Peyton’s Place

02.11.2016 David Gustafson

Super Bowl “L” and a Lesson on Legacy for Local Advertisers

The script was nearly perfect.  Two weeks removed from outlasting his long-time nemesis, Tom Brady, to win the AFC Championship, veteran quarterback Peyton Manning stood poised to lead his Denver Broncos to a triumphant victory in the 50th edition of the Super Bowl, cementing his legacy as arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game.

IMAGE:  Ezra Shaw/Getty Images from

In a game that saw the NFL abandon its Roman numeral roots – ditching the “L” in favor of Super Bowl “50” – the oldest quarterback ever to start the big game secured a W, making him the 12th QB to win multiple Super Bowls.  But, as the post-game confetti began to rain down onto the Levi’s Stadium turf, the storyline had played out only partially as planned.  Ultimately, the Broncos’ dominating defense was to thank for ensuring Manning didn’t walk away with a third “L” in this his fourth Super Bowl appearance. 

Manning himself looked less like the star of his own super show and more like a bit part actor in an ensemble cast.  Rather than carrying the Broncos to the title with a spectacular individual effort, he completed only 13 of his 23 pass attempts, finishing with 141 passing yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble.  To put that in perspective, Manning’s 56.6 QB rating ranks as the third-worst by a winning quarterback in the 50-year history of the Super Bowl. 



Still, America couldn’t get enough of the “Manning makes history” storyline.  According to Nielsen estimates, the game averaged 111.9 million viewers, the third-highest audience in U.S. TV history.  Nielsen reports the game was popular on Twitter, as well, generating 16.9 million tweets.  And despite the subpar performance, Manning was the center of attention on the field after the game, surrounded by countless cameras and hordes of reporters looking to capture his thoughts on what the win means for his football future and legacy.

Pundits will continue to discuss and debate where Manning ultimately ranks among the game’s legendary quarterbacks, but Super Bowl 50 and the ensuing focus on legacy offer some potentially valuable lessons for local advertisers:


1. You don’t have to be the star of the big game to find success.  If your commercial was not one of the approximately 75 ads viewers saw during this year’s Super Bowl, have no worries.  Yes, the game is the biggest annual event in TV advertising, but the Super Bowl spotlight alone does not guarantee success.  Consider that Peyton Manning’s best Super Bowl in terms of quarterback rating is only the 50th best performance among the 100 total starts in the game’s history – and his team lost that game.  Both of his Super Bowl wins, meanwhile, rank among the 10 lowest-rated performances by winning quarterbacks.       

2. Brand legacy is built on consistency.  Despite the lack of a signature performance in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning’s status as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is secure because of the consistency with which he has built his brand, both on and off the field.  On the field, he is the NFL’s career leader in passing yards and touchdown passes, and he is now the first NFL quarterback to record 200 total wins, having taken a team to the playoffs 15 different seasons.  Off the field, he has crafted a likeable “guy next door” brand image that comes through in interviews, as a pitchman for companies such as Papa John’s and Nationwide, and even as host of Saturday Night Live.

3. Success requires a solid team.  Peyton Manning was the de facto face of the Broncos this season, but the continued success of his brand depended heavily on the contributions of the team surrounding him.  Similarly, navigating today’s continually evolving local media landscape can be daunting without the help of a trusted marketing partner.  Be sure to check out the rest of The Cox Media Hub for more insights and expertise to help with your marketing efforts – and to learn more about the ways we can partner with you as part of your “super” marketing team.

About the Author

David Gustafson

As Cox Media’s Director of Linear & Audience Research, David plays a key role in the company’s usage and interpretation of TV audience data. With more than two decades of industry experience, David currently is a member of the Nielsen Local Policy Guidelines Committee (PGC) and VAB Measurement Innovation Task Force, as well as client advisor to Comscore. Known as “The Professor,” David’s articles combine his passion for writing with a penchant for concisely explaining complex topics.

View All of David Gustafson's Blog Posts

Connect with a Marketing Expert

Connect With Your Local Marketing Expert

You know your business. We know advertising. Together, we can bring your business to more people. Contact a member of our team today. We’d love to help you grow.