Editor’s Note: SponsorHub is a Rackspace customer that delivers analytics to the sports and entertainment industry. To view SponsorHub’s pre-and post-Super Bowl XLIX findings or to download the full presentation.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. The clock reads 0:00 and a champion has been crowned. No, we’re not talking about the New England Patriots — although congratulations are in order.

We’re talking “Super Bowl advertising.” It’s an annual rite: the pundits and Ad Meter-readers come forward with findings quantifying how the best and brightest new brands’ Super Bowl ads fared — and why they’re willing to spend an average of $4.5 million for 30 seconds of the broadcast calendar’s most coveted air.

This year, the Budweiser puppy achieved what the Seattle Seahawks could not — it won back-to-back Super Bowls. The popular Anheuser-Busch spot is a sequel to the ad that last year also topped USA TODAY’s Ad Meter ranking by a consumer panel. For the 27th year, USA TODAY asked some 6,703 voters to rate all 61 Super Bowl ads.

But not every expert views the annual Brand Bowl that way.

Manhattan-based SponsorHub looks at social data to figure out how consumers actually feel about certain teams, athletes, etc. They go beyond “like, dislike, neutral” and drill down into specific emotions. From there, they generate scores that help customers decide whether to hire a certain athlete as a sponsor, for example.

“Research suggests that from the way that people talk, or type, or write, you can actually figure out how they feel, and this was the spot that most resonated during Super Bowl XLIX,” says Andrew Reid, CTO and co-founder of SponsorHub. “And the reason that you want to figure out how someone feels is because effectively, that is what brand is.”

Originally, emotive analysis was used for the purpose of preventing crime, particularly terrorism. Layer a demographic and psychographic profile with an emotional profile and you can often predict behavior.

Applying the same approach to marketing, SponsorHub customers are interested in understanding their brand equity in real time. Powered by Rackspace, the private company uses machine learning to track the emotion people feel toward topics, celebrities and brands. SponsorHub has codified the entire process into a technology and product.

“Clients get a much deeper understanding of the relative strength of the connection between the audience and brand,” says Reid, whose company analyzes about 100 gigabytes of data every day including some 8 million Twitter and Facebook posts. “Compare us with Nielsen having maybe 10,000 to 20,000 cable boxes in the home only, and we’re basically reading the reactions of hundreds of millions more people.”

Processing millions of impressions daily requires reliable computing power. According to Reid, Rackspace has increased the speed of data aggregation even as the volume of data that SponsorHub collects has increased.

“We were spending about 18 hours to do probably a tenth of this data, and when we switched to Object Rocket, that went down to about six hours. The communication between our application in Rackspace and Object Rocket is happening across Rackspace’s hefty backbone as opposed to going out across the regular Internet.”


The Patriots may have gotten the glory, but the Seahawks retained their crown as America’s emotional favorite. According to SponsorHub, Seattle had the edge in both volume and positivity in social and emotive analysis. Ranked by XScore, which looks at reach and favorability — and adjusted for “bad press,” i.e. controversy — the Seahawks kept a slight edge. [See SLIDE 4 at the link below]

“The Seahawks scored a technical victory because so many people are hating on the Patriots — an emotional aspect that was multiplied by the recent Deflategate controversy [allegations that New England underinflated footballs used in their January 18 AFC Championship win over Indianapolis],” says Andrew Reid, SponsorHub CTO and co-founder.

#Deflategate had a large impact on the Patriots, but only for about 10 days before the controversy faded. [See SLIDE 5 at the link below] “Never underestimate the short attention spans of modern audiences,” Reid says. “The emotions most affected — enjoyment and excitement — are each volatile. Affection for the Patriots did not significantly change.”

Team negative emotion scores proved revealing: [See SLIDE 7 at the link below] Upon further review of the #Deflategate scandal, the magnitude and intensity of anger surrounding the Patriots spiked before the Super Bowl, with higher expressions of fear, shame and disappointment toward the Patriots than toward the Seahawks.

Finally, says Sponsorshub’s Reid, we see the pattern of conversation [See SLIDE 9 at the link below] surrounding #DeflateGate: Note that when the blue bar is high compared to the green line, it means that major influencers and celebs are piling into the conversation. “For this topic, it appears that social influencers played a role in ‘fanning the flames,’” Reid says.


Why care how much people ‘like’ various commercials, or how much people chatted up a brand on social media? After all, says SponsorHub, these metrics only matter when impacting brand perception and brand equity.

SponsorHub defines brand equity as a combination of the way people feel about a brand and the number of people conversing about the brand.

How successfully did the marketing masterminds strategize their Big Game investments — and did the efforts pay off? SponsorHub looked at the efforts of eternal beverage “challenger” brand Pepsi and its category colossus brand, Coca-Cola.

[Slide 13 at the link below] “Our research indicates Coca-Cola’s tactics, via its heartfelt ‘#MakeItHappy’ campaign, helped to drive affection toward its brand and fostered a strong sense of gratitude toward the brand relative to other sponsors,” Reid says. “In contrast, Pepsi’s #Halftime show and corresponding promotion drove considerably more excitement expressions than Coca-Cola, also slightly outperforming competitors on the overall expressions of enjoyment.”

[Slide 14 at the link below] Katy Perry’s halftime show (presented by Pepsi) drew over 5 times the amount of baseline chatter about Pepsi on the day of the Super Bowl.

[Slide 12 at the link below] During the telecast, more generic hashtags yielded the most engagement with Katy Perry in particular (unlike the overwhelming exposure of #SuperBowlXLIX in the Pepsi context).

For future events, says Reid, advertisers may seek to align the BRAND and ENDORSER hashtag triggers identically, to optimize messaging impact.

Lead image via Flicker user Boston Public Library

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