The Oct. 24 Big Ten matchup between Penn State and Indiana featured more than just the Hoosiers’ one-point win in overtime — traces of the nation’s biggest contest, the presidential election, also appeared during the broadcast.
But television ads from the Trump campaign have remained largely absent from college football games this season, according to data from iSpot.TV. In fact, Biden’s presidential campaign has purchased more ads during college football games that have yielded much farther reach than Trump’s.
- Biden’s campaign ads have yielded about 15 million views during national college football broadcasts since Sept. 1.
- Trump’s campaign ads have yielded about four million views in the same time period.
During the weeks of Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, neither have purchased any local ads, which iSpot.TV counts as those aired on ACC Network, Longhorn Network, and regional sports networks.
When measuring political ad impact, it’s more useful to measure impressions than the number of ads purchased, said Ken Goldstein, the faculty director at the University of San Francisco in D.C. And while local ads are often more useful if shown in battleground states, national ads may be cheaper.
College football ads, and particularly those in the Big Ten, have proven important for political campaign advertising during the last couple election cycles, Goldstein said. Big Ten games usually draw the non-college educated white men in battleground states who candidates are looking to reach. College football games are also some of the few TV events usually watched live, where viewers can’t fast forward through commercials.
“It’s a desirable audience in a desirable state at a desirable time,” Goldstein said.
During the week of the Big Ten and Mountain West’s return, impressions have skyrocketed for both campaigns.
- Trump ads received 3.6 million impressions during the week of Oct. 24, compared with just 332,747 impressions between Sept. 1 and Oct. 17.
- Biden ads received about 5.5 million impressions during Big Ten return week, about a third of the total impressions his ads received for the entire period between Sept. 1 and Oct. 24.
The dynamic of Biden buying ads with more impressions than Trump during college football games doesn’t necessarily mirror the concerted interest Trump has taken in college football — interest political experts agree was part of a re-election campaign strategy to appeal to voters in swing states. The trend does, however, appear to follow a national pattern in which Biden and his supporting groups are outspending Trump and his supporters in all TV ads, according to an NPR analysis.
“The same way that a wide receiver is trying to get separation for a cornerback,” Goldstein said, “what campaigns are trying to do is get separation in terms of their advertising by show and by target audience.”