Business Students Collaborate with Dean, Faculty on Super Bowl Ad Research

February 9, 2017

While many students gathered round their TVs on Super Bowl Sunday eating chicken wings and cheering for their favorite teams, two School of Business students spent their evening in an unusual way: conducting academic research. Marketing major and finance minor Ariel Dailey ’17, marketing major Nicole Coffey ’19, along with faculty member Ronald Sicker, joined Dr. Rama Yelkur, dean of the School of Business, in her Super Bowl commercial research efforts.

Marketing major and finance minor Ariel Dailey ’17, marketing major Nicole Coffey ’19,  along with faculty member Ronald Sicker, joined Dr. Rama Yelkur, dean of the School of Business, in her Super Bowl commercial research efforts.

Yelkur, a marketer by education and ardent Packers fan, has spent the last 20 years researching predictors of Super Bowl ads; specifically, those predictors that make an ad consistently popular among viewers. Her research found that there are five major predictors of ad likability: humor, animals, product category (food versus non-food), product information, and music. Yelkur’s research has demonstrated that the category (e.g., beverages, food/restaurant, telecommunications, financial services, and movies/entertainment) of an ad’s product can also help predict likability.

Dailey and Coffey worked with Sicker and Yelkur throughout the fall semester to prepare for Super Bowl LI.

“We spent a few hours every week training for the big day. We coded commercials in real-time and created spreadsheets to organize which companies would be airing between the coin toss and the end of the game,” Dailey explained. “On Sunday, we warmed up before the game by watching commercial teasers and pre-releases. It is challenging to code every single commercial in real-time based on a scale of one to five, in five different categories, especially when the majority of ads are 15 to 30 seconds in duration.”

Ad recall is a new element that Yelkur is adding to her Super Bowl ad research this year. To better understand Super Bowl ad recall among college students, the research team designed a survey instrument that they administered to students across campus the Monday after the Super Bowl. Students were asked to identify their recollection of every commercial on a scale of one to five.

“I never knew my educational experience would include this type of work.” Coffey stated. “I have learned a lot about advertising in general but also what factors contribute to a popular ad. It has been exciting.”

Professor Sicker shared a similar enthusiasm about joining the team. “Being a part of this research project has been an exceptional experience. The students are very active and involved, creating a dynamic team that supports different perspectives,” he said. “We learned together every day.”

Yelkur noted that engaging students has played an important role in her research.

“This research related to Super Bowl advertising, the popularity and effectiveness of commercials, is very exciting for me, not only because there is a keen interest in the topic among marketers, television networks, media and investors, but it is a great opportunity to engage students in a research experience that is both educational and fun,” she explained.