The Super Bowl and the Power of Social Intelligence, Consumer Behavior

by Heather

The Super Bowl and the Power of Social Intelligence, Consumer Behavior

Sunday night’s Super Bowl was an anticipated event for commercials this year, in a completely different context than normal. While it’s typically the must-watch annual show for advertising there were plenty of changeups well before the kickoff. With four major and traditional brands opting out, a big question leading up to the night was, ‘what do consumers want from advertising during a pandemic?’

Advertisers grappled with this conundrum for most of 2020. With Budweiser, Coke, Pepsi, and Hyundai out of the lineup, it opened new opportunities for brands to snag a spot in the coveted airtime such as Mercari, Klarna, Chipotle, Huggies, Vroom, and more.

InsightsNow joined an industry panel last Sunday evening led by Frank Gregory (Social Media Intelligence Practice Lead from NorthStar Solutions Group) with a team of advertising creatives and social strategists as the social conversations rolled in regarding this year’s commercial entertainment.

A few high points from their conversation included:

  • Lack of any major social themes: Some of the panelists expected to see more unity in terms of social and environmental causes because of the rising social conversations we saw in the past few years, particularly 2020. Particularly younger generations, like Gen Z, have been pushing for brands to be more accountable and conscious of their brand authenticity.
  • Most brands played it safe: With so many new brands in the spotlight, many appeared to take play-it-safe strategies in the wake of their new audience; from traditional humor to product-focused messaging.
  • No Net Improvement Diversity and Inclusion: Not only did our group question this, Adweek later reported that there were no improvements both on screen and behind the scenes; link here and here.

Overall, most advertisers avoided direct mention of the pandemic and diversity conversations. In part this was due to the idea that consumers and viewers don’t want to be reminded of reality; that advertising should be an escape. On the other hand, many industry professionals feel advertisers could have used their voice to raise up collective unity and for social good.

What was missing the most—from our market research standpoint—was the lack of both direct and indirect data synthesis. Through Social Intelligence specific brands could have been passively anticipating how to achieve viewer expectations and through active research initiatives we could have assisted in evaluating specific executions that would satisfy their entertainment needs during a pandemic and social unrest. While we’re sure (or we hope!) brands are using data to influence major advertising purchases like the Super Bowl to maximize their investments; the lack of boldness makes us feel that understanding consumer behaviors may not have been as strong of a focus as years past.


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