Students Score Big with Super Bowl Ad Research

Charles R. Taylor, PhD

Annual support from alumni, parent and friends helps Villanova attract and support world-class faculty who engage students by connecting theory and practice. One of these inspiring teacher-scholars is Charles R. Taylor, PhD, (pictured right) the John A. Murphy Professor of Marketing at the Villanova School of Business (VSB), who gave students a real-world project that put a new spin on an old pastime.

While many of us watch Super Bowl commercials purely for the entertainment value, a group of 55 VSB students have a much different—and more insightful—perspective. That’s because these students spent the 2015 fall semester analyzing years of Super Bowl ads, which generated a research study that attracted local and national media attention.

For the assignment, students needed to examine the role of animals or celebrities in Super Bowl ads over the last five years. Students not only tracked the number of ads but also aggregated industry likability ratings to determine the best and worst animal and celebrity ads of all time.

The experience demanded considerable time but yielded so much in return. For some, like Bryan Fishkin ’17 VSB, watching the Super Bowl is now a different experience. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve looked forward to the Super Bowl as the greatest sporting event of the year,” Bryan said. “Now I see it as a platform for companies to advance their brands and their businesses, or not.”

Among the study’s conclusions, students found that humorous ads were more numerous, but serious ads were more memorable. Surprisingly, celebrity ads performed below average.

The study not only sparked students’ interests; it also caught the attention of several news outlets, including USA Today, NBC News, CBS affiliate KYW-TV and Forbes.com.

Adapted from “Scoring Big with Super Bowl Ad Research,” Villanova Business Magazine, Summer 2016