How mobile is transforming the Super Bowl fan experience


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A record 111.3 million viewers tuned in to Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI, watching the New York Giants outduel the New England Patriots 21-17. The same two teams squared off four years earlier in Super Bowl XLII, with the Giants again emerging victorious to cap off another miracle playoff run. If you watched both games, feelings of déjà vu were inevitable. The biggest difference between 2008 and 2012? The enormous impact of mobile services on how fans experience the Super Bowl--both at home and at the stadium. Here are five ways mobile services are redefining how we watch the biggest of big games.

Football fans are watching the Super Bowl on mobile phones. For the first time ever, NFL partner Verizon Wireless streamed the Super Bowl broadcast live via its NFL Mobile application. Verizon reports that the game was the most watched matchup on NFL Mobile all season long, with 40 percent more subscribers tuning in compared to Wild Card playoff weekend in January and more than twice as many viewers tuning in compared to its regular season streams of NBC's Sunday Night Football and the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football.

Football fans at the Super Bowl are sharing their experiences from their seats. AT&T subscribers in attendance at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI created and uploaded close to 40 percent more content than they consumed, posting videos, photos and status updates in record numbers. Customers also made 75,204 calls and transmitted 722,296 text messages. In all, AT&T reports total data usage inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday was 215 GB, the highest data usage the operator has ever experienced at a single sporting event.

Verizon Wireless also experienced a surge in mobile data consumption, with customers at Lucas Oil Stadium using 2.75 times more data than at last year's Super Bowl game, held at Dallas' Cowboys Stadium. Verizon adds that fans consumed 4.5 times more data compared to the average regular season Indianapolis Colts game. Super Bowl ticketholders also made 11 times as many voice calls than Colts fans during an average game.

Football fans are sharing their excitement via Twitter. Twitter averaged 10,000 tweets per second during Super Bowl XLVI's heart-stopping final three minutes as the Giants drove for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown, scoring with just 57 seconds left on the clock. Twitter activity reached its peak at the conclusion of the game, when tweets averaged a record-breaking 12,233 per second. Compare that to last summer, when Japan rallied twice to defeat the United States in the Women's World Cup soccer final--Twitter averaged a then-record 7,196 tweets per second as the match drew to its close.

Football fans are still lukewarm on second-screen experiences. Despite growing excitement around second-screen interactive experiences, reality failed to live up to the hype on Super Bowl Sunday according to market research firm NPD Group's Connected Intelligence SmartMeter. NPD reports that branded football apps from the NFL and sports media giant ESPN experienced a downward trend compared to the conference championship games two weeks earlier, while the website saw a dramatic increase in traffic, underlining how vital the Web remains to consumers. Not even the Giants' and Patriots' official apps showed significant usage during their Super Bowl showdown, NPD adds. 

Interactive advertisements fared better. "The clear standouts for the advertisers were the Shazam and Chevy Game Time applications," NPD Connected Intelligence reseaech director Linda Barrabee said in a statement. "Both had strong ad placements relatively early in the game, and--even more importantly--both had strong tie-ins to the ongoing entertainment that helps to drive their use. Shazam's use by smartphone users on Super Bowl Sunday, for example, was more than the combined use of the app for the previous two Sundays."

Super Bowl ad campaigns also fueled mobile search queries: 41 percent of Google searches in the U.S. related to Super Bowl TV ads originated on mobile devices, the digital services giant reports. After comparing a selection of Super Bowl-related queries from during the game and the week before, Google found that searches nationwide rose 200 percent on the desktop, 970 percent on tablets and an astounding 2700 percent on smartphones--for example, in the moments after Clint Eastwood appeared in a spot for Chrysler, searches for the actor's name surged nearly 5500 percent. 

Football fans prefer Madonna to mobile. Mobile app analytics firm Flurry estimates that 98 million iOS and Android users across the U.S. launched applications during the Super Bowl's four-hour broadcast window--roughly one third of the country's overall population. Overall trends indicate an inverse relationship between app usage and game, halftime and commercial events, with app activity increasing steadily during the first three quarters and declining in the late fourth quarter as the on-field excitement reached a crescendo.

"The most clearly visible change in app usage occurred during Madonna's halftime show, where app usage remained consistently low for the longest, sustained period of time," Flurry vice president of marketing Peter Farago writes on the firm's blog. "From this, we conclude that Madonna strongly held viewers' attention on the first screen and was a major draw for the Super Bowl this year." In other words, mobile subscribers were giving their fingers a rest at the exact same time Madonna's pal M.I.A. was giving her finger a workout.--Jason