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The Super Bowl of Advertising

The big game is now around the corner. Super Bowl LIV (54) will air on FOX on February 2 from Miami. Game time will be 6:30pm.

The teams are set and this year’s game will feature AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers.The expectation is for 110+MM US viewers and Millions more abroad. The US viewership will translate into roughly 55 Million homes or more than 70% of Homes Using TV. In addition to the markets of the conference championship teams, Kansas City and San Francisco, most US TVs will be turned to the big game. The going rate for an in-game :30 ad is $5.6Million and the inventory is sold out.

As always, there is a list of heavyweights that will use the highly rated Super Bowl as a platform for their brands.

This year’s advertisers include:

Anheuser-Busch

Audi

Avocados from Mexico

Cheetos

Coca-Cola

Doritos

Facebook

Heinz

Hyundai

Kia

Mountain Dew

NY Life

Olay

Pop Tarts

Porsche

Pringles

Sabra

Snickers

Soda Stream

Squarespace

Toyota

TurboTax

Turkish Airlines

Verizon

WeatherTech

We’ll also see political ads from Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump.

As we think about the game ahead, we are again reminded about the history of the Super Bowl, which began as the Championship game between what was then the traditional NFL and the start-up AFL. The first “Super Bowl” was played on January 15, 1967 featuring the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers against the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Historians will remind us that the two rival leagues had not even merged yet and would not do so until after the third Super Bowl. After a competitive first half, Green Bay, led by legendary Coach Vince Lombardi, easily won by a score of 35-10. (The Chiefs are hoping for a better outcome than in the first game) Al Hirt was the halftime talent. He had no dancers, and his wardrobe did not malfunction (and the audience was thankful that it didn’t).

The first “Super Bowl” really was not even “super”. It was merely called the AFL-NFL World Championship game and was played at a neutral site, the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the stadium where USC and the LA Rams now play. The term “Super Bowl” was an off-handed comment made by Chiefs owner, Lamar Hunt based on his granddaughter’s love of the “super ball” toy. The Super Bowl name stuck and it took on the official name after the third game.

The first game was not a super event in other ways too. The game was not sold out, despite modest ticket prices ($12) and a local TV blackout. It must have been a good beach day in LA that day. The first game was broadcast on two networks, CBS, which carried the NFL games, and NBC, which carried the AFL games. CBS charged $85,000 for a 60-second commercial, and NBC charged $75,000. The game achieved a combined 41 household rating with 51 million viewers

This year’s advertisers will again be paying up to $5.2MM million for each 30 second commercial, roughly $175,000 per second, which is more than the cost of a full :60 on both CBS and NBC’s original broadcast.

The question is always: Is this worth it for the advertiser? The firm answer is: Maybe.

There are some mitigating factors when considering the value of an ad in the Super Bowl:

1. There is no comparable event to reach such a significant mass audience. In today’s fragmented media world, there is no single program capable of delivering the audience that the Super Bowl does. There are very few “water cooler” events on TV with a similar impact.

2. The Super Bowl is far more than a game that delivers a large audience. It is a happening. That carries with it a value far greater than mere exposure. What makes advertising in the Super Bowl more powerful today is that the commercials are usually part of an elaborate campaign that also includes social media.

The real “value” of Super Bowl advertising is not found solely in the mathematical CPM. There is no event where the ads are often as noteworthy as the game itself, where millions of Americans gather with friends and family to analyze the ads as they appear. To advertisers, this represents an enormous opportunity to introduce a new commercial, which is often part of a new mega-promotional campaign that extends beyond traditional advertising.

What this means is that if you are going to be a Super Bowl advertiser, then the spot needs to be great—not just good. Because there is nothing worse than spending $5+ Million and then being slammed on the Monday after for airing a weak commercial. In addition, your spot needs to be more than merely effective. To justify the hype, it needs to be a “mini-film” that others will want to view repeatedly. Therefore, talking babies, animals, big production, celebrity talent, etc. should be part of the plan.

However, if you hit creative pay dirt and create a spot that is a big as the Super Bowl itself, get mega social spin, and really want the bang of reaching the widest possible audience, then $5+ Million may be a price worth paying.

In any event, once again the game will be the biggest TV event of the year. Bring it on.

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