Was Death Wish Coffee $5 Million Super Bowl 2016 Ad Spend Worth It?

With the average price tag of $5 million for a 30s spot – running a spot during Super Bowl is always a huge decision. Fortunately for Death Wish Coffee, they won the commercial slot in 2016 Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Big Game contest. While the Super Bowl slot generated a lot of buzz for Death Wish – the question remains: Would the spot generate sales?

Before we go on, below are the ads which ran:



Spot Trender, an industry leader in ad testing technology, tested Death Wish spot against a typical Starbucks at Home commercial, to provide perspective. They published their results here.

While Starbucks took a more gender-neutral approach to their advertising, it was as effective as the Death Wish ad in causing viewers to consider and recommend the product. Women were much more likely to purchase Starbucks coffee after seeing their ad.

Brand differentiation

At $20 a pound, Death Wish is nearly double the cost of Starbucks, yet the company didn’t really do much to justify that pricing over Starbucks. Only 41% of participants perceived the brand as luxurious, and 54% thought the company provides quality products. Starbucks on the other hand scored 73% and 78% for those same categories.

Is this a movie trailer?

Many viewers mistook the Death Wish commercial as a movie trailer for a Pirates movie. The reaction graph data from Spot Trender shows the 30-second spot performed well, up until the Vikings were swallowed by the person having the drink.

Many of the viewers liked the Viking concept and the adventure theme. Many of them however found the coffee element confusing. The Intuit QuickBooks logo only added to the confusion.

Despite this, Death Wish received a high brand perception lift after respondents saw the ad. 64% of respondents said they liked the ad, compared to 53% for Starbucks. 55% of respondents said they would share Death Wish video. 90% of participants said the ad was different from other ads for similar product, and 87% said they would remember the ad.

.eath Wish Starbucks Key Metrics

Offending viewers

Given the vast spectrum of Super Bowl viewers, it isn’t surprising to see that both ads offended a handful of viewers. The Spot Trender results showed comments such as:

“I hate coffee and believe it is a satanic drink,” regarding the Starbucks ad. “Disgusting” and “Not something that’s kid friendly, something that would have me turning off the TV,” are two of the comments for Death Wish coffee.

Gender targeting

Despite Starbucks and Death Wish Coffee ads performed equally well when it came to getting men and women to try the products. They also said they were likely to recommend both products to their friends. Surprisingly the Starbucks ad ended on a higher note.

Starbucks Super Bowl 50 Reaction Graph Death Wish Super Bowl 50 Reaction Graph



After seeing the ad, Starbucks brand performed better than Death Wish among males, and much better among females. While slightly more males said that they were more likely to purchase Death Wish, the difference wasn’t statistically significant (at 95% Confidence Level). Simply put, males were no more likely to purchase Death Wish vs. Starbucks after seeing the ad.

Males Starbucks Death Wish Coffee Perception

 Female Perception of Starbucks Death Wish Coffee

Liklihood to act Starbucks Death Wish Coffee

Know your audience

When you’re developing your advertising strategy, you need to ensure the ad resonates with the audience. This is best illustrated in the Starbucks ad where the viewer comments, “This video appeals to one’s emotions, especially with the children giggling. The packaging is prominently visible in this section of the commercial, which invites the viewer to purchase Starbucks coffee.”

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