The Cheese Behind the Bowl: The Hefty Price of Big Game Ads
It’s another year and another Super Bowl, and many Americans are eagerly waiting to tune into the Big Game on Sunday night. The Super Bowl is the most watched broadcast event in US television history, and each year the number of viewers just keeps going up. Last year broke the record with 114 million viewers on average – that’s more than 1/3 of the entire U.S. population! And even more surprisingly, analysts say that that number is low considering how many people were watching at bars and restaurants and were not included in the estimate.
One thing that’s certainly contributed to the Super Bowl’s broadcasting success is the commercials. Sporting events are watched in real time, so it’s a sure bet that your message will reach your target audience. Advertisers began putting in the extra effort to deliver what their captive audiences wanted to see. As time went on, Super Bowl commercials have become more and more entertaining and engaging. It’s been found that viewers watch the Super Bowl for the commercials just as much as they do for the actual game. As viewership, quality, entertainment and expectations increase, it also means hefty increases in the price of advertising as well. So what are the exact numbers? And how did commercials come to be such an important part of the Super Bowl? Let’s break it down.
This year a 30 second spot for a Super Bowl commercial will run well into the $5 million dollar range. Whoa. And get this: That is about half a million more than last year! In fact, since 2000, the price of a 30 second slot rose about 75%! That’s huge. And while those soaring prices have scared off a lot of companies from advertising, there are enough companies that believe the rising costs are worth every penny.
The reason why some advertisers are willing to put in the money is pretty simple. Can you remember who played in Super Bowl XXXIV? Maybe some of you can. Most Americans would not able to answer. But does anyone remember those Budweiser frogs? Of course you do! (And now they’ll be in your head for the rest of the week. Bud. WIIISE. Errr.) Super Bowl commercials are often high quality and extremely memorable. Remember Volkswagen’s Little Darth Vader? Or the Fight Like a Girl commercial last year? You see, companies realize that they can create memorable ads that help keep their brand in the public’s consciousness. Master Lock, one of the first brands to buy ad time in the Super Bowl, owes much of its success to choosing to buying perennial spots from Super Bowl I onward. The majority of Master Lock’s annual advertising budget goes to these ads. These days, the perennial advertising subscribers include Budweiser, Coca-Cola, GoDaddy and Doritos. Other companies like Pepsi, General Motors and more might make repeated appearances, but they aren’t necessarily in it year after year.
As the costs increase, some advertisers worry that it’s becoming harder and harder to see how much of a return they are getting. One of the issues is that it’s pretty difficult to accurately measure how much a Super Bowl ad impacts an audience’s decision to buy. Viewers are looking to be entertained, and these viewers might really love a particular commercial, but how that translates into actual sales is somewhat difficult to pin down. So as costs increase, advertisers are coming up with tactics that can help define and narrow their goals in order to successfully achieve them. One way is to buy ad time on local channels. This has proven effective for advertisers that have better sales in specific regions and are looking to target that regional audience. Another tactic is to purchase relatively cheaper ad time during the pre- and post-game commentary, People are still tuned in for predictions or highlights, but ads during those times are a bit more budget-friendly. Another recent tactic is to tease commercials by partially or fully releasing them before the game. Companies that have put a considerable amount of effort into creating their ad use teasers to generate more engagement. Teasers are useful in helping to generate discussion, build hype and encourage social sharing. What’s more, consider those inevitable “best of” lists of Super Bowl ads that get posted and discussed post-game too. Brand engagement with an audience can often last many days before and after game day itself.
With advertizing costs already so high, it’s no wonder that companies are wondering if next years price will be even higher. So far the answer seems to be yes, they most definitely will. Even though many brands remain unconvinced that the costs are worth the benefits, it’s hard to deny that these commercials are extremely memorable part of Game Day. They are now about as integral to the modern experience of the game as chicken wings or chips n’ queso. And with record-breaking viewership increasing year after year, the price of those precious 30 seconds is only going to go up.
Happy Game Day everyone! Do you have any favorite Super Bowl commercials? Tell us (or post them!) in the comments below.