When it comes to US sports viewing, the National Football League reigns supreme. Yet the multi-billion dollar empire has seen notable decline in television ratings over 2016: pro football ratings were down 9% during the regular season and 6% during playoffs. As eyeballs move away from television, advertisers have sought to transfer TV ad dollars to digital platforms like Snapchat.
Last year, the NFL sponsored a Live Story for Super Bowl 50 and announced a full partnership with Snapchat in August. The deal created the first Discover channel for a professional sports league, and ensured a Live Story for each NFL game.
Brands were eager to advertise within these stories during the regular season—39% of the all Live Story ads observed over a one-month period were part of the NFL Live Stories. These ads were largely reflective of NFL sponsorships—Pepsi (the NFL’s biggest sponsor) and Gatorade (the NFL’s longest standing sponsor) owned 52% and 12% of all NFL Live Story ads, respectively. These ads also featured sponsored athletes: each Pepsi ad depicted Pittsburgh Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons riding across the frame on a Pepsi can while Gatorade ads showed Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt coaching non-athletes how to push tackling dummies.
Super Bowl LI was no exception to these brands’ Snapchat ad dominance—Pepsi and Gatorade were the only brands to invest in Snapchat sponsored lenses. Pepsi’s lens allowed users to appear on a virtual jumbotron with Lady Gaga’s music, giving a nod to the halftime performer. Gatorade updated its lens from last year—which animated the Super Bowl tradition of pouring the beverage on the victor—to allow users to choose the drink color and show team allegiance.
While Gatorade was absent from Super Bowl Live Story advertisements, Pepsi was clearly invested in the channel and owned 29% of Live Story ads. The brand’s ads again focused on the Halftime Show, allowing users to swipe up to watch behind-the-scenes footage from Gaga’s wildly successful performance.