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NBCU Says Super Bowl Ads Are Sold Out

NBCUniversal said it has closed the sales process for its February 1 broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX, selling out the game, the post-game show, the game’s digital stream and nearly all of the inventory in its pre-game coverage with just days to go before the kickoff at the massive media event.

The company estimates it has more than 70 national commercials in the game, and has just a few openings in the earlier part of its pre-game coverage, according to Seth Winter, exec VP of advertising sales for NBCU’s news and sports properties.

“This was not the easiest exercise I’ve been through,” said Winter, making reference to a slower pace of sales for the broadcast than Fox experienced for Super Bowl XLVIII, “but at the end of the day, we came through with flying colors.” Sales “solidified” over the last few weeks, he noted.

NBCUniversal faced headwinds for its Super Bowl process almost from the start, with some advertisers balking last May at a record price for time in the game: NBC sought between $4.4 million and $4.5 million for a 30-second ad berth during the event, only to find out that auto advertisers, who have made up a large part of the game’s ad roster in past years, were not as interested in the 2015 opportunity.

In a signal that closing out sales was tougher than usual, this year’s game will feature 15 rookie sponsors. The freshman ranks encompass everything from Loctite, the maker of Super Glue, to Jublia, a toenail fungus treatment, to Mophie, a maker of smartphone accessories. Winter said he did not expect the swelling number of first-timers — said to be the biggest number of Super Bowl neophytes since the dot-com boom at the turn of the last century — to diminish the quality of the commercials. “It’s really based largely on the creative,” he said, noting that he not seen anything in his previews of the ads that caused him undue alarm.

Most Super Bowl advertisers decide to lock up a place in the game between May and the early fall of the year prior to the event, owing to the enormous amount of planning and coordination that has to be done with securing talent and storylines for the commercial as well as implementation of social media and public relations around the appearance. But one advertiser, Sprint, decided in early December to take part, said Jeff Hallock, the telco’s chief marketing officer, in an interview Wednesday.

“We are in a very competitive business and we are moving very quickly,” said Hallock. In a teaser ad expected to release soon, Sprint takes a poke at rivals Verizon and AT&T, which are likened to a screaming sheep, while describing a new “family plan.”  The Super Bowl has a powerful allure for advertisers, Hallock said. “It’s  a great audience that tunes in looking for advertising, which is an odd thing” at a time when viewers have more technology at their disposal that allows them to avoid commercials entirely.

Eighteen advertisers will fill the ad opportunities on NBCUniversal’s live-streamed coverage of the event, Winter said. All of them are also sponsors of the TV broadcast. TV networks typically limit the amount of advertising inventory around their digi-casts of the event.  He declined to offer a price range for digital ad units but said NBCU had secured an eight-digit figure in advertising revenue for the property.


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