought the biggest, most-watched event of the year is apropos for what we’re trying to accomplish,” State Farm chief marketing officer Kristyn Cook told AdWeek. “I think it’s just about the flexibility of what we’re trying to accomplish: This year, it’s all about that iconic slogan, and we are striving to make it even more famous than it is.” 

Following at #2 is Dunkin’ Donuts’ DunKings, starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Tom Brady in very distinct orange and pink tracksuits. Audiences loved the ad so much USA Today reports that it only took 19 minutes for the item to sell out on the Dunkin’ merch website 

All in all, humorous ads make up half of USA Today’s top 10, reinforcing Kantar’s research:After decades of consistent decline, humor in advertising is roaring back in 2024.” Other ads in the top 10 include Uber Eats’ “Worth Remembering,” BMW’s Talkin like Walken,” and Doritos’ “Dina and Mita.”  

“I feel like humor in advertising is probably effective because most of us could use a break from some of the news we hear. There’s just a lot going on,” says Crouch. “In times of stress, audiences are looking for some way to get a laugh and smile, and we all like funny things.”  

Clark notes that humor is also effective because it helps to improve ad recall 

“It’s really hard to stand out and get people’s attention because we’re all bombarded with ads everywhere you are,” says Clark. “People tend to remember the funny ads more, and the more you can be thought of, the more likely it is that your brand will prosper. Pair that with a large audience; there’s no better way to do it.” 

Clark, however, also emphasizes using caution when creating funny ads.  

“I often caution our local advertisers because funny is hard to do. It has to be done right, and it has to match the brand,” she says. “You must have the right creative team in place because offending your target audience is the last thing you want to do.” 

Crouch agrees.  

“What you think is funny might irritate someone else. The more people you can get from a diverse background to provide feedback, the better,” he advises. “You want something that will appeal to everyone. 

An example of a great use of humor that appeals to a wide audience and builds brand awareness is WTSP partner Weather Tite Windows. In these ads, Weather Tite Mike promotes his services and is often seen with a cookie in hand, ending with the catchphrase, “Don’t forget the cookies.” 

Lesson #3: You Don’t Have to Spend Millions to Make Creative and Effective Ad Campaign 

“When a network like CBS lands Super Bowl coverage, they sell inventory, and CBS affiliates, like KHOU and WTSP, sell local inventory,” explains Clark. “Many of our local advertisers were excited to get their message out in front of a large group of people they might not necessarily reach elsewhere.” 

While the average national Super Bowl advertiser spent $7 million on a spot, local brands don’t have to break the bank to get in the game. At KHOU, ad space for a 30-second spot can sell for less than $400,000. 

“We have partners that are big brands, but in some cases, it makes more sense for them to buy a local spot rather than a national spot,” explains Clark. “They reach a more localized DMA like Houston, with a large audience, creating brand awareness in a specific city or cities for a fraction of the network $7M price.” 

Following the success of a 2021 Super Bowl campaign and its ad series (mentioned above), Weather Tite Windows provides a great example of a cost-efficient Super Bowl campaign.  

For much less than the $7 million price tag, in addition to its 30-second creative, the company was featured on WTSP throughout the day’s coverage with logo placements and promotion of its Cookie Bowl” contest in which viewers had a chance to win cookies for a year, courtesy of Weather Tite Windows. It was promoted for weeks leading up to the big game.

“It captured people’s attention, that’s for sure. They were getting phone calls and text messages throughout the entire day,” says Crouch. “The repetition is beneficial for the right advertiser looking to get their name out there. Weather Tite Windows was able to do very successful Super Bowl advertising for a very efficient price.”  

The Value of Advertising Alongside Sports  

Super Bowl LVIII and its record-breaking audience reinforce the power and variety of opportunities that sports and live events present for brand advertisers. Whether it be spots, sponsored content, an integration, or a contest, how your brand shows up within sports can make a lasting impact on fans. 

We’ve only just kicked off an amazing year of sports, with an incredible lineup in the year ahead, including the Summer Olympics in Paris. Want to learn more about sports advertising? Be sure to check out:   

About TEGNA  

Not only do TEGNA’s Linear Broadcast Solutions deliver trusted, high-quality local news and highly-rated network programming to millions every day, but also offer opportunities for partners to reach audiences as diverse as the communities we serve. Align your brand with a trusted local source with national know-how, and connect with the right audience at the right time. Let’s get in touch. 

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