The Super Bowl kicks off Sunday, but a crucial part of the action is already taking place online. Brands like Budweiser, T-Mobile, and Hyundai are rolling out ads featuring stars from Helen Mirren to Drake – and the Internet is paying attention.

Fans spent 14 million hours watching Super Bowl ads on YouTube last year. That reflects 127% growth over 2014, meaning that Advertising grew more than any other subcategory within football except for News and Video Games. Even before kickoff, ads posted online generated 172.5 million views, according to L2’s Intelligence Report: Video.

Not only are people watching the ads on YouTube before the game, they’re also watching afterwards – creating a powerful amplification effect. Before the 2015 Super Bowl, Always attracted 650,000 online views for its video. The brand then engaged in heavy promotion on Facebook and YouTube both during and after the game. Two days after kickoff, views surged by 200% on both platforms.

Always views

Super Bowl ads have become more expensive than ever before, rising from $4.4 million in 2015 to $5 million this year. For the first time, CBS is also requiring advertisers to buy equivalent digital ad space for each broadcast ad they purchase. However, the benefits, such as a huge spike in site visits, mean the payoff can be worth the investment.

 

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