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NBC Still Selling Super Bowl Ads as Game Day Nears

Advertisers who chose to sit on the Super Bowl sidelines while PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola bought ads in the event may still have a chance to get in the game.

With less than 48 hours to go before NBC’s pre-game coverage of Super Bowl LII kicks off Sunday, the network has yet to announce its high-priced inventory is sold out.

Toyota on Friday announced it made a late decision to expand its Super Bowl buy to three ads from two. And while the two spots already planned for use were created specifically for the event, Toyota is taking its third commercial from its current ad campaign. “Toyota was thrilled NBC could accommodate an additional spot,” said a spokeswoman for Saatchi & Saatchi, the automaker’s longtime ad agency. Wix.com, a web-services company that has advertised in the past three Super Bowls said Friday that it, too, had decided to purchase a 30-second spot – even though it had in recent days worked to get publicity for a decision not to get into the game this year. “Yesterday, we got a great offer to run a spot in the Super Bowl, and although we had less than 24 hours to decide and deliver, we made the decision to go for it,” said Omer Shai, the company’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.

A spokesman for NBC Sports declined to comment on the network’s ad-sales process. NBC has been seeking more than $5 million for ad packages related to the broadcast.

In mid-January, NBC indicated it had fewer than ten 30-second spots left to sell in the February 4 broadcast of the event. Dan Lovinger, the executive who oversees sports ad sales for NBCUniversal, indicated the company expected the Super Bowl to generate around $500 million in national TV advertising associated with its broadcast, pre- and post-game shows, and a special post-event broadcast of “This Is Us.” That’s essentially what the first two hours of NBC’s “Today” generates over the course of a year. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke indicated during a late-January conference call with Comcast investors that the game was “essentially sold out” – but to people in the industry, such a phrase means there’s still some business left to be done.

TV networks for years used to sell out a Super Bowl broadcast by the preceding fall, but ad buyers say a new plethora of football events – Thursday-night football games, streaming video of those games and the occasional YouTube broadcast – have slowed momentum behind the gridiron classic. Indeed, the last time a network announced sell-out weeks in advance took place when Fox managed to close out inventory for Super Bowl XLVIII – broadcast in 2014 – in December of the previous year. In 2017, Fox never said whether or not it had sold out its broadcast of Super Bowl LI. CBS made no sell-out announcement for its 2016 broadcast of Super Bowl 50. NBCU announced sell-out of its last Super Bowl broadcast – Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 – just days before kickoff.

Sometimes, networks don’t announce a final sell-out because executives are working behind the scenes to enlist sponsors to take over inventory from other clients who decide they no longer have a good reason to advertise in the game. The costs are high, and no one wants to run a commercial that won’t gain attention. In other instances, the network may try to get the most money it can from an advertiser late to the sales process that suddenly finds impetus to be part of the event.

Meanwhile, NBCUniversal is releasing details about the properties it will promote during the Super Bowl. Viewers who watch the entire thing will see two promos for “Today,” one highlighting the fact that the morning show will broadcast from the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in just a few days’ time. The other uses the slogan, “Welcome to ‘Today.'” The audience will also see a promo for “NBC Nightly News” centered on its anchor, Lester Holt. NBCU will air a ten-second promo for its Spanish-language broadcaster, Telemundo Deportes, highlighting its coming broadcast of the FIFA World Cup. Announcer Andres Cantor will give his signature goal call.

And NBC Sports will make sure viewers know about the company’s coming Winter Olympics broadcast. The unit has produced five 60-second commercials to run throughout Super Bowl Sunday. One featuring Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn is scheduled to run during halftime of Super Bowl LII this Sunday on NBC. The promo is set to the Alycia Keys song “Girl on Fire” and offers a dramatization of her life from childhood through injuries and rehab to what may be her final Olympic Games. Many purists don’t consider halftime spots and promos to be part of the overall Super Bowl ad roster, but most viewers may not make such a distinction.

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