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January 31, 2014

Super Bowl TV Ads are Big, Big Business

by Brian Allen

Super Bowl Sunday is almost here - the National Football League championship is the second most watched annual sporting event worldwide. With all eyes on the big game, advertisers are lining up to spend record amounts of money to put their ad in front of viewers.  Super Bowl commercials have become "must see TV." 

It has become an event almost as big as the game itself - it’s the only day of the year when viewers don’t hit the mute or go to the bathroom during a time-out.

Super Bowl commercials are big, big business, which comes as little surprise considering Super Bowl is traditionally the most-watched American television broadcast of the year.

“Thirty years ago there were a good number of ways to get to everyone," said Richard Fine, a managing director with Redscout. "There were big event televisions, big shows everyone watched. And now there is only one, only one thing where you get to 110 million people a year.

And a big audience brings a hefty pricetag - a 30-second ad costs, on average, $4 million this year.

“Is it worth spending $4 million for 30 seconds of advertising? I guess it depends on what you are setting out to do as a marketer,” said Ken Wheaton, a managing editor at Advertising Age. “If you have a specific message or if you are traditionally a Super Bowl advertiser, I think it does make sense. You can send a message to the average consumer, 'Buy my product, we are American-made.'  Or you are sending a message to your stockholders: 'We're healthy financially to make a marketing play this big.'"

Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and car companies traditionally spend the big bucks to air ads during the Super Bowl.

James Cooper, editorial director at Adweek, says celebrities are starting to get in on the act as well.

"For the companies that use them, they buy instant recognition for the ad," he said. "If you see Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Bud Light ad people are going to pay attention. Miley Cyrus they will pay attention, people pay attention to her as well. John Stamos most in those Oikos yogurt ads."

Wheaton says there will be plenty of star power this year too.

“This year, we have Scarlett Johansson for SodaStream. We have, I count the Muppets as celebrities for Toyota," he said. "A trio of British actors for Jaguar, Laurence Fishburne for Kia and [David] Beckham for H&M. And probably a few others. We never know who is going to pull out a surprise ad."

Fine says that all those eyeballs mean more pressure to put out a good ad.

“You’re in a competition to see whose commercial wins the most like, views, awards, whatever it might be," he said. "It’s a very competitive context, and what you’re trying to do is be one of the ones that is a big, buzzed-about commercial.

“That's why people tend to sort of be semi-safe, they use things like puppies and babies and monkeys," said AdWeek's Cooper.

Most of the Super Bowl Sunday ads are already online - which means advertisers get increased value before and after the game.