Minute-by-minute play of Super Bowl LV

Congratulations Tampa Bay Bucs!

Embee Mobile’s panelists watched the Super Bowl and we looked minute-by-minute at how they used their phones during the game. At any given moment last night, around 20% of the panel were on their phone, with more than half in some sort of social or messaging activity. Embee’s second-by-second app measurement allows us to see how the events in the Super Bowl changed behavior.

Minute-by-minute change of share of people using selected apps during Superbowl LV

A selection of 31k mobile users (chosen because they had uploaded data by midnight) form the basis of the chart, which shows the percentage of the panel who were using selected social/communications apps between 6pm and 10:30pm (EST) on February 7, 2021. The chart should read (to give an example) that at any given moment between 18:00 and 18:01, 3.31% of people were using Facebook. The gray blue areas indicate active play and some of the highlights are explicitly shown. The chart shows all panelists, regardless of whether they watched the Super Bowl.

  • When gameplay starts, people put their phone down
  • But as gameplay continues, people reach for their phones
  • There is often a spike immediately following the end of play when people reach for their phones, but the opposite noticeably happen after the second quarter.

chart showing minute-by-minute usage of social and communications apps during Superbowl 2020

When we compare social media use during the 2020 Super Bowl to the 2021 Super Bowl, overall more people were actively using social media during the game in 2021 than in 2020. Additionally, when looking at where the halftime show started and ended for both years, 2020’s show with JLo and Shakira appears to have been far more riveting to viewers based on the steep drop in social media usage during the show, which was shortly followed by the highest social media usage spike during the 2020 game.

What remained consistent with social media use during both the 2020 and the 2021 games is that after halftime, social media use increases and stays relatively level for the remainder of the game no matter what the half-time score is. In 2020 the game was tied 10 to 10 at halftime but finished with a more interesting second half, with Kansas City beating San Francisco 31 to 20. In 2021 Tampa Bay was handily leading Kansas City, 21 to 6, finishing the game with little excitement in the second half winning 31 to 9. This begs the question, if people actively turn to social media for the second half of the Super Bowl, does the second half of the game really matter when it comes to ad buys, or is it just all about the buildup up to and through the halftime show?

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