In a Sea of Super Bowl Commercials, NBC Will Run a Few for Itself

Law and Order Cast
NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection

NBC will run dozens of commercials during the Super Bowl for potato chips, cryptocurrency, beer and electric cars. And it will also run dozens for itself and its parent company.

By the time viewers finish watching the network’s broadcast of Super Bowl LVI, they are likely to hear a lot about the return of “Law & Order” and the arrival of new series like “Endgame,” “American Song Contest” and “The Thing About Pam.” There will also be room for talk about NBC comedies; shows on Peacock like “Bel Air”; and offerings from NBC News, and Universal Orlando Resort.

There’s good reason to talk up as much as possible. NBC will spend part of Super Bowl Sunday showing part of the Winter Olympics and will air that before and after its coverage of the Big Game. And while it will cede most of its commercial inventory to paying advertisers, it will, like other networks keep some chunk of that time to hawk its own wares.

“No one is going to leave their couch, and no one is going to take their eyes off of NBC from 8 a.m. until the wee hours of the morning,” says Jenny Storms NBCUniversal’s chief marketing officer for entertainment and sports, in an interview. “We start you off with the Olympics. We move into the Super Bowl pre-game show. We move you into the Super Bowl, into the game, and then we take you to the Olympic Games.”

Like many other networks, NBC intends to raise its game during the Big Game. In the past, NBC marshaled the casts of series like “Heroes” and “Medium” to put together interesting visual displays meant to hold their own alongside ads from Budweiser and Pepsi. CBS seemed to set a high-water mark in 2007 by airing a promo for David Letterman’s late-night show with the host and Oprah Winfrey. Three years later, Letterman really raised eyebrows: He persuaded rival Jay Leno, then under scrutiny for returning to his “Tonight Show” perch after NBC had an acrimonious split with then-host Conan O’Brien, to join the fun along with Winfrey.

All of NBC’s in-game promos are being treated as if they were Super Bowl commercials for NBC shows, says Storms. “Consumers have not seen these yet,” she explains. “We are literally creating Super Bowl commercials for each of our positions.”

And the network plans to assign promos for specific shows to particular parts of the game, says Storms. The first NBC promo of the game will be awarded to the return of “Law & Order,” she says. “That is such a powerful connection and message to the consumer. It’s TV history, so that’s a great way to come on the air. “

Promos for various mid-season comedies like “Young Rock” and “Kenan” will follow, with “American Song Contest” being paired with the Pepsi Halftime Show.

The network will promote dramas and mysteries in the fourth quarter, where tensions will be high if the game is close as its end draws near. Viewers should expect to see pitches for “The Thing About Pam,” the miniseries based off of a popular “Dateline” report and :”Endgame,” the thriller series starring Morena Baccarin. NBC will also sprinkle five-second promos for the Olympics throughout the Super Bowl, says Storms

Other parts of NBC will pop up as well. A promo for “Bel Air,” the Peacock re-imagining of the popular sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” will feature actor Will Smith, the original’s star.

Meanwhile, during pre-game hours,  the main anchors of “Today” will take part in a public service announcement devised with the Ad Council that encourages girls throughout the country to pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering and math. Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Craig Melvin and Carson Daly will play students in a 1970s classroom talking about what they want to be when they grow up. NBCUniversal donated two 30-second slots so the spot can run two times.