SBvsOLFebruary brought us two of the farthest reaching, live advertising events in the U.S.: the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Though their reach may be similar in stature, these events create very different viewing experiences and advertising contexts. How do advertisers respond to the differences these platforms create? Do these ads perform differently?

The Super Bowl is a one-time, aggressive sporting event that creates a party atmosphere. The Olympics, on the other hand, take place over two weeks, with more of an at-home viewing experience, and with athletic events that are inspirational in contrast to football’s aggressiveness.

In general, the different contexts created by these events influence the ads aired on each platform. Super Bowl ads tend to be more disruptive, working hard to grab attention and keep viewers at the T.V. during breaks in the action. Olympic ads, are more contextual. Their use of winter sport athletes and settings blend in with, rather than stand apart from, the broadcast.

Many Super Bowl ads use outrageous humor to breakthrough and generate buzz. Olympic ads tend to use more emotional stories to touch viewers, even to the point where viewers share the experience via social media with friends and family.

How do these different advertising characteristics impact performance?

Ameritest looked back at the Super Bowl ads tested over the past few years and at the 12 Olympic ads tested in January. We examined each group to see how they performed on the Report Card Measures of our  Ameritest Advertising Research Model:

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Attention – An ad must get noticed and attract an audience

Brand Linkage – The audience must know who is sending the advertising message

Motivation – Once the ad has the audience’s attention, it must persuade them to take action

Here is what we found:Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.13.40 AM








As a group, Super Bowl ads excel at generating Attention, besting both the Olympic and the Ameritest Averages. However, with such strong focus on creating attention-getting ads, many advertisers lose sight of creating a strong tie to the brand and changing viewer behavior, as seen with below average levels of Brand Linkage and Motivation.

Olympic ads create a strong tie to the brand and motivate viewers at higher levels. Though the level of breakthrough doesn’t hit the high-water mark set by Super Bowl ads, Olympic ads reach average levels of Attention.  And since the Olympics take place over two weeks, Olympic advertisers have an opportunity to air their executions multiple times or as part of a larger campaign, creating a wear-in effect that can improve recall.

The one-time, party atmosphere created by the Super Bowl platform has led many advertisers to focus on getting attention at the expense of any other advertising objectives. They limit ROI if they create a buzz-worthy ad that doesn’t have strong ties to the brand or fails to motivate consumers. That is not to say that all Super Bowl advertising is ineffective or that the Super Bowl creates a poor platform for advertisers. However, Super Bowl advertisers need to be aware of the risks involved in creating an ad focused on breakthrough only and work to make sure that they don’t sacrifice Branding and Motivation.

Olympic advertisers, on the other hand, have been able to use the sporting platform to generate well-branded, motivating executions and the opportunity for multiple airings can increase recall of executions that have average attention-getting power.

To download a copy of our ARF Webcast Deck, “Superbowl vs. Olympic Advertising: Who Won the Battle for Advertising Gold”, please visit:, or call Ameritest at 505-846-5763 to request a copy.

To learn about Super Bowl advertising in-market performance, as measured by Communicus, Inc., please visit: