Why Viewers Really Tune in to the Super Bowl

Wow! It’s still hard to believe what transpired Sunday night in Houston. Amid an aerial light display (with 300 drones), 5 million dollar commercials and Lady Gaga, viewers were treated to one of the greatest football games in NFL history. Rodney Dangerfield famously once said, “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” This past Sunday, millions of Americans huddled around the TV for a night of entertainment, and a football game broke out. It was stunning. For once, despite Lady Gaga’s sensational performance, the game outshined the surrounding fanfare.

But how many people really care? We all know that Super Bowl Sunday did not become an unofficial national holiday because of the game itself. So why do so many people tune in? Here at CivicScience, we polled over 1,400 U.S. adults on Monday to find out. We simply asked, “What is the main reason you watched the Super Bowl?”
Among only those who watched the Super Bowl - 63% said the “game itself”, 13% said the “TV ads”, 14% answered “the halftime show”, and 10% watched the game “to socialize.”

Among only those who watched the game – 63% said the “game itself”, 13% said the “TV ads”, 14% answered “the halftime show”, and 10% watched the game “to socialize.” Simply stated, 37% of U.S. adults watched the Super Bowl for a reason other than the game! Let’s take a closer look.

75% of men tuned-in for the game itself, compared to 51% of women. And women were 4x more likely than men to watch for the halftime show. Roughly the same % of men and women (10%) were most interested in socializing.

Millennials were much more likely than Boomers and Gen Xers to say they watched for the halftime show or to socialize, with only 51% tuning in for the game itself. As for the Boomers, it appears they’ve seen enough Super Bowl hoopla in their day, as 72% settled in to just watch the game.

Adults with a professional or graduate degree were 70% more likely to watch for the TV ads, and those in the highest income bracket (150K+) were twice as likely to say they watched for the social aspect. The halftime show had the biggest appeal among city dwellers, while suburbanites made up a majority of social viewers.

40% of those who watched for the ads or the halftime show do not the follow the NFL at all. The biggest NFL fans were, of course, those most interested in watching the game. In total, 68% of them say they follow the NFL “Very closely.”

We also asked about the live Snickers commercial that ran during the game. People who tuned in for the ads were the most opinionated, with 40% reacting positively and 40% negatively. Only 11% of the social viewers had a positive impression.

Most Americans (75-80%) watched the game at home – with one exception. Only 49% of the social butterflies stayed home, as 37% went to friend’s/family member’s house, and 12% went to a bar or restaurant. Among that same group, 29% went to a party with at least 10 people.

Finally, the 10% who watched for the social aspect had two things in common that jumped off the page. They are much more likely to “Very closely” follow politics, and to actively use Facebook. So, I’ll leave you with this. For every 6 people who bore witness to one of the greatest football game in the history of the NFL, there was likely one person (if not more) posting about Betsy Devos on Facebook during the commercials.


Interested in other insights? Check out how the current political climate impacted Super Bowl viewers, and why the NFL might be in some serious trouble!

Originally published on in Advertising & Media