Super Bowl Ad Study: "Celebrities Have Lost Their Influence" With Consumers

A new study indicates that celebrities such as Danica Patrick have less influence on Super Bowl viewers than ever.January 26, 2011: There is a lot being said and written about the estimated $200 million being spent on ads that will run on Fox during Super Bowl XLV. But here is something that some marketers might not want to hear: If your commercial features a celebrity — and many of them do — your message will resonate far less with viewers and consumers than ever.

But if you have a "cute kid" or an animal and tell your message in a humorous way, you will have a better chance than ever of having your spot remember long after the champion of Super Bowl XLV has been crowned.

This advice comes from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire marketing professors Dr. Chuck Tomkovick and Dr. Rama Yelkur, who have done multiple studies on Super Bowl advertising. According to the professors, their research involved studying "all 538 Super Bowl ads that aired from 2000-09." They said their results from these years replicated and extended research that they had completed in the 1990s.

"In the past, including a celebrity in your ad was a no-brainer," Tomkovick said in a statement. "For years the use of celebrities was among the top predictors of popular Super Bowl ads. But our most recent research shows that's no longer true. Celebrities have lost their influence when it comes to popular Super Bowl ads."

According to the research, "Humor, animals and product category have endured for 20 years as high predictors of popularity," Tomkovick said. "New to the list are children and limiting the amount of information shared about a product."

The study did not include ads that aired on CBS during Super Bowl XLIV last year. Among the most popular in numerous post-game surveys was the Snickers ad with Betty White, which then catapulted the veteran actress back into the mainstream of popularity, including a starring role in the sitcom, Hot in Cleveland on TV Land.

Betty White scored big points and reloaded her career thanks to a Snickers ad during Super Bowl XLIV.Marketers paid for almost 48 minutes worth of ads last year, a new high for the Super Bowl, according to a study from Kantar Media, New York. In addition to Betty White, spots included such celebrities as Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo (HomeAway), Stevie Wonder (Volkswagen), the cast of The Simpsons (Coca-Cola) and Kiss (Dr. Pepper).

This year, spots will feature the likes of Kim Kardashian (Sketchers), Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels (, plus a another soon-to-be-revealed star. Volkswagen's commercial, "The Force" will both score and lose points simultaneously, according to the Super Bowl ad findings, as it features a "celebrity" — Darth Vader from Star Wars — but being played by a kid.

Additional research by Tomkovick and Yelkur found that the "aggregate stock prices of publicly traded firms that ran in-game Super Bowl ads outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 by more than 1%  during a two-week period of time (Monday before the Super Bowl through the Friday after the game)."

According to Yelkur, "One percent doesn't sound like much until you realize that it translates into tens of billions of dollars. The stock price performance wasn't related to ad popularity or any industry category. Our research suggests that advertising in the Super Bowl is a tradable event independent of ad content or other predictors."

"Our most recent research shows that . . . celebrities have lost their influence when it comes to popular Super Bowl ads."

The bottom line: Marketers who advertise during the Super Bowl have the potential to reach 100 million consumers. In addition, Super Bowl ads are more powerful than ever because they are available in so many formats, often long before and after the football game, Yelkur said. And that's not bad.

"The ads are seen by millions of people who don't see the football game, and they can be viewed multiple times in a variety of formats," Tomkovick said. "Running a 30-second Super Bowl ad is no longer a one-time thing."

For additional details and information, contact:

Dr. Chuck Tomkovick: 715-836-2529 or

Dr. Rama Yelkur: 715-836-4674 or

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