The Super Bowl is TV’s biggest draw, pulling in hundreds of millions of viewers — along with hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. So why wasn’t NBC able to sell out its commercial inventory for the game as fast as Fox did last year?
NBC said Wednesday that it had finally sold more than 70 30-second spots for its Feb. 1 broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX, and had only a handful of availabilities left in its pre-game coverage. But Seth Winter, NBCUniversal’s top ad-sales executive for sports, noted the process had been tougher than usual. Fox wrapped its sales for 2014’s Super Bowl XLVIII in the fall of 2013.
That’s not to say the NFL championship has lost its power, and NBC no doubt hopes its coverage will break the record for the most-viewed event on TV, as coverage of the event has for four of the past five broadcasts. But there is a chance that the advertising roster for the Big Game may look a little bit different than it has in the past.
Here, Variety dissects the advertising hoopla around the gridiron classic:
NBC sought between $4.4 million and $4.5 million for a 30-second spot this year, plus a similar price for other NBC Sports inventory — a record amount. Winter insists the eye-popping pricetag didn’t dampen sponsors’ appetites.
Auto marketers have turned the past four Super Bowls into advertising traffic jams, stuffing ads for Chevys, Audis and Toyotas into nearly every break. This year, car makers are shifting gears. Yes, Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan will be there, but perennials like Audi, General Motors and Hyundai are staying in the garage. Big question: Will Chrysler, which has run mammoth two-minute-long ads featuring luminaries like Bob Dylan and Clint Eastwood, be back for another round?
NBCU’s Winter says 15 advertisers new to the Super Bowl will appear, meaning the game’s ad roster is likely to contain its greatest number of rookies since the dot-com boom in 2000. In 2014, nine first-timers joined the Super Bowl ad ranks, accounting for 23% of the commercials, according to ad-spending tracker Kantar Media. Some of the newbies have a deep history with TV commercials, like Skittles, made by candy giant Mars. But what to expect from first-timers like Avocados of Mexico or phone-charger maker Mophie?
It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without commercials from Anheuser-Busch InBev and PepsiCo. The brewer will run seven 30-second ads, while the soft-drink company will host the halftime show. Coca-Cola will return, as will GoDaddy, the Web-services provider that has used Super Bowl advertising since 2005 to make a bigger name for itself with provocative ads.
Not everyone wants to spend $4.5 million on a Super Bowl ad, so a wide selection of marketers is digging into cheaper alternatives. Carl’s Jr., Friskies, Newcastle Brown Ale, and news site Vox.com are among those buying ads on local stations airing the Super Bowl and hoping for a share of the glory. Let’s be honest, though: if you didn’t pay millions to appear in the national broadcast of the game, it just isn’t the same thing.