Super Bowl boosts digital sales for Petty and others

By Susan Visakowitz
Saturday, February 16, 2008; 3:39 PM

NEW YORK (Billboard) - The New York Giants weren't the only ones to come away from Super Bowl XLII with a storybook ending. Artists who were tied to the game through live performance or inclusion in advertisements also notched impressive victories, especially on the digital front.

Leading the charge, perhaps unsurprisingly: halftime show stars Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, who performed four of their best-known songs in a well-received 12-minute set. With more than 97 million viewers tuned in to the game -- the most in Super Bowl history -- Petty and his band dominated the ultimate platform for reaching consumers.

This week the group finds itself at the summit of Billboard's Top Pop Catalog chart with its "Greatest Hits," which shot up 196 percent in the week following the Super Bowl with sales of 33,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The band's "Anthology: Through the Years" jumped 240 percent to 7,000, taking the No. 6 spot on the same chart.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Petty collects his biggest trophy this week for halftime show entry "Free Fallin"': The track shifted 63,000 digital copies, a gain of 305 percent, and bows at No. 10 on Hot Digital Songs. "I Won't Back Down," "American Girl" and "Runnin' Down a Dream," which made up the rest of Petty's halftime set, all registered similarly notable climbs in the digital realm.

Mike Davis, executive vice president/general manager of Universal Music Enterprises, which controls Petty's early catalog, said that advance preparation -- especially online -- was key to ensuring the best possible sales outcome.


"A huge part of our marketing was online-based," Davis said. "With big television events, the online aspect is so important because people can see (the performance) happen onscreen and then immediately react and buy it online. With so much music being bought online now anyway, it's an easy bull's-eye to market to."

Davis said iTunes accounted for the most sales of "Greatest Hits" and noted that 12,000 out of the 33,000 units shifted this week (or 36 percent) were digital.

"Greatest Hits" actually broke the top 10 on Top Pop Catalog several weeks before the game, and Davis said those results were "mostly driven by retail and Super Bowl bumpers telling people that Tom Petty would be performing." In the past 10 weeks, the set climbed the chart 98-83-79-40-34-19-6-6-2-1.

Of course, not all the glory went to the Giants and Petty. An edge-of-your-seat matchup on the field meant viewers stayed glued to their TV screens for the duration of the game, only intensifying the attention already paid to that other major player on Super Sunday: commercial spots.

Although results on the retail side were generally underwhelming, several artists scored big with digital consumers thanks to prominent ad placements.

Haddaway's 1993 Billboard Hot 100 hit "What Is Love" soundtracked a star-studded Diet Pepsi Max commercial that came in at No. 8 in USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter results, a real-time consumer rating of the ads. The spot, which also earned mostly positive reviews in the media, propelled digital track sales of 22,000 in the week after the game, an increase of 200 percent, and secured the song a No. 68 entry on Hot Digital Songs.

Karin Hartmann of Germany-based Coconut Music, which owns the master recording, said that since the game she's received offers from U.S. labels "to release the track again" and expects "compilation requests" to rise. She added, "It was a wonderful feeling to see the ad in the Super Bowl."


But even artists featured in spots that weren't as well received came away with digital sales wins. Doritos spotlighted "Crash the Super Bowl" contest winner and virtual unknown Kina Grannis in a 60-second ad that had lots of pregame buzz but ultimately fell flat with viewers and industry execs.

The spot, really a segment of a video for the new Grannis single "Message From Your Heart," finished dead last on the Ad Meter. But Grannis, who won not just the airtime but also a recording contract with Interscope, moved 15,000 downloads of the track this week, a 118 percent increase from the previous week.

The song is also getting early airplay on mainstream top 40 stations in Boston and New Orleans, which helped it break the Pop 100 at No. 93.

The secret to its success? Multiple online promotional touch-points. Grannis and the winning song were promoted on a Doritos microsite for the contest, a related Doritos MySpace page, Grannis' own Web site and MySpace page, and a Grannis blog dedicated to her participation in the consumer-judged contest. The iTunes page dedicated to the track also provided a detailed background on the contest and its winner.

In contrast, up-and-coming Seattle rock band the Boss Martians, whose "Hey Hey Yeah Yeah" was featured in not one but two eTrade commercials aired during the game (both of which scored big points with consumers), saw little immediate sales impact.

MuSick Records owner/president Art Bourasseau said he only found out the song was going to be used in the spots on the Wednesday before the game. "We rushed to get it up on iTunes as a single by that Friday evening," he said, "but we've only promoted it on the band's MySpace page."


© 2008 Reuters