Super Bowl LV Was A Happy Event But It Achieved Miserably Low TV Ratings. Understanding Emotions Can Help The Event Push On. — Maru Group


By Audra Priluck, Vice President, Business Development, Media & Entertainment

The NFL Super Bowl is a unique event. It stands head and shoulders above all other sporting cultural events in America in terms of popularity, our research has revealed. But the recent Super Bowl LV was an odd affair. The stands were filled with 30,000 cut-outs of people, mixed in with 25,000 actual fans. Some advertisers skipped the game. The legendary half time show received mixed reviews from the critics. The game lacked excitement; it was a very one-sided affair. Streaming was up but it had the lowest TV rating of any Super Bowl in over 50 years. Yet, this does not mean all was lost.

Super Bowl LV, despite occurring in a pandemic and being a game the New York Times described as “not competitive”, had an emotional signature that was happy, energetic, fired up and full of joy, even though people recognized it was happening in strained circumstances.

These findings come from a survey of Americans who picked images they associate with Super Bowl LV, using Maru’s proprietary Brand Emotion tool, built on our technology platform, Maru/HUB. Brand Emotion leverages visual semiotic systems to uncover the emotional signature of events, brands, or organizations.

Visual semiotics analyzes the way images communicate a message or emotion. It works by decomposing each visual image into its structural elements and identifying the emotional level associated with each element. People create a collage of images to visually “tell” us how they feel about a brand. It uses a library of 9,000 images, developed over the course of 30 years and validated across 50 countries.

Of course, these positive emotions were tempered by the strongly held recognition and negative reality that the game happened in restricted, abnormal and strained circumstances.

To put the emotions associated with Super Bowl LV in context, we asked people what their ideal Super Bowl would look like.

The Ideal Super Bowl stimulates different and richer emotions than those associated with Super Bowl LV

The Emotional Signature of the Ideal Super Bowl has some real differences to Super Bowl LV.

In the ideal scenario the challenges are gone. There are no restraints, no restrictions. The acuteness has subsided relative to other emotions. The pandemic is behind us.

The strength of feelings and emotions associated with the Ideal Super Bowl are much stronger than those associated with Super Bowl LV as the index scores (see diagram left) for the Ideal Super Bowl are generally much higher. In essence, people want to feel more than they did.

The top 5 emotions are different too. People want to feel a sense of well being and specifically feel more together, more communal. This is the strongest desired emotion — an ideal association that of course is heavily influenced by the current unusual circumstances.

To help deliver these feelings and emotions for 2022’s Super Bowl LVI perhaps there is an opportunity to play up the theme of teamwork and cooperation in terms of the participant teams. Arguably, the narrative of Super Bowl LV being a duel between veteran quarterback Tom Brady and the young pretender Patrick Mahomes II exaggerated this difference from the Ideal.

There may also be an opportunity to celebrate teamwork and pulling together at the next Super Bowl by using the event as a vehicle to highlight the chance for America to come together again. The fans in the stadium, the Super Bowl parties, and 100 million Americans watching the Super Bowl — a bigger, more communal event more in tune with an ideal Super Bowl.

The key to uncovering and understanding emotion is by a strategic appreciation of how people feel, behave and think

This gap between the actual and the ideal helps shape strategies that make a real difference. An understanding of the emotional differences — the variations in the Emotional Signature of a Brand, Product, Experience or Event versus its Ideal equivalent unlocks opportunity and new directions.

At Maru we believe that to truly understand people, you need to unearth how people feel, behave and think. We know that the vast majority of people’s choices are driven by how they feel. “Feelings or emotions are the universal language and are to be honored”, wrote Australian poet Judith Wright. “They are the authentic expression of who you are at your deepest place.”

Our feelings have their roots in our unconscious, quick System 1 thinking. That is challenging to tap into, because people are not conscious of their System 1 thinking. By using visual semiotics, we can bypass the post hoc rationalizations and social desirability bias that plagues most surveys. We can reveal the real emotional signature of iconic events like the Super Bowl.

Contact me today to learn more about visual semiotics and how you can uncover how people truly feel about your brand, organization, or event. We’ll be excited to share that journey with you.

Check out my other article titled: Innovation is essential for the changing sports landscape: the case of Super Bowl LV

Originally published at on April 9, 2021.



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