Madison Avenue is returning to the Super Bowl — with a vengeance.
NBC Sports has fewer than five 30-second slots left to sell in its coming 2022 broadcast of Super Bowl LVI and is seeing some sponsors agree to pay as much as $6.5 million for them, along with a similar investment in other NBC inventory, according to Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of sports ad sales at NBCUniversal. That price is more than what was sought initially by NBC, which was working to sell Super Bowl ads for between $5.8 million and $6.2 million earlier this year. “We have seen demand exceed our remaining inventory,” Lovinger said during a press call on Wednesday.
The dynamic suggests advertisers are looking more favorably upon one of TV’s biggest events after taking a more skeptical view of it during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. CBS, which sought around $5.5 million for a 30-second spot in February’s Super Bowl LV, saw some major sponsors defect, with Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo putting ads for their flagship brands on the bench in favor of giving the spotlight to other products. Movie studios, faced with dwindling crowds in theaters, pulled back many of the ads they normally run to hawk big releases. CBS announced sell-out for the game just days before kickoff.
Hollywood has returned to previous levels of Super Bowl ad support, said Lovinger, and will likely promote both in-theater releases as well as streaming services. Autos and beverages will also be in the Big Game. NBC is also seeing interest from new categories, like marketers of cryptocurrencies and digital wallets.
The executive suggested the network was holding its remaining inventory close to the vest in hopes of finding the best way to fully monetize it, but noted that he expected to sell out in coming weeks. Asked if he might hold on to the spots until the game drew closer, he responded: “I wouldn’t sit on them for that long.”
The surge in interest seen by NBC is being mirrored by demand at other media outlets. Fox Sports said Tuesday that it had already launched its efforts to sell its 2023 broadcast of Super Bowl LVII and that it would seek $6.5 million for 30 seconds of ad time. At CBS, “the market moved so much earlier than a year ago,” John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales for CBS, said in a recent interview, of Madison Avenue’s support for TV football. “The demand we are seeing is significantly higher.” A 30-second spot in one of CBS’ Sunday afternoon games for the fall is going for around $700,000.
NBC’s Super Bowl won’t be the typical one. It will take place while NBC is also broadcasting the Winter Olympics from Beijing, meaning the network is pressing behind the scenes for advertisers do do bigger deals that link both events. The Winter Olympics “are extremely well sold,” said Lovinger, noting that NBC was evaluating demand for the event’s remaining inventory “on a case by case basis.”
In a different era, when the NFL didn’t feature a package of Thursday night games and couch-potato interest in a typical TV broadcast was at its zenith, Super Bowl inventory tended to sell out months ahead of schedule. Now it’s notable when sales don’t go down to the wire. Fox bucked the trend in 2019 when it wrapped sales for its 2020 broadcast of Super Bowl LIV in November of the previous year. Depending on how NBC handles its current process, it may put a bow on its work for the gridiron classic sooner than that.