Hashtags in Super Bowl ads slip to 30% in 2017, overtaken by URL use in 39%

From a high of 57% three years ago, hashtags were only in about one-third of ads.

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hashtag bowl 2017
Hashtags were in 30 percent of Super Bowl 51 ads, down significantly from 45 percent last year. More ads used URLs than hashtags for the first time since Marketing Land has measured them, 39 percent in all. Twitter barely beat Facebook and Instagram as the most-mentioned social network, though neither was explicitly mentioned often.

The statistics are from our sixth annual Hashtag Bowl count of hashtags, social media mentions and URLs in ads shown during Super Bowl LI.

We tabulated only nationally shown ads and only those shown between kickoff and the end of the game. See  below for our full rundown and further notes on this.

The count

The scoreboard at the top of this article has our final count, but here’s the summary with percentages, based on a total of 66 ads reviewed.

  • Total national ads (kickoff to end-of-game): 66
  • Hashtags in ads: 20 total, in 30 percent of ads overall
  • URLs in ads: 26 total, in 39 percent of ads overall
  • Twitter in ads: 5 total, 8 percent of ads overall
  • Facebook: 4 total, 6 percent of ads overall
  • Instagram: 4 total, 6 percent of ads overall

Below, the frequency of both hashtag and URL use as Marketing Land has tracked over recent years:

hashtag bowl over time

Hashtag usage in Super Bowl ads hit a peak of 57 percent in 2014. It was 50 percent for 2013 and 2015. The lowest usage was 12 percent in 2012, when Marketing Land first began tracking.

The real surprise this year was URL use overtaking hashtags. Marketing Land first began measuring URLs in 2014. They consistently stayed below hashtag usage until overtaking it this year.

For those interested in past years, our past counts: 2012, 2013, 20142015 and 2016.

Hashtags remain plentiful

While hashtags dropped from previous levels, they were certainly in many ads — beginning with the third ad aired after kick-off by Avocados from Mexico with the #AvoSecrets hashtag:

avocados from mexico

Here’s Skittles with another example of an ad including a hashtag:

skittles ad

Twitter leads Facebook, but social mentions remain small

As in previous years, mentions of particular social networks was tiny. T-Mobile aired four ads that were responsible for most mentions, since those ads had logos for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here are examples of two of them:

t-mobile super bowl

t-mobile super bowl

It was Wonderful Pistachios that gave Twitter the nudge ahead, mentioning only that social network in its ad and calling out its Twitter account:

Wonderful Pistachios

84 Lumber pushes people to site — and fails

Perhaps the most engaging use — and also biggest fail — of an element in a Super Bowl ad was by 84 Lumber. The company aired the story of immigrants trying to enter the United States, one that stopped short of the ending, with the enticement to view the rest at the journey84.com site:

84 Lumber

Unfortunately, demand swamped the site, perhaps because 84 Lumber wasn’t scaled up enough to handle it. It was down for many for nearly 30 minutes after the ad aired. On Twitter, the company apologized and directed people to its YouTube channel.

Running order of ads

Below is the full list of ads included in our survey, in order of appearance. Any hashtags used are listed. If an ad had a URL, Twitter or Facebook mention, there’s a 1 shown. If not, there’s a zero.

Order Brand Hashtag URL Twitter Facebook Instagram
1 Google 0 0 0 0
2 Michelin 0 0 0 0
3 Avocados From Mexico #AvoSecrets 0 0 0 0
4 Mobile Strike 0 0 0 0
5 H&R Block 0 0 0 0
6 Skittles #TasteTheRainbow 0 0 0 0
7 Busch 0 0 0 0
8 American Petroleum Institute 1 0 0 0
9 GoDaddy 1 0 0 0
10 Lifewtr #MoreInspired 0 0 0 0
11 Intel 0 0 0 0
12 Airbnb #weaccept 0 0 0 0
13 World Of Tanks 1 0 0 0
14 Yellow Tail 0 0 0 0
15 Pirates of the Caribbean #PiratesLife 0 0 0 0
16 Wonderful Pistachios 0 1 0 0
17 Buick 1 0 0 0
18 Logan #Logan 1 0 0 0
19 T-Mobile #UnlimitedMoves 1 1 1 1
20 Honda 0 0 0 0
21 Bai #BaiBaiBai 0 0 0 0
22 Transformers 0 0 0 0
23 Tide/NFL 0 0 0 0
24 Sprint 1 0 0 0
25 Coca Cola 0 0 0 0
26 The Handmaid’s Tale #HandmaidsTale 0 0 0 0
27 WeatherTech 1 0 0 0
28 Febreze #BathroomBreak 0 0 0 0
29 Alfa Romeo 1 0 0 0
30 Michelob 0 0 0 0
31 TurboTax 0 0 0 0
32 Lexus #Lexus 0 0 0 0
33 Fate of the Furious #F8 1 0 0 0
34 Squarespace 1 0 0 0
35 Wendy’s 1 0 0 0
36 Toyota 1 0 0 0
37 Tiffany 0 0 0 0
38 84 Lumber 1 0 0 0
39 Audi #DriveProgress 0 0 0 0
40 Mr. Clean 0 0 0 0
41 Snickers 0 0 0 0
42 Budweiser 0 0 0 0
43 T-Mobile #BagOfUnlimited 1 1 1 1
44 Persil 0 0 0 0
45 Kia #SmarterWay 0 0 0 0
46 It’s a 10 1 0 0 0
47 A Cure for Wellness 0 0 0 0
48 Evony 0 0 0 0
49 Baywatch #BeBaywatch 1 0 0 0
50 Alfa Romeo 0 0 0 0
51 T-Mobile #TheSafeWordisUnlimited 1 1 1 1
52 Wix 1 0 0 0
53 Amazon Echo (x3) 0 0 0 0
54 Turkish Airlines 0 0 0 0
55 King’s Hawaiian 1 0 0 0
56 Bud Light 0 0 0 0
57 T-Mobile #TheSafeWordisUnlimited 1 1 1 1
58 Nintendo Switch 1 0 0 0
59 Mercedes 1 0 0 0
60 Alfa Romeo 1 0 0 0
61 Sprite #WannaSprite 0 0 0 0
62 KFC 0 0 0 0
63 The Handmaid’s Tale #HandmaidsTale 0 0 0 0
64 Sprint 1 0 0 0
65 Proactiv 1 0 0 0
66 SoFi 0 0 0 0
Total 66 20 26 5 4 4
Percent 30% 39% 8% 6% 6%

We tried to count only ads that were nationally shown, as best we could, viewing from Los Angeles. Promos for shows on FOX or from the NFL were not included, nor were very short 15-second ads for “The Walking Dead” and Fiji Water.

We did include a joint NFL/Tide ad because it was more than an NFL promo. We combined the count for three Amazon Echo ads into one, because all were very short and shown within the same block with other ads.

We also included some repeat ads shown after the unprecedented overtime period began. Overtime ads began with 63 onward.

Stay tuned for more. Now that the hashtags have gone out in all these Super Bowl ads, Marketing Land will be churning through the data from various parties over the coming weeks to help readers understand which ads and campaigns were big hits and which were not.



NOTE: This story has been updated to change the URL count to 26 total or 39% from 27 total and 41%. We accidentally credited the AirBnB ad with having a URL but made the change after a reader pointed out it had none.


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About the author

Danny Sullivan
Contributor
Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, MarTech, and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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