2019 Super Bowl Trailers: Assessing the Viral Impact of this Year’s Big Game Trailers

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by Alex Edghill

Super Bowl LIII proved to be a defensive slog where the ever-competitive New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. Low scoring games tend to draw less interest from average viewers, resulting in an overall average viewership of 98.2 million: the lowest in over a decade. Alternatively, the average ad prices for the big game hit a record high of $5.25 million for a 30 second spot. This year, only three films showcased trailers during the broadcast: two from Disney–Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame–and Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw

As is our annual tradition, we assess the impact of the trailers to each of film’s respective social media footprints across the major platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’ve also taken into account USA Today’s Ad Meter results and compared them to last year’s trailers. 

Our overarching question: what value do Super Bowl trailers provide studios? Let’s look at the recent history of viewership, costs, and number of trailers per year to try to get a better feel for the value that this big expenditure holds for those willing to shell out for those costly 30 second spots:

It was no surprise that Avengers: Endgame was the cream of the crop this year’s trailers. Tied at first place in the Ad Meter poll, a huge 127,162 tweets, 26,152 new Instagram followers, and just under 4,000 new Facebook likes. Endgame is universally expected to be one of the highest grossing films of the year; its Super Bowl spot lived up to that expectation. Comparatively, Avengers: Infinity War aired a trailer in last year’s Super Bowl where it had an Ad Meter score of 5.28, just 13,809 tweets, and 3,645 new Facebook likes. That means Endgame was up across the board from last year’s broadcast. This was especially the case on Twitter,  which is a great sign for both its potential and the investment of $5.25 million on the ad. Considering that Infinity War set the current opening weekend domestic box office record of $257 million the sky appears to be the limit here for Endgame. A $5 million investment is drop in the bucket for a film with the potential to earn $2 billion worldwide.

Captain Marvel also had a very strong showing from its Super Bowl spot. Its Ad Meter poll was tied for first amongst other trailers with 5.34 . The trailer generated 26,007 tweets, 708 new Facebook likes and 9,933 new Instagram followers. A welcome sign for the film’s chances despite the muted Facebook numbers. 

Captain Marvel has big shoes to fill, occupying the Black Panther release slot that gave us the highest-grossing domestic film of 2018. Like Black Panther, Captain Marvel is appealing to a typically underserved demographic–bringing the first female-driven narrative in the franchise’s run. 

Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw enjoyed an Ad Meter rating of  5.15, registered 8,678 tweets, 4,611 new Facebook  likes, and 2,332 new Instagram followers. It is the studio’s first attempt at spinning off its highly popular Fast & Furious franchise. The previous entry in the series, The Fate of the Furious, also had a Super Bowl ad back in 2017. Fate scored an 5.1 Ad Meter rating, 21,131 tweets and 12,131 new Facebook likes. Each of the last three Fast & Furious entries have opened to over $95 million and made more than $225 million domestically which is no doubt what Universal is hoping for with Hobbs & Shaw.

The value Super Bowl spots bring to studios appears to be on the decline. Over the last five years, the number of studios choosing to shell out money for a trailer has dropped by more than half. The average viewership has dropped from an average of 114.4 million to 98.2 million over that period, while ad cost has risen from $4.5 million to $5.25 million. Despite the drop in value, the social media impact speaks for itself: the chance to capture one of the largest television audiences of the year to drive conversation around a new release. How many studios will continue spending that money, however, remains to be seen.