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Super Bowl 2017 and Commercial Email: What Happened and Who Won?

Even for people who may not know a football from a camshaft, Super Bowl Sunday carries serious excitement. If we’re not watching the game, we’re probably reveling in the eerie calm of highways, stores and restaurants that are usually much more crowded on a Sunday night.

Commercial email supports this most prominent of “unofficial American holidays,” but not to the degree that we see for other major retail events, such as Valentine’ Day, Mother’s Day, Back to School, and Christmas.

Super Bowl Email Volume, Inbox Placement and Read Rates

We looked at Super Bowl-related email sent during the past month through Super Bowl Sunday, and the table below summarizes what we saw for 2017 and 2016. It distinguishes between campaigns deployed on Super Bowl Sunday itself, and messages sent during the thirty days before that. Our key findings:

  • For the thirty days prior, email volumes increased 28% versus the comparable period last year. However, we saw 14% fewer emails this year than last year on Super Bowl Sunday itself.
  • Mirroring the pattern we’ve been flagging, inbox performance deteriorated substantially, reflected by the percentages of email achieving 90% deliverability on both Super Bowl Sunday, and the thirty days prior.
  • Read rates, however, improved quite nicely for both tracking periods.


 20172016% Change
Total Super Bowl Themed Messages
30 Days Prior2,8832,25328%
Super Bowl Sunday422491-14%
% of Messages >90% Inbox Rate
30 Days Prior21%43%-51%
Super Bowl Sunday21%32%-34%
% of Messages >20% Read Rate
30 Days Prior19%12%58%
Super Bowl Sunday 11%*9%22%
*May be understated due to early observation.

Top Performing Super Bowl Emails

Many of the emails we saw were related to food and beverage items for Super Bowl parties. Surprisingly few came from major retailers using the Super Bowl as an opportunity for mounting another promotional event. Many more messages came from the NFL and various media outlets, and referenced the game and players.

The table below shows examples of top-performing Super Bowl emails for this period. They’re listed in order of read rate, starting with the highest. As usual, Amazon takes top honors. But it’s really the only major mailer on this list, the other one is the NFL. Of the eight messages shown, three deployed on Super Bowl Sunday itself.

BrandDateQuantitySubjectRead %
Amazon23-Jan305KPrime Pantry Superbowl: Buy 5 select items, get free shipping34.4
PaperCity5-Feb25KLady Gaga's Real Super Bowl Halftime Secret Revealed30.0
Honda West (Las Vegas)3-Feb50KHonda West's Super Bowl Weekend Specials30.0
Palm Beach Post5-Feb50KSUPERBOWL: Best restaurants, bars, take-out food for watching the big game30.0
NY Times2-Feb228KSports: It's time for serious Super Bowl talk29.9
NFL1-Feb758KWhat We Want To See In The Super Bowl28.1
Fanzz2-Feb69KFREE SHIPPING on ALL Orders Until Super Bowl Kickoff!26.7
TriviaToday5-Feb911K Trivia Today: Super Bowl Commercial Trivia26.6

Of particular note is that some mailers actually deployed post-game messages late on Sunday night, referencing the outcome of the game. Some of these were from news outlets, and some were selling. The best example (see below) of the latter came (through the NFL) from the Patriots themselves, and deployed at 11:03 pm to an audience of 784,000. Relevance and timeliness work, as early results show a read rate of 20.9% on this message.