Can Super Bowl Ads Boost Brick-And-Mortar Traffic?

Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Hyundai, H&R Block, KFC can all say "yes," according to data from Factual and Alphonso Insights.

Driving foot-traffic to stores is usually considered to be the job of mobile advertising, while TV ads are given the job of burnishing a brand affiliation through entertaining, heart-warming images. But as Super Bowl 2018 30-second spots are going for as high as $5 million, those ads had better drive some business.

Two separate studies from geo-data specialist Factual and TV analytics platform Alphonso show just what brick-and-mortar business Super Bowl ads can deliver.

As Americans are expected to spend roughly $81.17 on average — for a collective $15.3 billion — as an estimated 188.5 million people watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl this Sunday, some brands have sought to capitalize on the big game by focusing on other TV placements to carry their message.

Dunkin’ Donuts ran about 1,000 ads before and after the Super Bowl in 2017 and store a traffic lift of about 12 percent among people exposed to its TV spots. Source: Alphonso TV Data

Dunkin’ Donuts Interception

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts avoided advertising during the Super Bowl, but did target sports shows before and after the game. It also targeted counter-programming such as dramas. Ultimately, the brand saw 12 percent higher walk-ins nationally as a result, according to Alphonso data. Dunkin’ Donuts hopes to replicate the store visitation lift it got from tying its ads to 2017’s matchup against the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons in Houston.

The coffee chain, which is working with Alphonso on analyzing its TV data, spent $6.8 million on four different spots last year tied to the Super Bowl (Feb. 5 to Feb. 19th) across 15 TV networks.

Alphonso TV viewers exposed to a Dunkin’ Donuts Ad during that Feb. 2017 period reported more than 10 times the usual visitation.

“TV should no longer be thought of as only a top-of-the-funnel medium. Location attribution is now here for TV ads,” says Alphonso CEO Ashish Chordia. “Brands now can use real-time TV viewership data, at massive scale, to create test groups (exposed to the ad) and control groups (not exposed to the TV ad) to tie those ads to downstream, offline results. In this case, we see a 12 percent lift amongst the audience exposed to ads during the two-week period beginning Super Bowl Sunday.”

Still, TV ads by themselves can’t show attribution the way mobile ads tend to. But there are ways around that, Chordia notes.

“Brands like Dunkin’ Donuts are working with companies like Alphonso to be their trusted source of TV viewership data, and help them better understand their customer’s journey across channels by combining that data with location data and other forms of offline or online attribution,” he says. “Advertisers are no longer in the dark about whether their TV spend is working – even at a local level. We have major trials going now for understanding TV ad impact with major local broadcast groups. In more advanced cases, Alphonso can also tie in the brand’s own CRM data — via a data safe haven – to understand results in more detail, such as which TV ad creatives are performing best to drive the most valuable customers into the store.”

Source: Factual

Where Do Fans Go?

Factual’s Observation Graph, which indexes the behavior of more than 280 million people around the globe, looked at fans of each of the two Super Bowl teams to see what their location patterns can tell brands. Factual also examined some of last year’s Super Bowl advertisers to see how they fared after airing a spot.

Among Factual’s findings:

Big Game Brands

  • Hyundai
    • Hyundai is an official NFL sponsor and is more popular among Patriots fans than Eagles. Fans of the New England team are 75 percent more likely to visit a Hyundai dealership than Eagles fans.
    • H&R Block
      • H&R Block returned to the Big Game after eight years off in 2017, likely trying to draw in customers ahead of tax season. The strategy worked last year – they saw a 51 percent increase in foot traffic to locations across the US from January to February of 2017 following the game. The Super Bowl spot might not be responsible for all of the visits, but it’s safe to say it generated brand awareness among viewers.
    • GNC
      • GNC attempted to air its first Big Game ad in 2017, but it was rejected at the last minute. If they return this year, they’ll be tapping into their core audience – fans of both the Eagles and the Patriots are far more likely than the average consumer to visit GNC locations – 7.5x and 4x, respectively.
    • KFC
      • KFC also aired its first Super Bowl ad in 2017. Nationwide, the chain saw an 8.7 percent uptick in visits from January – February 2017, following the game.
US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will host Super Bowl LII on Sunday

New England vs. Philadelphia Locations 

  • New England fans enjoy burgers, while Philadelphia fans prefer chicken:
    • NE fans are:
      • 4.4x more likely than PA fans to visit a Five Guys location
        • (There are 60 locations in PA, and 75 in the New England area, including one walking distance from Gillette Stadium, which likely contributes to loyalty and visitation on game days by Pats fans)
      • 2x more likely to visit  Johnny Rockets
      • 1.4x more likely to visit Burger King
    • PA fans are:
      • 3.6x more likely than NE fans to visit a Quaker Steak & Lube (perhaps not surprising, as the chain was founded in Pennsylvania and has 22 locations in the state)
      • 4.6x more likely to visit Church’s Chicken
      • 3.4x more likely to visit Popeye’s
    • Eagles fans are into home furnishings – they’re 4.6x more likely to visit Ashley Furniture and 2x more likely to visit Ikea and Sleep Number stores

Top Chain Restaurants for Patriots Fans

  • Maggiano’s
  • Pei Wei Asian Diner
  • The Capital Grille

Top Chain Restaurants for Eagles Fans

  • Dave & Buster’s
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • Jamba Juice

As brands now prepare to aim ads during the next big “mass media” events — The Winter Olympics and The Academy Awards — TV ad performance and its impact on store visits will be more closely examined given the higher level of attribution data, answering the fundamental marketing question, “which part of my advertising is working?”

“Data provides clear evidence today that TV is working to drive traffic and sales – particularly with large tent-pole events like the Super Bowl, or other seasonal events like Grammys, Oscars or Olympics,” Chordia says. “That is certainly the case with this Dunkin’ Donuts study.

Source: Alphonso TV Data

“What we see brands do more of today is amplify their TV ad spend on digital. With Alphonso they know which ads and programs viewers are exposed to, and they can extend the frequency of their own campaigns on those people’s devices, or go after the audience that has seen their competitor’s ad,” he adds. “Geo-specific ads can be delivered to help bolster a national campaign to help drive results at a regional or local level. TV data and location data is a very powerful combination for marketers.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.