The Super Bowl on YouTube: Beyond Appointment TV

Few events on television transfix the American (and worldwide) sports fan more than the annual NFL showdown of the last two teams standing as they do battle for the Lombardi trophy. Even for the sports-averse, the Super Bowl action is nestled between some of the most memorable and expensive advertisements ever produced. Whether it’s for the ads, the game, or the camaraderie of house parties, the Super Bowl is appointment television in the most traditional sense.

Even with the rise of millennials migrating en masse to digital video platforms to satisfy their entertainment needs, these same cord-cutters and cord-nevers will be texting anyone they know with a giant flatscreen (and an even larger bowl of chips) to commune with ad lovers and die-hard NFL fanatics alike. For the time being, the Super Bowl transcends trends and returns nearly everyone (for one Sunday per year, at least) back to the universal living room to watch good old-fashioned TV. With each passing year, viewership is on the rise, with last year’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots breaking ratings records again, with 114.4 million tuned into the live event.

Yet, despite this, digital video platforms such as YouTube get savvier each year, finding new ways to participate in the action. Before, during, and especially after the game, YouTube is the home to some of the most-watched Super Bowl-related content outside of the game itself.

In fact, view numbers of uploaded Super Bowl content (highlights, advertisements, fan-reactions, and more) far surpass the 100+ million game-watchers tuned into the actual broadcast. ZEFR has identified over 130K Super Bowl-related videos uploaded to the tune of 2 billion views.

So, what are we watching when we’re not watching the game itself? Here, ZEFR Insights delves into the emerging Super Bowl trends dominating YouTube, where football fans can be seen cheering or groaning along with triumphant plays or blown calls, and the less-sports inclined flock to repeat-view their favorite ads that often go viral long after the final score has been tallied. Thanks to YouTube’s ever-expanding library, there’s even content to consume long before kickoff.

In other words, as much as the Super Bowl is—and will be into the foreseeable future—a destination television event like no other, YouTube and other digital video platforms are not warming any benches on the sidelines.

super bowl on youtube zefr data videoid

Super Bowl on YouTube - ZEFR VideoID data

Before the Game

Over 50 percent of content that fans view prior to the Super Bowl is centered around playoff contenders, recipes, party ideas, official team content, and sponsored pre-game contests and halftime previews.

During the Game

Commercials are still king on the actual game day, accounting for over 33 percent of the content viewed. However, fan reactions to commercials and game highlights, as well as content surrounding Super Bowl party vlogs are becoming increasingly popular with fans.

After the Game

With so much action surrounding the biggest game of the year, it’s easy to forget that the NFL only launched its official YouTube channel a few days before last year’s Super Bowl. This multi-year pact with Google allows YouTube viewers exclusive access to highlights and official team content, generating millions of views for the league as it marches toward the season-ending championship.

In less than a year, the NFL seems to have found the YouTube sweet spot, marrying elements of the platform’s most-watched content and fine-tuning it for its own brand, including mock movie trailers hyping playoff games.

As for this year’s Super Bowl, after the game it’s all about the ads. Who won? Who lost? We’re not talking about the teams, we’re talking about the ads. Look for YouTube to roll out an a revamped edition of last year’s inaugural AdBlitz where viewers gathered around the virtual watercooler not just to talk about the ads they loved and loathed, but to vote on them and crown another winner of the Super Bowl: the most creative spot.

Game Day is No Longer a Day

With the advent of digital video and the consumer becoming increasingly astute—happily curating and mining content to frame their own, personalized viewing experience—platforms such as YouTube have given the Super Bowl an even broader reach long before (and after) game day. In fact, advertising during the game is no longer the only way a brand can leverage the Super Bowl event to increase exposure. Once upon a time, a brand spent the entire year refining that one singular moment in between plays to hit (or miss) with their coveted spot. Variables intervene, games can lag or overshadow the ad breaks, and timing was everything.

Now, much as the viewer and fan can customize their own experience of the Super Bowl beyond the confines of the four-hour broadcast window, brands armed with the right data can discover the right strategy across a longer timeframe to capitalize on the event while steering their message with ever-increasing control. What time is kickoff? You decide.


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