Measuring the Super Bowl ads from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint

U.S. Bank Stadium
U.S. Bank Stadium hosted this year's Super Bowl. (Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr)

The Super Bowl is not only the pinnacle of the NFL’s season, it’s also the main event of the year for the nation’s advertisers. After all, NBC said the ratings for its broadcast of Super Bowl 52 marked a 143% improvement over the ratings for this season’s NFL playoff games, claiming it as the best margin ever for a Super Bowl over the same season’s playoffs.

And with Super Bowl ad spots costing millions of dollars each, it’s worth looking at exactly how the nation’s wireless providers spent—or didn’t spend—their money on the event.

Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all released ads during the Super Bowl touting their offerings, and each one worked to position themselves in slightly different ways. See below for a detailed analysis of their respective Super Bowl ads.

Interestingly, AT&T abstained from the event. As Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche noted, that’s particularly surprising considering YouTube Live TV used the Super Bowl to advertise a streaming video offering that’s very similar to AT&T’s DirecTV Now. AT&T’s “differentiation vs. a Hulu or Google Streaming video product is the bundling impact of owning a wireless asset with this video offering (something these other competitors do not have),” Fritzsche wrote in a note to investors.

Of course, ads were only one part of the wireless industry’s Super Bowl story. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all touted their work on their respective networks to get ready for Super Bowl network traffic at U.S. Bank Stadium. And then after the event, most of those operators also offered insights into the network usage they handled during the game. Click here for more on this topic.

And now, for the main event: Here are each of the main advertisements that Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile aired during the game, and how those ads performed based on data from ad measurement company iSpot.

Sprint: Do the Math and Switch to Sprint

  • Sentiment: 57% positive
  • Attention score: 90.28%
  • TV impressions: 92,699,991
  • Online views: 5,114,705
  • Social impressions: 5,477,307
  • Est. TV spend: $10,565,048

“This was topical and seemed to be receiving good mindshare in the social media chatter following it,” Wells Fargo’s Fritzsche wrote. “It was what we would call a ‘big money’ spot—showing the spot early in the first half with over 1 minute of airtime.”

Verizon: Answering the Call: Saying Thanks

  • Sentiment: n/a
  • Attention score: 83.88%
  • TV impressions: 89,518,191
  • Online views: 534,781
  • Social impressions: 2,439,261
  • Est. TV spend: $11,919,128

As Fritzsche noted, Verizon’s Super Bowl spot was noteworthy in that it appeared to represent an attack against AT&T, which is working to deploy a nationwide wireless network for public-safety users through its agreement with FirstNet.

“Specifically what we saw last night was VZ ads going right after the public safety sector and VZ's role in it,” Fritzsche wrote. “These ‘pull at your heartstrings’ ads may be evidence of the strong tug of war we are about to see play out as T ramps its FirstNet build and VZ (which has much market share in public safety space). Based on these ads (and have heard from VZ management in past meetings) it is clear to us VZ is ready to play hardball in keeping share here. Put simply, don't expect VZ to cede the public safety 'field' (pun intended!).”

T-Mobile: Little Ones

  • Sentiment: 23% positive
  • Attention score: 90.60%
  • TV impressions: 77,466,283
  • Online views: 6,133,029
  • Social impressions: 5,643,210
  • Est. TV spend: $10,270,360

“The message was simple ‘Change Starts Now … Are you With Us?’ We viewed this ad as effective in trying to widen TMUS’s customer segments. We expect this to be a major push in 2018,” Fritzsche wrote.