“It's ridiculous for a country to get all worked up about a game—except the Super Bowl, of course. Now that's important.”
- Andy Rooney, American radio and television writer
When the Super Bowl is on, there are more winners than just one of the teams playing, especially when we look at Internet trends. By now, everyone knows that the Los Angeles Rams won, but we also want to look at which Super Bowl advertisers were the biggest winners, and how traffic to food delivery services, social media and messaging apps, and sports and betting websites changed throughout the game.
We covered some of these questions during our Super Bowl live-tweeting on our Cloudflare Radar account. (Hint: follow us if you’re interested in Internet trends).
Cloudflare Radar uses a variety of sources to provide aggregate information about Internet traffic and attack trends. In this blog post, as we did last year, we use DNS name resolution data to estimate traffic to websites. We can’t see who visited the websites mentioned, or what anyone did on the websites, but DNS can give us an estimate of the interest generated by the ads or across a set of sites in the categories listed above.
The baseline value for the charts (that are only focused on US traffic) was calculated by taking the mean traffic level for the associated websites during 12:00 - 15:00 EST on Super Bowl Sunday (February 13, 2022).
The Big Picture
Focusing on the two teams that made it to the big game and to get the ball rolling already, the Bengals website had some spikes before kickoff and during the second half, but the Rams website had a great run and just like on the field, had their biggest peak at the end.
Super Bowl Sunday is not only about the ads – part of the excitement around watching the game with friends and family is having a great assortment of food and snacks. So, let’s start with the aggregated traffic to a set of food delivery services that clearly builds to a peak around 17:30, one hour before kickoff. After that, traffic generally decreases but increases slightly after the second half starts.
When we look at traffic to sports websites, there’s a build up to a peak as the game began at 18:30.
As the game progressed, traffic dropped off, but spiked three times during halftime (between 20:00 and 20:30). After the Rams victory was assured, traffic to those websites saw a final peak.
We can also see below that aggregated traffic to video platforms had a pattern similar to sports websites, with two peaks at halftime and a third notable one at the end of the game. After kickoff (18:30) the first peak occurred around the same time Coinbase’s bouncing QR code commercial aired.
How about social media? Aggregate traffic to social media sites started to decrease after 17:00, hitting its lowest point just before kickoff.
During the game, there was a clear spike (the biggest of the afternoon/evening) after the Coinbase QR code ad aired. At halftime, social media traffic dropped off before peaking again right before the second half started. A final peak occurred after the game ended.
Finally, let’s look at messaging services. Among this set of domains, there wasn’t as much of a decrease as we saw in social media heading into kickoff, but there was a spike around 19:00 after the second batch of commercials was aired. Traffic continued to grow through halftime and into the third quarter before starting to drop heading towards the end of the game. Similar to several of the other categories above, messaging traffic again rose after the end of the game.
The Internet Impact of Commercials
Historically, many people have watched the Super Bowl as much for the ads as the actual football game. (Maybe even more so some years…) Many of the advertisements are now posted online ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. Given that, do these commercials still drive traffic to the company’s web site while the game is on?” As we saw in 2021, the answer remains a resounding yes.
The first Bud Light ad during the game (at 18:52) drove a more than 25x increase to their site, and the Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda ad with Guy Fieri at 21:00 drove a second peak in traffic, with a 15x increase over baseline.
The Pringles commercial (at 21:00), where a hand stuck in a Pringles can really stuck with viewers, resulted in a greater than 35x increase. On the other hand, Lays got a 30x bump in traffic from their wedding memories ad at 20:53.
The Doritos website had already experienced some spikes throughout the afternoon, but jungle animals singing the Salt-N-Pepa hit 'Push It' (19:13) drove a more than 12x increase in traffic. However, last year’s ad with a flat virtual Matthew McConaughey seemed to have more impact.
Brands that might not be so well known often get a large traffic boost from their Super Bowl commercials. For example, the cocktail company Cutwater Spirits “here’s to the lazy ones” ad, their first at the Super Bowl, resulted in an 800x increase in traffic. (The Michelob Ultra bowling ad with Peyton Manning drive a similar increase in traffic):
Financial services: the QR code
We already saw that the Coinbase ad seems to have made social media tick up after its ad aired, but what about traffic to them? The ad drove a 14x increase in traffic. (However, it is worth noting that scanning the QR code in the advertisement took viewers to drops.coinbase.com – this specific hostname is not included in the traffic analyzed for this graph.)
In comparison, the Crypto.com ad featuring LeBron James having a conversation with his 2003 self generated a 3x increase in traffic to their website, while the FTX ad where Larry David gives bad advice through human history only resulted in 1.5x traffic growth.
On the other hand, the eToro “to the moon” ad that ran during the second half of the game drove a 25x increase in traffic (at halftime there was another 20x bump).
In the classic financial services world, there was another kid on the block that experienced a much bigger bump (140x) in traffic growth. The Greenlight ad featuring Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy’s (Ty Burrell) purchasing habits aired late in the game, (21:45) but clearly made an impact.
Electric cars (Dr. Evil) takeover
Car commercials have aired for many years during the Super Bowl, teasing new models and technologies. In 2022, electric cars were (again) a popular subject of Super Bowl ads. Bending modern day, 80’s nostalgia, and ancient mythology, BMW rocked down to Electric Avenue as their ad (18:54) resulted in a 14x increase over baseline in traffic.
However, our data showed that there was a clear winner among automobile makers: the Dr. Evil (one of Mike Myers’s characters from Austin Powers) takeover of General Motors ad drove traffic to a peak of over 400x above baseline.
Ads from other car vendors including Toyota (5x), Kia (16x), Vroom (70x), Nissan (30x) also generated attention and increased traffic to their websites. Highlighting the importance of charging to the electric car ecosystem, the first ever Super Bowl ad from Wallbox (a manufacturer of electric car chargers) powered a huge increase in traffic to their website, reaching a peak over 2,500x higher than baseline.
Last but not least
One of the health-related products that had made its mark on the Super Bowl was the early detection medical service Hologic that featured Mary J. Blige. They experienced a 140x traffic spike.
Another example that really showed that having a successful Super Bowl commercial doesn't stink was for Irish Spring soap. Their good ‘smelling’ ad drove a traffic increase to their website of nearly 200x over baseline.
Among ads for travel-related companies, the biggest increase in traffic we saw was from Booking.com (21:23), with the adventures of Idris Elba gaining them a 1.6x bump.
Several ads promoted shows and movie trailers, including Dr. Strange 2 and Amazon Prime Video’s The Rings of Power, but the trailer for Jordan Peele’s Nope movie generated a nearly 40x increase in traffic.
And the winner is…
Popular smart home gadgets appeared to be jealous of the new COVID-19 testing device from Cue Health, but Super Bowl viewers were clearly curious about it. The company's ad drove an astronomical 10,000x increase in traffic to their website after it aired.
We saw again that when humans change their behavior that impacts the Internet traffic (the network of networks is, after all, a human invention for humans).