Being that I’m not a football fan, it stands to reason that the Super Bowl isn’t normally high on my priority list. But I felt I had a vested interest in tracking the results of Super Bowl XLVI this year for a few reasons. First of all, I’m from Fort Wayne, Indiana (don’t hate) and since the big game was being held in Indianapolis this year I wanted to be sure my state delivered a quality product of which I could be proud. Secondly, I was interested in seeing if this year’s Super Bowl XLVI could deliver more viewers than last’s record setting game (including African-American viewers). And lastly, I love creativity and wanted to see how much was apparent in the commercials that usually debut during the game. So of course I did not actually watch the game. But hey, I work for a research company, so I know exactly what happened!

Apparently, Indianapolis delivered. There were no major catastrophes or mishaps that will make the state hang its head in shame. In fact, I dare say I had a couple of East Coast friends who attended the game say how impressed they were with the city. That they were surprised not to see corn stalks growing in the middle of downtown. Yes, we Hoosiers can be sophisticated when we need to be.

As for delivering viewers—Super Bowl XLVI did not disappoint. I have observed in previous columns that the popularity of football seems to have replaced baseball as that age-old American pastime—at least when it comes to television viewing. Last year, Super Bowl XLV, ranked as the #1 Most Watched Show for African-Americans (ages 2+), with 12.5 million viewers, from January 2011-June 2011. This year’s Super Bowl XLVI upheld that new tradition, and attracted even more viewers, an estimated 111.3 million total viewers. Whether you are a diehard fan or a non-football enthusiast such as myself—that’s pretty impressive. (At press time I didn’t know how many of this year’s viewers were Black, but of course I’ll share that information with you as soon as I get it).

What’s even more impressive was the $3.5 million advertisers were willing to pay for each thirty second commercial for a chance to reach those millions of viewers. That’s up from $3.1 million from last year’s Super Bowl. I watched every single one of the 54 commercials online back to back. Even minus the football game itself, that took me a while. Nostalgic, confusing, goofy, bad taste, sentimental, action-packed, morbid, sexy, intriguing, fantasy-filled, hilarious—although there were a couple of spots that were unremarkable, there was most assuredly at least one spot that resonated with every viewer (and what’s a Super Bowl game without a cameo appearance by Betty White or a shout out to Aretha Franklin these days?) Of course I have my favorites. We all do, which is why those spots cost so much. They grab our attention and are discussed around the water cooler—or, er, in the age of Twitter—tweeted about ad nausea for the next few days. The types of ads that dominate the Super Bowl scene historically tend to be the same each year. According to Nielsen, five advertising categories dominated Super Bowl broadcasts from 2007–2011:

Automotive: $172.2 million spent over that period?

Beer: $126.9 million?

Motion Picture: $120.7 million?

Regular Soft Drink: $81.2 million?

Tortilla Chips: $42.5 million

Advertisers make such substantial investments because data, analysis and the bottom line—brand awareness, which translates into spending dollars—prove that the Super Bowl is a sure thing. The investment returns are measurable. Ads that aired during 2011’s Super Bowl XLV were, on average, 58 percent more memorable than commercials which ran during regular programming in the first quarter of 2011. That all important brand awareness for commercials airing during the Super Bowl time slot was nearly 275 percent higher than awareness for the same spots which ran during regular programming.

Did your affinity toward any of your favorite brands increase because of their commercials? Or, were you enticed by the elaborate advertising to try the other guy? That’s what it’s all about. While we are certainly entertained, we are also presented with a myriad of choices. How and where we choose to spend our hard-earned consumer dollars is up to us. As always—even for the non-sports fans among us—that’s power, people.

And oh, by the way—I saw streaming video of the halftime show after the live broadcast. Madonna, girl, if that’s what 53 looks like, I want to be like you when I grow up!

(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to

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