Marketing Musicology
The marriage of commerce and culture

Dave Allan

November 1, 2016

Popular music in Super Bowl commercials 2005-2014

The popularity of the Super Bowl has grown tremendously since the first game in 1967. As a result, the $40,000 fee for a 30-second advertisement during that first Super Bowl has grown exponentially to over $4 million in 2014. Advertisers recognize that watching Super Bowl commercials has also gained in popularity, and is now as important and engaging as watching the game itself. Consequently, advertisers use Super Bowl ads to introduce new products or campaigns.

This research begins with a discussion of the relationship between sports and music. It follows with a content analysis of ten years of in-game Super Bowl commercials airing from 2005 to 2014. The result is a description and analysis of the placement of popular music in Super Bowl advertising.

The data analysis reveals that of the 599 total commercials viewed (excluding network and NFL promotional ads), 157 contained popular music. The percentage of commercials with popular music ranged from a low of 18.5 percent in 2011, to a high of 41.1 percent in 2014. The genre of popular music most utilized was rock (28 percent), followed by pop (25.5 percent). Popular music was most often observed in the product category of beverages (27.7 percent) followed by motor vehicles (25.1 percent). Popular music treatment was most often original vocals (65 percent), and more likely to be relevant to the narrative of the commercial (54.1 percent), rather than the brand advertised (13.4 percent).

This study was designed to expand the growing body of Super Bowl advertising research by extending it to an analysis of popular music. Based on the results, it appears that this executional cue has varied considerably in Super Bowl ads from 2005 to 2014, but risen consistently in the last three years. This is in line with the growth of music in advertising outside of the Super Bowl. Additionally, this study was designed to provide a more robust qualitative description and analysis of popular music placement in Super Bowl advertising from which inferences can be drawn about current practices, creative strategies, and its effectiveness as an executional cue. The results provide a glimpse into how advertisers are currently using popular music in Super Bowl commercials.

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