Social Listening for the 2019 Super Bowl LIII: Are Brands In Touch with Consumers?

Kimberly Surico |
 02/04/19 |
5 min read

There’s arguably no greater stage for brands than the Super Bowl, football’s annual final match-up, which has become as much about the commercials as it is the sport. But commercials – as with all things in modern marketing – are not about your brand. They’re about your audience and what they want from your brand.

How did that idea play out during Super Bowl 53? And how can social listening ensure brands stay on track?

Be on the Lookout for Trending Topics

Whether you bought ad time or want to capitalize on the Super Bowl in another way, it’s good to watch emerging trends in real-time. A LIVE Pulse is a great way to do this.

Here’s what people were talking about 15 minutes before CBS’ official Super Bowl coverage began:

Naturally, the two teams battling it out, as well as the NFL overall, made the top of the list, along with the terms “win,” “Sunday,” and the city where it was all happening, “Atlanta.” And note the football emoji trending. Just a reminder these are the little extras you have to watch for as you analyze social now.

Don’t discount smaller trends, however. This is why there are different tools for different perspectives on your analytics. A trend doesn’t have to go viral to matter to your brand.

When we search on “Super Bowl” in the NetBase tool (versus the LIVE Pulse) we see there’s some negative sentiment and worrisome hashtags surrounding boycotting the game, including #BoycottBowl, #WhoDat, #WhoDatNation, #NFLWho, and #ImWithKap.

The latter represents all those boycotting in support of Colin Kaepernick’s activism and in protest of his treatment by the NFL.

The four preceding hashtags are connected to those who believe the New Orleans Saints were wrongly kept out of the Super Bowl by a bad call at the final NFC championship game against the Rams.

It’s important to know about such trends so you can assess whether there will be impact to your brand – like knowing your expensive ad messaging potentially won’t break through in that geographic region. Or, if you’re a local brand, knowing you could garner support by standing with boycotters.

Social sentiment should always be your guide before making a decision about any trend – whether that trend is short-term or long.

For example, a marketing trend that’s picked up steam over the past several months is ads being sensitive to current social/political issues.

This is partly to gain favor with the all-important Millennial audience, who “possess the ability to organize, drive awareness and influence the behavior of other generations through vast social media networks, with an ease and to a degree this country has never seen.”

The results of these efforts have been a mixed bag, however, with brands not always on the positive end of the buzz spectrum following such efforts.

Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad united the #BlackLivesMatter movement only in agreement of the ad’s “tone deafness.” Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign had nearly as many people burning their Nike gear as praising the brand’s message. And most recently, Gillette came under fire for their call to action to decrease toxic masculinity – which many felt was preachy and man-bashing.

Still, brands aren’t necessarily wrong to use social/political issues in their marketing – as long as they aren’t approaching it like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. Whatever the campaign, brands must use social listening and sentiment analysis to ensure their audience wants to hear what they have to say.

Several brands waded into these more serious waters for their Super Bowl ads. Did they inspire the brand love they hoped for?

Ad by Ad – Sentiment in the Moment


Leading up to the games, Coke announced their intention to not air a traditional during-the-game ad, instead opting for a pre-game slot focused on diversity just before the National Anthem. The animated ad’s initial response was entirely positive:


Social and dating app Bumble put Serena Williams front and center for their commercial about women embracing their own power.

Though overall sentiment is 47% positive due to unrelated negative posts within the hour analyzed, you can see the spike of positivity related to the commercial, which is at 67% for Serena Williams as much as for Bumble.

People also loved the all-female creative team behind the spot.


Kia, the brand that brought us the cheeky Walken Closet ad a few years back, teased up a more serious tone for this year’s ad. Their 30-second spot used a voiceover and images speaking to the people of West Point, GA, where the Kia Telluride is made. The crux of the ad is the “great unknowns” – i.e., people who aren’t famous, but do incredible things.

It wasn’t a sentiment landslide, as the Attributes show:

Yet many felt it was the best commercial of the night (at least to that point):


It’s hard to imagine a bigger slam-dunk of a topic than first responders, so Verizon’s positive sentiment isn’t a huge surprise. Their commercial featured NFL players who were saved by first responders at some point in their lives meeting those first responders.

Most people loved it, but there were a few who wanted to remind the social universe that Verizon’s motives might not be as pure as they seemed:

By the time their second commercial rolled around, “throttle data connection” as part of the Attributes cloud:

Verizon will have to keep an eye on sentiment over time to see if this ad, and their contributions to the Gary Sinise Foundation, will be enough to keep the past in the past.

But, of course, continuous monitoring is something all brands should do – at all times.


Microsoft went right for the heartstrings by promoting their new Xbox Adaptive Controller in an ad featuring a number of physically challenged children. The adaptive controller got a few shout-outs, as did the commercial itself, which arguably won the night:

The Game Is Over, but the Year Has Just Begun

The Super Bowl is a great check-in point for brands – to see what’s working, what’s not, and to gear up for awards season, and each new milestone marking your brand’s goals.

Continued use of sentiment analysis, along with social monitoring and other tools, will keep your sailing smooth – no matter what hot topics you want to use in your marketing. Success is possible, as the brands above prove. But it’s never guaranteed. Be sure you take advantage of every bit of social data available.

Want to see how our tools bring you the best social intel? Reach out and we’ll give you a tour!



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