Super Bowl Sunday is known for a few things: football, the halftime show and advertisements. Super PACs supporting three Republican presidential candidates decided to call a blitz during the broadcast, airing campaign ads in South Carolina and New Hampshire.
More than a hundred million people likely tuned into Sunday night’s matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, based on overnight ratings data, making for a large audience for candidates to tap into (especially in South Carolina, which had a team playing in the game). Of the three candidates with ads airing on their behalf—Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—Bush’s ad time appeared to have the best results with viewers in both states, according to data on search interest from Google.
In New Hampshire, web searches for Bush after a Right to Rise USA ad aired supporting him were some three times as high as interest in Rubio; Cruz did not air in New Hampshire.
Search interest for Bush was particularly high in the Boston-Manchester, N.H. region. The onetime GOP front-runner, Bush is betting big on New Hampshire after a poor showing in early-voting at the Iowa Caucuses. He has even taken to recruiting family members — the Super Bowl ad was the first to feature his brother President George W. Bush.
Rubio saw the most search traffic in South Carolina, but Bush had a moment—he received a large spike when his ad aired. Cruz, however, didn’t have any one moment where he received an extraordinarily large search volume, even when searches including his name peaked after a Keep the Promises Super PAC ad aired supporting him. Each of the graphs, separated by state, shows the candidates mapped by search interest during the Super Bowl and also compared with search interest for chip brand Doritos, which had a popular ad during the game.
Super PACs spend thousands of dollars to bring advertisements to air, especially during the Super Bowl, and search data may be valuable in evaluating the worth of an ad buy because it shows instant viewer reaction—just how many people in the target state searched for more information about a candidate after seeing an ad. Data from Twitter was spot on in predicting a momentum shift in the days leading up to the Iowa Caucuses—where Cruz overtook front-runner Donald Trump—based on candidate mentions on the social network.
The ad in support of Bush is above, while the other two ads can be viewed below.