The Big Game's Big Miss

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The Big Game's Big Miss: How Many Ads Overlook $500 Billion in Spending Power

Posted February 13, 2024


Posted February 13, 2024

Las Vegas cityscape with accessibility icon in the middle next to football trophy.
Las Vegas cityscape with accessibility icon in the middle next to football trophy.

With brands spending $7 million on Super Bowl ads, it raises the question: how accessible are these top brands? This article reviews an analysis of 10 Super Bowl ads and whether they fumbled or scored with accessibility.

Super Bowl commercials are a staple of the biggest football game of the year. Considering the average cost for 30 seconds of Super Bowl air time is roughly $7 million — not including the time and resources to produce it— there is a high expectation the ad will bring increased brand recognition, sales, or meet other key goals.

With brands spending an enormous amount for up to a minute of airtime to attract people to their site, it begs the question: is it working? Many companies fail to realize they’re leaving out a key demographic in their marketing efforts — one that controls close to $500 billion in disposable income. This demographic? The disabled community. 

People with disabilities make up 1 out of 4 people in the United States, and struggle daily to engage in a digital world that isn’t built for people with visual, auditory, cognitive, or physical disabilities. 

To find out just how accessible these brands’ websites are to the disabled community, we analyzed 10 Super Bowl commercials aired during this past game. We ran these brands’ homepages through our own accessibility scanner and had our team of human testers, part of the AudioEye A11iance community, conduct expert custom testing. 

Our team found that some brands are accessibility MVPs — they’ve tackled some common issues and have created an inclusive, accessible experience. Others? Well, let’s just say they fumbled the ball on accessibility.

Stylized web browser next to text 'Average of 192 errors per homepage'.

Key Findings

After we ran each homepage through our accessibility scanner, we found an average of 192 errors per homepage. These errors represent a wide range of issues that affect how a person using a screen reader, or other assistive technologies, is able to access page content. If your homepage is not accessible, you may have just spent millions of dollars pointing new prospects to a site they cannot navigate.


We found varying degrees of accessibility issues and errors across these 10 homepages. Just as a penalty on the field can have a range of impacts (a five-yard penalty may not affect the outcome as much as a 15-yard penalty), the issues we found can add unnecessary frustration or make a site completely unusable for a person with a disability.

Yellow penalty flag next to text '77% of all accessibility errors fall in layout'.

Penalties - Layout

The most consistent errors we found in the home pages reviewed were layout-related, with 77% of all accessibility errors falling in this category. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) require websites to have an accessible layout to ensure people with disabilities can understand the information and context of the website. 

For example, imagine you’re entering a football stadium for the first time. There are no signs pointing to refreshments, restrooms, or seating locations. Other than walking around randomly and hoping you’ll find what you’re looking for, you’d likely be frustrated at the lack of context. 

Similarly, key information on a site should be accessible at a glance and be designed in such a way that a user gets as much information as quickly as possible. 

In our expert audits, our testers also found numerous layout issues as well. For example, a popular online sports betting platform’s homepage lacks clear landmarks (such as a banner and main content sections) and has sections of the page that are mislabeled. This makes it difficult for assistive technologies to properly convey page content and organization, which ultimately creates a confusing experience for the user.

Football down indicator next to text '13% of all accessibility issues were link related'.

Penalties - Links

Another flag on the play is the second most consistent penalty we found: Links. Our automated accessibility testing found that 13% of accessibility issues were link-related, with an average of 20 link-related errors per homepage.  

Accessible links are a persistent issue for most enterprise sites. WCAG recommendations state that users should be able to understand the purpose of each link so they can decide whether or not they want to follow it. For example, if a link takes a user to a new page, the web browser should provide an explanation of where the link will take them before they click on the page. This improves their navigation and helps users decide if they want to follow it.

One of our audits of a major coffee shop found an odd link announcement in their header. When a screen reader read the link, ‘JetBlue’ was simply announced. Upon further investigation, it was found that JetBlue is a partner of this brand. However, this context is not immediately understood, which is confusing for users. A better experience would be to announce the link as ‘Visit our partner JetBlue link” as this would help users understand why the link is there and where they’ll go upon clicking on it.

Additionally, we consistently hear feedback from members of our A11iance community regarding the impact of consistently unclear link alt-text. While these issues don’t generally make a site unusable, they can make the experience so time-consuming and frustrating that they’ll go to a more accessible competitor’s site. 

Football bouncing underneath icons of accessibility fumbles.

Accessibility Fumbles

In addition to layout and links, our automated and expert tests identified additional accessibility issues, including:

  • Interactive elements: Interactive elements refers to functionalities such as buttons, forms, images, videos, etc. Interactive violations prevent users from performing critical actions — including submitting information or making a purchase. 
  • Headings: Headings help communicate to readers the organization of a page’s content. When headers are appropriately structured, users can quickly scan a web page or document and understand the structure. For example, we found that a popular coffee shop had an incorrect heading hierarchy, with the page starting with an H2 which is followed by an H4. This incorrectly conveys to users what is important, resulting in a confusing experience.
  • Labels: According to WCAG, page labels should be clear, descriptive, and provide guidance and context for people with visual and cognitive impairments. More simply, labels should be included on data inputs (such as forms) to help users understand what action is being asked for. For example, rather than listing a form field as “email”, which is not descriptive nor does it indicate an action, a “enter your preferred email to receive our newsletter” is better. 

Each of these accessibility fumbles makes it more difficult for users with disabilities to access brands’ sites and complete tasks — including making a purchase. If brands want to increase their earnings — and customer base — they need to make website accessibility more of a priority.

Stylized web browser with accessibility icon in the bottom left and football trophy on the right.

2024 Accessibility Super Bowl Champions

Ultimately, we share a similar vision with many others in the accessibility space – none of us win until all of us can access the full scope of the internet. And unlike professional sports, in the area of digital accessibility, every company that prioritizes the work of digital accessibility wins. Numerous brands have taken proactive steps to enhance accessibility that improves the user experience, opens up new customer segments, and builds loyalty.  

The real winners, in the end, are not the companies who champion these efforts but the end users. When people with disabilities can surf the web to the same degree as others, they are able to have positive, ‘winning’ digital experiences. 

Curious how accessible your site is? Take a look with our free accessibility scanner.

SUPER BOWL® and NFL® are the registered trademarks of NFL Properties LLC and AudioEye is not in any way affiliated, sponsored, or endorsed by NFL Properties LLC."

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