March 28, 20236 min read

The Super Value of Super Bowl Lead-Out Programs

The Super Bowl has come and gone. But the work has already started for the next one. While the Kansas City Chiefs enjoy their second championship in three years and a brief bit of downtime, it will be months before fans talk about the NFL, much less next year’s Super Bowl. But advertising teams aren’t so lucky.

As most Super Bowl advertising veterans will tell you, Big Game marketing planning starts as early as July, and you can bet that companies willing and eager to spend premium prices on 30-second spots often start brainstorming new ideas in early summer. And when it comes to the Super Bowl, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next one.

While the big-dollar spends reported for the top-ranked Super Bowl LVII ads might look discouraging to small and medium-sized brands, there’s some good news: Super Bowl lead-out programs are proving to be one of the best values on one of the biggest nights in advertising.

After the Big Game, the Audience Stays

Super Bowl lead-out programs are the shows broadcast immediately after the Super Bowl. After the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation and the final stream of confetti have rained down on the champions, the broadcast TV networks are betting they can keep you sitting on the couch with a high-profile show.

It took a while for this to become a marketable phenomenon. If you could go back in time to Super Bowl I in January 1967, you’d have your choice of watching the Super Bowl on either CBS or NBC. After the Packers beat the Chiefs, you could stick around for an episode of Lassie or Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. In other words, it was a case of “back to our regularly scheduled programming.”

The Super Bowl lead-out program, as we now know it, dates back to 1991 when CBS aired an episode of The Wonder Years. A little extra promotion for a popular show at the time drew strong numbers, and a new paradigm was born.

Since then, must-see episodes of popular shows like Friends and Criminal Minds and reality hits such as Survivor and The Voice have been carefully selected and promoted. Much of the Super Bowl’s massive audience sticks around, but Super Bowl ad spot prices go way down.

Viewership vs. Engagement: Which Really Matters?

When considering the value proposition of advertising in lead-out programs, it may help to take a step back and think about what brings value today.

It’s easy to be swayed by viewership numbers, rankings of “best” Super Bowl ads, and the “popularity” of advertising’s biggest night in general. As we reported shortly after the numbers started coming in for this year’s Super Bowl, these sorts of rankings need to take into account the intent signals that should be the new measure of an ad’s effectiveness.

Which is more important: 

  • The number of eyeballs that viewed an ad, or
  • The amount of web traffic, searches, and app downloads that came about because of engagement with the ad?

Put it this way, smart marketing departments and their executive management aren’t using popularity polls to decide whether to invest $10 million on a 30-second spot.

LiveNation’s ad for U2’s upcoming Achtung Baby residency at the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas is a perfect example to illustrate this point. USA Today’s Ad Meter and several online rankings positioned this spot as the worst ad of the night. But data from EDO, Inc. gathered from Google, SimilarWeb, and other reliable sources show:

  • This 15-second ad generated 7.4 times more consumer engagement than the average Super Bowl LVII ad.
  • This ranks the U2 ad 5th out of more than 100 ads that we looked at.

On the other hand, the spot chosen by USA Today’s Ad Meter as the best ad of this year’s Super Bowl was The Farmer’s Dog’s 60-second spot. This ad generated an average amount of engagement, ranking 63rd in EDO’s data.

These numbers are striking, especially considering the cost of the 15-second LiveNation spot versus the 60-second ad from The Farmer’s Dog. For a much smaller investment—a relative bargain, all things considered—LiveNation generated much more engagement.

Lead-Out Program Ads: The Super Bargain of the Super Bowl?

So while opinion surveys and the popular narrative shouldn’t be ignored, the question of value is more complicated today.

The strong correlation between search behavior and important metrics like sales lift and changes in market share means a lot more than an ad’s perceived popularity. Keep engagement in mind to bring this discussion back to the value of advertising during Super Bowl lead-out programs.

There may be some drop-off in viewership as the Super Bowl announcers sign off and the lead-out program starts to roll, but that doesn’t mean engagement immediately starts to plummet. EDO data suggests that Super Bowl lead-out programs can be quite effective for small-to-medium-sized brands.

The best-performing ad in this year’s lead-out program was the Universal Pictures 30-second spot for their theatrical release, Cocaine Bear. You’ve heard of it, right? It ranked second at the box office for its debut week.

Although the lead-out spot was far from Universal’s only advertising spend in the lead-up to the movie’s release, one could easily make the argument that the lead-out spot started the national conversation. The engagement data collected and measured by EDO would seem to back this up.

Want to Know More About Lead-Out Programs?

Curious about Super Bowl lead-out programs and their potential for reaching a large audience at a better rate? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

Is it the program or the time slot?

When you compare all of the post-Super Bowl episodes of a lead-out program against the show’s season averages, advertisers get an average 24% higher Search Engagement Rate for the Super Bowl lead-out episode.

  • The average ad multiplier is 5.2 versus the season averages, meaning it would take 5.2 ads on a regular season episode to equal the impact of just one ad in a post-Super Bowl lead-out episode.

Just keep in mind that this data is based on averages, and shows with other “special” episodes throughout the season might have a more effective episode throughout the year.

How does the Super Bowl lead-out program compare to other programs across all broadcast & cable programs during the same daypart? 

Prior to Super Bowl LVII, all lead-out programs since EDO began tracking them outperformed the Late Fringe, Broadcast benchmark.

  • On average, audiences were 52% more likely to engage with ads during Super Bowl lead-out programs compared to the Late Fringe, Broadcast average.
  • Here, the ad multiplier was an incredible 33.5, meaning advertisers would need about 33.5 Late Fringe Broadcast ad units, on average, to have the same impact as 1 ad unit during the typical Super Bowl lead-out program

Which types of shows perform the best as lead-out programs?

While all lead-out programs tend to outperform their regular season episodes (with a few notable exceptions), dramas tend to perform better than reality shows. 

EDO: Engagement Data That Matters

If you can’t afford a spot in the Super Bowl, it’s clear that there are other, less-expensive, but very effective spots available. Lead-out programs that follow the Big Game are a perfect example of that. But your decisions on ad buys should be driven by real-world engagement data.

EDO has the modern approach to predictive measurement that beats traditional ratings and survey-based research. For a more complete measurement of the advertising market and meaningful engagement data, contact us today.


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