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News & Events - Archived News
January 25, 2007

Research by Tomkovick and Yelkur Ties Box Office Success to Super Bowl Advertising

Dr. Chuck TomkovickDr. Rama Yelkur The best predictor of the overall success of a new movie that is advertised during the Super Bowl is the release date of the movie, according to new research by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire marketing professors.

"We found that the further away the release date is from the Super Bowl, the more likely it is that the movie will be a U.S. box office success," said Dr. Chuck Tomkovick, who, with Dr. Rama Yelkur, has conducted extensive research on Super Bowl advertising since 1998.

In the last four years, all eight of the movies that were promoted during the Super Bowl and released after Memorial Day weekend broke in at No. 1 at the U.S. box office, Tomkovick said, citing the movies "Cars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" as examples.

Movies that were released during that same time but not advertised during the Super Bowl didn't fare as well, and neither did movies advertised during the game but released before Memorial Day weekend, Yelkur said.

"The research shows that if studios can get on people's radar screens with Super Bowl ads and release the movie several months later, they'll likely have a box office hit," Yelkur said, noting that movies released four to six months after the game seem to do the best.

The research team, which includes undergraduate students Mandy Sutherland and Dan Rozumalski, reviewed box office revenue for the 87 movies that have been promoted during the Super Bowl since 1991, the year Hollywood began advertising movies during the Super Bowl game, Yelkur said. They define success as a movie's first weekend, first week and total revenue at the U.S. box office, she said.

The release date of movies promoted during the Super Bowl was a top predictor of success for the opening weekend, first week and total box office revenue, Tomkovick said.

"Our earlier research already showed that Super Bowl promoted movies do better than those not promoted during the game," Tomkovick said. "Now we know that when those movies are released helps predict their overall U.S. box office success."

In their research, Yelkur and Tomkovick studied numerous factors that would likely influence a movie's success, Tomkovick said. Those factors included the release date, the star power of the actors in the movie, the type of movie, awards received by actors and directors associated with the movie, the movie's budget and critics' reviews of the film, he said.

The researchers found that in addition to the release date, other significant factors that help predict the total U.S. box office revenue of Super Bowl promoted movies were USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter, which measures how a group of volunteers reacts to the ads, and the movie's production budget, Tomkovick said.

"We were surprised that the ad meter's likeability score was a significant predictor of overall box office success, while factors like the star power of the actors in the movies and critic reviews were not significant predictors," Tomkovick said.

A movie's star power is a significant factor in predicting the opening weekend and opening week box office success of a Super Bowl promoted movie, Yelkur said. But when it comes to total box office revenues, it's not a significant factor, she said.

The release date and the ad likeability meter were the only two factors that were identified as being significant predictors of opening weekend, opening week and overall U.S. box office revenue success, Yelkur said.

"It's unfathomable that how this group of people react to movie ads during a sporting event is among the best predictors of how much money a movie will make," Tomkovick said of the ad meter's importance. "But our research shows that the ad meter is a powerful predictor of overall box office success, even more than star power. This tells us that ad likeability has the potential to be a powerful measure of ad effectiveness."

USA Today created the Super Bowl Ad Meter in 1989 to gauge consumers' opinions about Super Bowl ads. A research firm selects 100-200 volunteers, who use handheld meters to register second-to-second how much they like each ad. A computer continuously averages the scores, and the scores are the highest average for each ad.

Yelkur and Tomkovick's earlier research found that the Super Bowl is the ideal platform to introduce a new movie, Yelkur said. That research found Super Bowl promoted movies do twice as well at the box office than movies not promoted during the game, which typically attracts more than 130 million U.S. viewers each year, she said.

"Advertising new movies at the Super Bowl continues to be the best investment," Yelkur said of their research findings. "Most Super Bowl promoted movies break in at No. 1. They have large opening weekends, which usually lead to large overall box office success."

Research relating to how effective Super Bowl ads are has become increasingly important as the cost to advertise during the game has continued to climb in recent years, with 30-second ads now selling for more than $2.5 million, Yelkur said, noting that the rates have increased more than 5,000 percent since ads were sold for the first game in 1967.

Yelkur and Tomkovick are available to talk about their Super Bowl advertising research, which has been published in the Journal of Advertising Research. Yelkur can be reached at 715-836-4674 or yelkurr@uwec.edu, and Tomkovick can be reached at 715-836-2529 or tomkovcl@uwec.edu.

Source: UW-Eau Claire News Bureau