Last night, the Kansas City Chiefs faced off against the San Francisco 49’ers in an exciting Super Bowl game with millions of people nationwide tuned in. While many focused on touchdowns and complicated plays and tackles, we at Synthesio wanted to dive into some data and do a little social listening analysis.

Some people watch the Super Bowl for the love of football, while others come for the snacks and beer. However, this Super Bowl, we were watching the ads. In addition to the usual ads about Budweiser, Pepsi, Amazon, and Google, the over 100 million viewers got a taste of something a bit more political.

Both President Donald Trump and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg ran political ads during the biggest night for TV in the US. With ads costing millions of dollars each for screentime, the candidates had to make a splash by taking significant risks. We took a look at the online conversation surrounding the controversial ads to see how people reacted. First of all, Trump and Bloomberg’s ads dominated the majority of online communications over any ads about brands.


Reactions to Trump’s Ads

When Trump’s ad first aired around 7:00 p.m. during the Super Bowl, there was a considerable spike in discourse online. The ad featured Alice Johnson, a black woman who Kim Kardashian West worked to free from being unjustly imprisoned for life. Trump formally pardoned Johnson and claimed in this ad that he was the leader in criminal justice reform. Supporters of the President praised him for such a forward-thinking ad and said that it would win him a large swath of voters in POC communities.


On the other hand, those who do not stand with Trump criticized the ad, saying that it was hypocritical given his treatment of refugees on the border and his past dealings with race-related issues and criminal justice.


Trump was initially supposed to air just one 60 second spot. Still, his strategy changed, airing the first ad featuring Alice Johnson in the first quarter and the second ad, which spoke to many different successes of his presidency, after the game. This second ad did not generate nearly as much online conversation due to viewership dropping off after the Chiefs won the game.

Reactions to Bloomberg’s Ad

Bloomberg aired one 60 second spot focused on gun control, which similarly generated online buzz, but most were adverse reactions. Conservative viewers criticized the statistics that Bloomberg used, saying that he over-inflated the number of children killed by gun violence annually. The ad sparked controversy from the NRA, Trump supporters, and pro-gun voices online, who then used the announcement to take jabs at other policy stances of Bloomberg’s such as his view on abortion.


So then who won other than the Chiefs?

If we take a closer look at what online users were saying about the ads, we can figure out who got the upper hand in the political showdown of the evening. According to social listening analysis, Trump generated 68% of the conversation, while Bloomberg came in at just 32%. We can see from the spike in the chart below that Trump, shown in red, created quite a lot of noise during the game. Republican voters came out en masse in support of the current President’s message to the American public.


The consensus from the Super Bowl LIV audience was that Trump’s ad promoted a message of peace and reform within minority communities. At the same time, Bloomberg’s misfired (pun intended) with his gun control ad.


If we take a quick look at the sentiment analysis of the 4,620 mentions of political ads across the internet by 10 p.m. on the evening of the Super Bowl, it seems that Trump came out the victor. About double the mentions about Mr. Trump were positive, clocking in at 10.6% positive mentions, compared with 5.2% negative mentions. Bloomberg, on the other hand, had majority negative statements about his expensive gun-control ad. About 3.1% of remarks about Bloomberg were negative compared with just 0.8% of positive mentions by the end of the night.


What does all of this mean for the 2020 election going forward? We’ll have to wait and see what the online community tells us as we get closer to the first vote.

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