Every year the Super Bowl ranks as one of the most watched sporting events in the world, and garners interest from fans, brands, and marketers alike. With Super Bowl Sunday landing on February 7th this year, we’re just weeks away from this major event.
Needless to say, the ongoing pandemic has brought some uncertainty to this year’s championship game, which has affected online search habits and topics. In this blog, we will examine 2021 Super Bowl search trends, and offer insights on how marketers can navigate through these unprecedented times.
Historic trends and practices
In previous years, Super Bowl interest has been generally low until the week of the event when searches have typically spiked. Even in the two weeks leading up to the game, interest tends to build gradually. You can see a similar pattern with more specific search terms as well, that include the year or number of the Super Bowl – these terms also yield a slow build up a few weeks before the weekend of the game, and where you can then see a sharp spike.
In previous years, event brands have typically begun advertising weeks ahead of the big game – from team performance and bracket predictions to eager announcements about the highly anticipated half-time show. The organic search strategy for this time of year was relatively timeless: generate hype and brand recognition ahead of time through themed blogs, and then capture conversions with a robust, well-targeted ticket page.
This year, however, carries more than a few changes for ticket sellers and other brands that typically profit from the Super Bowl. The first notable trend is that the general interest in the event seems to have picked up earlier than usual. While most of this is driven by broader information – not unlike the lead-up to previous Super Bowl games – the expected peak and gratification will look much different this year.
While tickets are still being sold, there is certainly a new lens on this weekend that usually involves partying with your friends, family and fellow fans. The game itself is set to take place in Tampa, Florida, an area that’s been highly impacted by positive COVID-19 cases, and is continuing to see rapid spread. Despite this concerning detail, fans are still being allowed to attend professional football games, and while sites like Ticketmaster are selling passes, they are taking obvious precautions around their ticket sales.
Furthermore, in the hopes to control the spread of the virus, the National Football League (NFL) is planning for very limited seating at the event, announcing only 22,000 seats will be available – 7,500 of which will be free tickets to vaccinated healthcare workers – instead of the usual 65,000. With such restricted inventory and the majority of the tickets being distributed by the NFL, the event space is experiencing quite the change in typical traffic and revenue. In past years, tickets to the big game have ranged anywhere from $4,000 to $60,000, with the 2020 average price being $7,000 (CNBC). As of January 22nd this year, Ticketmaster’s lowest price per ticket was $8,883, while VividSeats’ was as low as $7,500.
Fans are aware of the ticket limits as well, as many of the top questions surrounding the Super Bowl reflect this concern:
While the game is still happening, many of the other events that typically happen around, during, or as a result of the Super Bowl are changing too, further limiting brands’ opportunities to drive revenue. For example, the Sugar Bowl, an annual American college football game, occurred earlier this month and was limited to just 3,000 fans instead of the usual 74,000 – the full capacity of the stadium.
Despite these disheartening changes all is not lost, as the Super Bowl Fan Experience, an annual football fan-oriented event, is still set to take place. The week of events may not be quite as festive as usual, requiring fans to register for event time slots to accommodate social distancing guidelines, but it’s still an opportunity for fans and brands to get involved.
So what do we do?
As organic search marketers, we’ll have to accept a different scope of performance this year, but there are still opportunities to build brand awareness and engage with new users. By shifting our focus away from typical conversion-driving, we can take this opportunity to cultivate new, long-term audiences.
Focus on hype & unique insights
Continue creating anticipation leading up to the big game with content that generates hype, such as predictions, brackets, and fun facts about the teams. The more unique insights you can draw, perhaps from your own first-party data, the better. Event brands are uniquely positioned to understand behavior during periods like this, so dig into your own audiences’ searches, activities on your site, and various advertising performance to see what you can glean.
Furthermore, if we tap into the social themes of this year in the U.S., we’ve not only experienced the pandemic, but a new wave of social awareness. The Super Bowl features players and fans from all over the country (and world) with diverse backgrounds, so perhaps now is the time to lean into it with content such as player profiles, sports history, etc.
Since the Super Bowl will have a larger virtual audience this year, any way your site can help fans access the game or related activities is a big plus. Set up your own live stream of the game or the Fan Experience, or release special clips and highlight reels throughout the weekend. This is usually a time for viewing parties too, so marketers can help fans celebrate safely by offering ideas on how to host virtual Super Bowl viewing parties, or even offer your own game cards for fans to play online together. (FYI: ‘virtual super bowl party’ is trending!)
Whether it’s a Super Bowl themed ad, a virtual Super Bowl party game, or an exclusive piece with an NFL player, now is the perfect time to get creative with your marketing. It’s a unique year, and people are eager to have a semi-normal experience, so the more entertainment and excitement sites can help generate, the better. While you won’t be able to drive the normal amount of revenue, you do have a chance to build your brand’s exposure and make a good impression on searchers.
If you’re interested in learning more about pivotal search trends or key considerations for your 2021 organic search marketing strategy, get in touch with our SEO team!