How Donald Trump Affects the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is only days away and it comes at the cusp of the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history. Government workers have been forced to work without pay, resulting in hundreds calling in sick. Service men and women have been relying on donations and food pantries and the TSA can no longer guarantee our safety.


It doesn’t even matter who you think is to blame. Because, political differences aside, we can all agree that Trump may perhaps be the most polarizing U.S. President to ever hold office. This few would dispute. Even the NFL wasn’t immune to his vitriolic tweets, which set off a sort of mini-movement in which over two hundred players over several occasions sat or knelt in protest during the national anthem, capturing the nation’s attention.


Colin Kaepernick–the player who drew Trump’s ire in the first place–became the poster boy for these protests and landed himself a Nike sponsorship, helping to create a politicized Nike ad in the process. This ad further polarized the nation.


This begs the question: do political angles really work for the sports industry?


Our Super Bowl Survey says no.

Widely regarded as the king of American television, the Super Bowl is perhaps the United States’ most anticipated and most-watched sporting event. In 2018, its viewership–though dropping from the year prior–was estimated to be around 103 million. That’s almost a third of the United States’ population. It’s a tradition centered around chips and dip with wings and beer, a tradition where families and friends come together to root for their team.

For those who don’t particularly follow–or even like–football, there’s the halftime show. And of course, there are those vaunted commercial slots that companies scramble for every year.

We surveyed 2,000 people in the U.S, half of them men, half women, all from different regions of the country. Surprisingly, almost 32% of them watch the Super Bowl solely for the commercials. From this, one can extrapolate that almost 33 million people, a large number to be sure, fall into this category.

But not all commercials are created equal. There are funny commercials, political commercials, and commercials that pull on the heartstrings. Our survey was designed to gauge the public’s receptivity to each of these types. Because although about 65% of people don’t watch the Super Bowl solely for the commercials, a majority still do pay attention to them. That is, 61.7% of respondents said that they do indeed pay attention to the halftime shows and commercials.

Again, not all commercials are created equal. It turns out that the vast majority of the American public will put away their checkbooks after viewing a politically-charged Super Bowl commercial, while those ads that incorporate a large degree of humor will motivate almost the same proportion of the population to do the opposite.

Perhaps that points to the nation’s desire for a vacation–even a short one–from all this relentless political infighting. Indeed, as you can see below, a whopping 77.1% voted that politically-charged ads are turn-offs.

But 60% voted that funny ads hit them the right away.

In the same vein, celebrity endorsements–like Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick–don’t really mesmerize the way one might think. They, in fact, do the opposite; 61.8% of respondents say they’d be less motivated to make a purchase if a celebrity was featured in a commercial.

And lastly, ads that are emotionally-charged half a mixed response. About 45% voted that yes, emotionally-charged ads are a checkbook-peeler, and roughly the same amount voted no.

Below you’ll find some other interesting statistics we gleaned from our Super Bowl Survey, in no particular order.

  • Most people–39.4%–are not particularly motivated to buy things during the super bowl. This doesn’t mean that they’re actively unmotivated; just that they don’t watch the super bowl for the explicit purpose of buying something.
  • Most people are also apparently not interested in dating services during the Super Bowl. Almost 83% of respondents said that commercials for dating apps don’t motivate them to act.
  • Most people–almost 59%–believe that Super Bowl commercials are tailored specifically to their respective demographics.