Inauguration Scorecard: Who Seized the Day and Who Stumbled

Audi, J. Crew Were Two of the Biggest Winners; Twitter Battled Delays

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NEW YORK ( -- It didn't quite pull Super Bowl numbers, but President Barack Obama's inauguration was still a media blockbuster, drawing in 37.8 million TV viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research (the second-most for an inauguration, after Ronald Reagan in 1981).

Most-watched website: won with its Facebook integration.
Most-watched website: won with its Facebook integration.
In addition, some 39.7 million people streamed live coverage of the inauguration throughout the day on current-events and global news sites, according to Nielsen Online. And that could be underplaying it, since Nielsen Online's figures don't include non-news sites such as, Hulu and, which also streamed the proceedings.

Excluding web and TV viewing overlap, the event drew about two-thirds of the 97.5 million viewers last year's Super Bowl did. It shattered online-video records and became the biggest cross-platform live event in U.S. history.

For media companies and marketers riding that wave of interest with tie-ins, promotions and advertising, it amounted to a slam dunk. But some played it smarter than others, as you'll see by our scorecard below.


Inauguration Day's most-watched cable network (trouncing even CBS during the key 10 a.m.-to-5 p.m. daypart) was also hands-down the most-watched website, accumulating 25 million live video streams by 6 p.m. Its new-media victory was thanks in large part to an integration with Facebook, which by 12:30 p.m. saw more than 1 million status updates from its live-chat feature. Traffic was so high that there were "lines" to get onto CNN's site coverage at some parts of the day. The marriage of Facebook's functionality and community with an established media news brand showed how a traditional media conglomerate might harness the site's power, and as a consequence, that $15 billion valuation looked a little less ridiculous in the aftermath of the inauguration extravaganza.


Perhaps the news media's most aggressive sponsor of inauguration coverage, Audi set out to reach 19 million people with a multi-tiered media buy that included prime-time purchases on ABC, CBS and NBC as well as exclusive sponsorship of streaming coverage on,,, and With more than 15 million unique users visiting those four websites alone, Audi got an even bigger audience after TV ratings were factored in. Looks like the auto marketer's plans to spend 15% more on advertising in 2009 vs. 2008 are already paying off.


The first marketer to air an ad after the swearing-in ceremony's most-watched streaming webcast? Starbucks, which bought the pole position to plug its new community-outreach program that offers pledge cards and free cups of coffee to consumers who promised to do five hours of community service during 2009 between Jan. 21 and 25.

"Experiencing the inauguration in a community hub, like a neighborhood Starbucks, was something that felt natural to us as an extension of how our customers think about their Starbucks store," said Chris Bruzzo, VP-digital strategy and content, Starbucks Coffee Co. "We see this week as a shift in thinking toward community and service in this country, which is less a political event and much more a human event, and we want to support it."

The Obama Outfitters

Plenty of fashion brands, big and small, received a marketing boost from the first family last week. Michelle Obama donned a relatively unknown designer, Jason Wu, for the inaugural balls, making him a household name virtually overnight. Google Trends Labs showed searches for the designer skyrocketing Tuesday and Wednesday, giving him a hotness rating of "Volcanic."

Clothes call: J. Crew outfitted the Obama daughters in custom coats. Its website crashed when the news became public.
Clothes call: J. Crew outfitted the Obama daughters in custom coats. Its website crashed when the news became public. Credit: Chuck Kennedy
Preppy retailer J. Crew, which received attention throughout the campaign as a favorite of the first family, staged a major marketing coup by outfitting the Obama girls in custom coats for the inauguration. However, the retailer's website crashed when the news became public Tuesday morning. It wasn't until Thursday that the site featured actual sketches of the coats and messages from the designers on its home page.


Seeking to solidify its cultural relevance and tout its new logo and brand message, Pepsi plastered messages such as "All for One" and "Yes You Can" on buildings, billboards, buses and public transportation hubs around Washington. Street teams made their way around the nation's capital, distributing commemorative Pepsi campaign buttons, scarves and hats. Two TV commercials, "Pass" and "Wordplay," got heavy rotation throughout last week, while an online effort encouraged consumers to send video messages to the new president. Pepsi also sponsored two events in Washington, the Refresh the World Symposium on Jan. 19 and The Creative Coalition Gala Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20.

The most unlikely webcaster to benefit from inauguration coverage was Major League Baseball's home page, which delivered 30,000 live streams of the ceremony. This is the second time the MLB has streamed a live event from the 2008 presidential election, following its live webcast of the third and final presidential debate in October 2008, which generated 25,000 streams. "[We] wanted to leverage our technology to stream live events -- we do more than any other site in the world, 12,000 per year -- to commemorate baseball's storied history, its place as a social institution in America and its long connection to the Office of the President," said spokesman Matthew Gould.

Fox News

While still the undisputed TV ratings champ of cable news, Fox took a few beatings from CNN and MSNBC on Election Night in November, especially online, where it saw unique monthly web traffic get more than doubled by its main competitors. The online horse race repeated itself again on Inauguration Day, with Fox's 4 million uniques once again trailing CNN (11 million unique visitors) and MSNBC (10 million unique visitors).


The web's biggest streaming site offered no live streaming of the inauguration, seemingly missing out on one of its biggest traffic opportunities. But, true to form as the go-to site for short-form video, YouTube clips made up 14 of Nielsen's top 15 most linked-to videos on Jan. 20, including President Obama's inauguration and address and Rev. Gene Robinson's inaugural prayer.


Ironic that the biggest loser of the first Twitter Inauguration was Twitter itself, which wasn't equipped to handle five times the normal tweets per second during the swearing-in ceremony. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote on the company blog, "Overall, Twitter sailed smoothly through the inauguration, but at the peak, some folks did experience a two-to-five minute delay receiving updates."

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Contributing: Abbey Klaassen, Emily Bryson York, Natalie Zmuda, Ira Teinowitz, Jean Halliday

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