Super Bowl Ads

42 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2014 Last revised: 31 Jul 2018

See all articles by Wesley R. Hartmann

Wesley R. Hartmann

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Daniel Klapper

Humboldt University Berlin - School of Business and Economics

Date Written: August 1, 2016


We explore the effects of television advertising in the setting of the NFL’s Super Bowl telecast. The Super Bowl is well suited for evaluating advertising because viewers pay attention to the ads, more than 40 percent of households watch the game and variation in ad exposures is exogenous because a brand cannot choose how many impressions it receives in each market. Viewership is primarily determined based on local preferences for watching the two competing teams. We combine Super Bowl ratings data with weekly sales data in the beer and soda categories to document three primary findings about advertising. First, the relationship between Super Bowl viewership and sales in the week leading up to the game reveals the brands customers buy to consume during the game. We find some brands are consumed while watching the game while others are not, but this is unrelated to whether a brand ever advertises in the Super Bowl or advertises in a specific year. This rejects the theory that advertising works by serving as a complement to brand consumption. Second, we find that post-Super Bowl sales effects of ad viewership are concentrated in weeks with subsequent sporting events. This suggests Super Bowl advertising builds a complementarity between the brand and sports viewership more broadly. Finally, we collect data on NCAA basketball tournament viewership to test this theory and find that the complementarity between a brand's sales and viewership of the tournament is enhanced by Super Bowl ad viewership. Together these findings identify advertising as a determinant of why some brands outperform others for particular consumption occasions such as sports viewership.

Keywords: advertising, ad impressions, branding, complements, television

Suggested Citation

Hartmann, Wesley R. and Klapper, Daniel, Super Bowl Ads (August 1, 2016). Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 15-16, Available at SSRN: or

Wesley R. Hartmann (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Daniel Klapper

Humboldt University Berlin - School of Business and Economics ( email )

Spandauer Str.1
Berlin, Berlin 10178

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