Super Bowl Ad Pricing Has Increased 76% Over Past Decade, Generating $2.38 Billion in Total Network Ad Sales.
The Super Bowl’s golden anniversary is almost here, providing advertisers with coveted access to an expected audience of over 100 million people. Competition during the commercial breaks rivals that seen on the field, as advertisers field their best ads and try to make the most of what’s become platinum-priced airtime. After the game, each marketer will review the performance of its Super Bowl 50 playbook and determine whether they scored or fumbled on advertising’s biggest day of the year.
Kantar Media has mined its extensive database to report on the past ten years of Super Bowl advertising and to provide a sense of what can be expected this year. From 2006 through 2015, the Super Bowl game has generated $2.38 billion of network advertising sales from more than 130 marketers, making it one of the most valuable sports franchises in the US. With ad rates and revenues continuing to rise, the Super Bowl remains a winning game.
The Price of Advertising
The average rate for a 30-second advertisement in the Super Bowl game has increased by 76 percent during the past decade and reached $4.4 million in 2015. It’s the most expensive commercial time on television by far. (The 2015 runner up: the NFC Championship Game at $2.0 million per :30). Strong demand for ad time is pointing towards higher pricing for the 2016 game.
The actual amount paid by individual marketers will vary depending on where the ad runs in the game, how much commercial time is purchased and whether the advertiser opts for a larger package that includes spots in the pre-game and/or post-game coverage.
More Advertising, More Clutter
Super Bowl ad pricing isn’t the only measure that has been trending upwards. So has the volume of commercial time in the game. The past six Super Bowls have been the most ad-saturated in history, each containing more than 47 minutes of commercial time, and this trend is likely to continue in 2016. (The spike in ad time for the 2013 “Blackout Bowl” was partly due to a decision by CBS to re-run a commercial pod that first aired just after the game was halted by a stadium power outage.) This includes paying sponsors, commercial messages from the NFL and promotional announcements from the network for its own shows. The latter typically accounts for about 15 percent of all ad time and 25-30 percent of all spots in the game.
Longer Length Commercials
Despite the high cost of air time in the Super Bowl, a significant proportion of advertisers opt to spend even more by running longer length commercials. It’s an effort to tell a deeper story and further engage viewers. In the past two games, 37 percent (2015) and 40 percent (2014) of brand ads were 60 seconds or longer, the highest shares since at least 1984. By comparison, the normal proportion of long-form ads on broadcast networks is about six percent.
Top Five Super Bowl Advertisers
During the past ten years the top five Super Bowl advertisers have spent $745 million on network advertising during the game, accounting for 31 percent of total advertising revenue. Anheuser-Busch InBev and Pepsico lead the pack, followed by Coca-Cola, Chrysler, and General Motors. Anheuser-Busch has one more game left in its multi-year Super Bowl contract and will likely be the leading advertiser in 2016.
First Time Advertisers
In recent years, there has been a steady influx of first-time advertisers eager for the recognition and brand-building opportunity of the Super Bowl spotlight. In 2015, first-time advertisers accounted for 29 percent of the Super Bowl ad lineup.
Parent Companies In The Super Bowl
A big part of last year’s freshman class was mobile game apps. Three different brands ran spots in the 2015 game, and in 2014 two mobile games were among the first-time advertisers. With Super Bowl 50’s Bay Area location it’s likely that tech companies will be even more important this year.
Small Players on a Big Stage
The daunting price of Super Bowl ad time would seem to be a barrier to small marketers with limited budgets. However, each year the roster of Super Bowl advertisers includes several companies who invest a hefty chunk of their annual budget to buy commercial time. In 2015, eight Super Bowl advertisers put more than 10 percent of their full-year media budgets into the game.
The most leveraged sponsor in the 2015 Super Bowl was Mophie, a manufacturer of battery chargers for mobile devices. Its $4.4 million ad buy represented 47percent of its annual measured ad expenditures.
Top Super Bowl Advertising Categories
Over the past decade, the Super Bowl has attracted a bevy of different automotive, movie studio and food companies, making these the most populous and competitive ad categories.
The Food & Candy category (which excludes all beverage brands) had a major presence in the Super Bowl in the late 90s before tailing off. In the past several years it has made a comeback as a variety of candy, yogurt and specialty food brands have purchased time.
Traffic Congestion: Auto Advertising
For the past several years, the automotive category has had the largest footprint at the Super Bowl. Even though auto manufacturers scaled back slightly in 2015, there were still a slew of car ads competing for viewers’ attention. Nine different nameplates spent nearly $97 million dollars and accounted for more than one-fifth of total ad time in the game.
Local Market TV Sponsors: The Second Battleground
While most interest is focused on the national TV commercials appearing in the Super Bowl, affiliate stations in local markets also have an allotment of air time to sell. This inventory offers another way for sponsors to access the event, albeit on a smaller scale.
What categories of advertisers typically appear in the local market broadcasts? In the 2015 game, ads from automotive, insurance and telecom marketers were a common sight in markets of all sizes. Travel & Tourism made a splash in the Top 25 DMAs and Medical Services was one of the leading categories in mid-size and smaller markets.
In 2015, noteworthy campaigns from regional advertisers included one from American Family Mutual Insurance, which used a commercial featuring the singer Jennifer Hudson to launch a new campaign. The ad appeared in more than 50 markets. Another was the Republic of Ecuador, which made a regional spot TV buy to promote tourism. The 30 second ad appeared in thirteen DMAs, including all of the Top Ten. The United States is Ecuador’s second largest tourism market.
For the third year in a row, the Church of Scientology promoted its philosophy in a 30 second unit, which cleared in 15 markets.
The Social Super Bowl
The Super Bowl generates plenty of second-screen activity during the game, and marketers have accelerated their efforts to attract and engage multi-platform consumers. It’s evidenced by the increased number of ads containing a social media element.
According to Kantar Media’s analysis of paid commercials shown during the game, hashtags have overtaken URLs as the most popular call to action mechanism. Last year 57 percent of non-promo ads (34 of 60) contained a hashtag and a bit less than one-half had a URL. Only 5 percent of ads mentioned Facebook.
How Large Is The Super Bowl Versus Other Sport Franchises?
Major League Baseball’s World Series and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship are two other high profile sporting events that attract significant interest from TV advertisers. But how do these compare to the Super Bowl in terms of ad spend?
The World Series is comprised of four to seven games. March Madness peaks with the semi-finals and championship on its final weekend, a total of three games. The Super Bowl, of course, is a single telecast and it continues to pull away from March Madness and the Fall Classic.