The Super Bowl Effect on Web Site Performance

Andreas Grabner (Profile)
Thursday, March 1st 2012

Whether you are a Fan of US Football or not - it was really hard to avoid this huge sport event on February 5th. Besides the actual game, it is the Super Bowl commercials that - besides being very expensive to air - usually drive a lot of load on the websites of the companies that run their ads. The question is whether the millions of dollars spent really drive consumers to these websites and make them do business with them.

As we won't get an answer from the top brands that advertised about the actual conversion rates we can look at End User Experience and Web Site Performance of their web sites while these Ads were aired. By analyzing this data, that we can get through continuous synthetic monitoring combined with deep dive browser diagnostics, we will be able to see whether their web application was actually able to handle the load and didn't leave too many of these users with a bad user experience.

Use Case: What was the User Experience of One of the Top Brands During Super Bowl Day

In order to avoid any discussions on whether the numbers we present are good or bad and mean that this company did a good or terrible job, we present all this data without giving an actual name as the purpose of this exercise is to show how to perform this type of analysis.

Synthetic Monitoring of a Web Site

In order to monitor web site performance of a site we setup a Gomez Synthetic Monitor to be executed on a scheduled basis. The monitor not only monitored the performance of the initial home page but also walked through several main use case scenarios on that page, e.g: searched for a product. These tests were also executed from multiple different US locations, using low and high-bandwidth connections and also using a mixture between Internet Explorer and Firefox browser. Additionally we captured individual performance sessions using dynaTrace Browser Diagnostics.

The following screenshot shows the response time of the home page of this web site via our Last Mile platform via a Firefox browser in the days before the Super Bowl as well as during the Super Bowl. The average Page Load time was around 9 seconds with the exception of the timeframe during the Super Bowl - that's when it jumped up to 30 seconds:

Synthetic monitoring shows peak during the Super Bowl of up to 30s to load the homepage

Analyzing Page Load Time from Monitoring Data

There were two factors that drove this spike:

  1. Higher Load on their application due to the commercial aired during Super Bowl
  2. Additional Content on their page that doubled the page size