Scientology didn't miss the chance of a plug during this year's Super Bowl with an advert derided as "creepy" by some viewers.

The celebrity-endorsed spiritual movement paid for a TV spot in the breaks during last night's match between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks for the Super Bowl - the biggest sporting event in the United States.

Viewers were told to imagine science and religion "connecting" and that "everything you have ever imagined is possible."

Featuring expensive-looking but bland sculptures inside towering halls, the advert matched Scientology's reputation for big-spending opulence in the worst possible taste.

But it seems there were limits to the Church's advertising budget. The ad was not aired nationally and was seen on screens only on local networks in New York and Washington state, among others.

Judging by the critical reaction on Twitter, this may have been a good thing. For it was derided as looking like a spoof commercial by one viewer and as "creepy" by another.

Speculation about the motive for running the advert abounded, with some commentaters claiming it was not intended to draw new members, but rather to keep existing ones.

Scientology's secretive practices have come under the spotlight in recent months, with former worshippers testifying in court to the existence of a place called "the hole" on the sect's remote ranch in California.

Secured with steel bars on windows and doors, defectors have alleged "the hole" was where members could be put under severe stress, criticisms, and be subjected to methods described as "torture" by defectors.

Responding to the allegations, a Scientology spokesman said: "Any allegations of bars being installed to hold peple against their will is false, malicious and is denied."

The Church stated such claims were being made by "disgruntled ex-members who were making false allegations."