Politics Proved Bigger Entertainment Than Super Bowl and Advertising

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Recent Nationwide Survey by Havas PR Reveals Many Find Today’s Affairs of State More Exciting Than the Big Match

A lot of Americans are finding politics today more gripping than the nation’s biggest sporting event, the Super Bowl, according to a new nationwide survey commissioned by Havas PR North America.

The survey, taken online immediately after the nail-biting comeback of the New England Patriots to win the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, found that over one quarter (26 percent) of respondents agree with the statement “Politics these days are much more exciting than the Super Bowl.” This view is even more common among Americans under the age of 46 (30 percent) than those over age 46 (16 percent).

“To understand how significant these figures are, imagine how few Americans would have found politics more exciting than the nation’s premier sporting event five, 10 or 15 years ago. Now it’s a trend that’s happening in plain sight. Over the past 18 months, politics has provided a daily hit of high drama that’s reversed the flagging fortunes of news media,” said Marian Salzman, Havas PR CEO. “We saw similar numbers driving a surprise shift back nearly twenty years ago, when we called the Rise of Religion.”

The survey also found encouraging news for Super Bowl advertisers who took the risk of mixing politics in with their messaging. A solid one-third of survey respondents (33 percent) agreed that “It’s okay for Super Bowl advertising to make political commentary,” and more generally, a clear majority (59 percent) agreed, “I am not concerned whether or not brands become engaged in politics.”

“We’re seeing a profound shift in what commands Americans’ attention, with big implications for brand communication and messaging,” Salzman added. “The pulling power of set-piece marquee sports events is increasingly being challenged by the constant excitement of politics, with Americans rooting for their ‘team’ and their issues. The more compelling politics become, the more risks brands will have to take to get noticed. Expect a lot of delicate judgment calls to be made about whether to coattail the energy of a contentious issue, or play it safe and steer clear of anything that might be construed as political.”

For its big-ticket advertising shot in Super Bowl 2017, Budweiser aired a 60-second dramatization of founder Adolphus Busch emigrating from Germany and enduring hardships to set up the Anheuser-Busch brewery. This stirred up a social media hornet nest with calls to #boycottbudweiser and lots of media coverage.

Said Salzman, “The Budweiser ad might have been an unremarkable take on a foundation myth a few years ago, but this year, some commentators saw it as a political statement.”

In the Havas PR survey, Bud achieved the largest proportion of unprompted mentions for brands that made respondents feel good (30 percent for Bud and 5 percent for Anheuser-Busch) and also the largest for brands that made respondents feel bad (5 percent). Asked whether they knew of any brand(s) with a clear political leaning or preference, five percent cited Bud.

About the Survey
The survey was commissioned by Havas PR and fielded online by Market Probe International (MPI) after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017. The survey contained a mix of pre-coded and open-ended questions, which were hand-coded by MPI. The achieved sample was 513 respondents, with a mix of Super Bowl viewers and non-viewers.

About Havas PR
Our call to action is “Connected,” and our commitment is to the Future First. As the North American earned-media and buzz agency within French holding company Havas, we’re part of the Havas PR Global Collective. Headquartered in New York City with offices in the three P’s—Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Providence—Havas PR North America is one of the most awarded agencies of our size in the U.S. For more information, go to us.havaspr.com.

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Kelsey Thompson
Havas PR North America, Inc.
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