Super Bowl ads score Web reaction

Big game advertising on TV sends viewers looking online for more information.

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
Matt Hines
3 min read
The annual blitz of TV advertising for the National Football League's Super Bowl championship game scored big points on the Web.

Internet statistician ComScore Networks said Tuesday that this year consumers once again were focused on the colorful ads that surfaced during the Super Bowl--in some cases more so than they were tuned in to the football contest--and many viewers flocked online to look for more information after the ads played.

The Reston, Va.-based company said that 28 percent of the people it surveyed before the game cited watching the ads as their favorite aspect of the sporting event. In addition, ComScore reported that 77 percent of its respondents said they would use the Internet at some point during game day.

Among the companies scoring touchdowns with their Super Bowl XXXIX advertising campaigns was beverage giant Anheuser-Busch, which saw traffic at its Budweiser.com site rise by 600 percent on game day, compared with the previous four Sundays. ComScore said that 80 percent of its survey respondents chose Budweiser as the company whose ads they most highly anticipated. The Super Bowl traditionally draws the largest single-event TV audience of the year.

In a nod to the recent trend of so-called "underground advertising" online, whereby spots are released through nontraditional channels such as Internet bulletin board sites or cleverly disguised e-mail campaigns, traffic to Anheuser's site was up significantly for much of the week leading up to the Super Bowl. ComScore said the spike in traffic was driven largely by people downloading a Budweiser ad that spoofed Janet Jackson's notorious "wardrobe malfunction" during last year's halftime performance. The company reportedly pulled the ad from its Super Bowl lineup due to controversy surrounding Jackson's midgame performance.

Other companies that saw their TV ads send large numbers of people searching for more information online were Web registrar GoDaddy.com, which saw its site traffic increase by 378 percent on Sunday. Camera maker Olympus experienced a 363 percent jump in visitors to OlympusAmerica.com.

Apple Computer's second attempt to market a promotion for its iTunes digital music service in tandem with Pepsi, an effort that virtually fizzled one year ago, also appeared to attract large numbers of eyeballs. ComScore said that iTunes saw a more than 170 percent jump in site traffic during the game. Under the promotion, consumers can win free iTunes downloads by purchasing certain Pepsi beverages.

Napster, whose Super Bowl ads promoted its subscription-based online music service as a more affordable alternative to iTunes' pay-as-you-download business model, drew Web viewers as well. The company recorded a 30 percent increase in site traffic on Super Bowl Sunday, according to ComScore.

Other companies recording significant Web traffic gains on Sunday included General Motors, Ameriquest Mortgage, Subway and Pizza Hut.

Web sites directly related to the NFL, its teams and the Super Bowl broadcast also performed well on game day. The New England Patriots, who won their third league title in four years, saw traffic to their Web site surge. Visits to the Patriots' site were 230 percent above average, while the Philadelphia Eagles site experienced 89 percent more traffic than normal.

The NFL's official Super Bowl site attracted 88 percent higher traffic, while its NFLShop.com merchandise e-commerce operation saw an increase of 45 percent.

Fox, which broadcast the game, received 38 percent more online traffic than it does on an average Sunday during the NFL season.