The NPD Group determined that cheerleaders for smartphone apps may be disappointed at how well they scored during Super Bowl XLVI.

The research firm found that football apps, led by those from ESPN and the NFL, actually showed a downward trend when compared to the playoffs, and neither team’s own app showed much usage at all during Sunday’s game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

Viewers looking to augment the televised game instead turned to websites, with in particular showing a significant spike in traffic. Much of that was done by smartphone users, meaning that they chose Internet searches over the available dedicated apps. This and other information was gathered by The NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence SmartMeter, which tracks consumer use of smartphone applications, websites, communications, and content services.

“While the overall smartphone apps market did not match the overly-ambitious hopes of many, the use of both apps and websites still show a significant reliance on the smartphone as a second screen,” said Linda Barrabee, research director, NPD Connected Intelligence. ”But it is clear that these apps still have a long way to go to become an invaluable part of the Super Bowl experience.”

Advertisers fared better with apps, especially Shazam’s and Chevy Game Time, Barrabee said. “Both had strong ad placements relatively early in the game, and – even more importantly – both had strong tie-ins to the ongoing entertainment that helps to drive their use,” she explained. “Shazam’s use by smartphone users on Super Bowl Sunday, for example, was more than the combined use of the app for the previous two Sundays.”

She did note, however, that the GoDaddy website out-performed the company’s promoted application. Other websites that showed markedly increased traffic were Samsung, and Volkswagen.

“Overall, smartphone use is heading in the right direction and usage during these key events is growing. But the content providers need to work harder to build compelling solutions that truly target the needs of consumers in a multi-screen environment,” said Barrabee. “The most compelling example of the power of smartphones came not from the application or website use, but from the thousands of smartphones that provided a backdrop to the half-time show by Madonna.”

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Photo by Flickr user Tom Newby Photography, used under Creative Commons license