Tuesday
Jan122010

Does It Pay For Companies To Still Go Super Bowling For Dollars?

January 12, 2010: The economy may be challenged and many companies are either curtailing or rethinking their ad spends, but the Super Bowl continues its onslaught as an event during which marketers receive an enormous bang for their bucks. Since Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, the game has attracted fewer than 85 million viewers only three times and has topped 90 million viewers for five consecutive years.

“The Super Bowl remains a singular event for engaging the broadest number of consumers at one time,” Mark Nesbitt, president of marketing research firm TNS Media Intelligence, said in a statement. “Because it is viewed live and experienced by a majority of the country at the same time, a commercial presence on the broadcast has great significance and impact for a brand, making each not so much a brand message as a brand event. It is why a presence on the broadcast lends itself so effectively to an integrated marketing effort.”

According to TNS data, from Super Bowl XXIV in 1990, which was broadcast on CBS, thru Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 on NBC, the NFL's championship game has generated $2.2 billion of network sales from a total of 210 different advertisers and more than 1,400 commercial messages. However, TNS said that "the recessionary environment is expected to yield lower pricing" with CBS "reportedly selling 30-second units for between $2.5-$2.8 million" for Super Bowl XLIV after NBC asked for a record $3 million for the previous game.

TNS did acknowledge that "the 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."

Anheuser-Busch, for example, has purchased about five minutes of commercial time during the upcoming Super Bowl telecast but is not expected to be paying the top-tier going rate per 30-seconds of air time.

Pepsi is diverting marketing dollars into is Refersh Project.According to TNS, Anheuser-Busch led all marketers in TV ad spend during Super Bowl telecasts from 1990-2009 with $311.8 million, followed by PepsiCo with a $254.2 million total ad spend for its products. The top five, which accounted for 36% of all ad spend during this period, also includes General Motors ($80.5M), Disney ($71.6M) and Time Warner ($64.8M).

PepsiCo said it would not advertise its flagship brand during the Super Bowl broadcast but would have ads for Doritos and other sibling lines. (Pepsi has elected to use some of that spend on its new Refresh Project and will have significant presence on-site in Miami as the official soft drink sponsor of the NFL.) Due to economics, General Motors dropped out of Super Bowl advertising prior to Super Bowl XLIII after having advertised in 11 of the previous 12 Super Bowls, per TNS.

Since 2005, the Super Bowl ad lineup has had between 30-35 different companies, with first-time advertisers accounting for 20-25% of the ad roster. First-time advertisers during Super Bowl XLIII were Cash4Gold.com, Castrol, Denny’s, Teleflora and Vizio. For Super Bowl XLIV, first-time advertisers to date include Dr Pepper, Electronic Arts, HomeAway and TruTV.

Bridgestone, which featured Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head in a Super Bowl XLIII spot, will be back with two new spots during Super Bowl XLIV.Even without Pepsi, soft drink spots will be filled from Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper. Anheuser-Busch has on-air national exclusivity in the beer category. And even with GM out again, the auto category will be heavily covered by Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen, plus such category-related companies as Bridgestone and Cars.com. Job-searching will be represented by both CareerBuilder and Monster.com. Disney, Paramount and Viacom are among the movie companies that will support upcoming releases with more than four minutes of combined air time.

However, according to TNS, the leader by dollar value is promotional advertising from the network itself. In a typical Super Bowl, with 15-20% of all commercial time being spots by the network for its own programming. In 2009, the value of this air time on NBC exceeded $42 million (at the going rate of $3 million for a 30-second spot).

“The Super Bowl offers the host network an attractive platform to promote its upcoming programming and try to build an audience,” Jon Swallen, svp-research for TNS Media Intelligence, said in a statement. “In deciding how much ad time to keep for itself, the network has to assess the trade-off between giving up current revenue in the game versus building future revenue from its other programming.”

And despite the fact that the cost of a 30-second advertisement in the Super Bowl has more than quadrupled in the past 20 years, companies that buy in have been able to translate those dollars into more substantial marketing strategies.

“As an advertising event, the Super Bowl has evolved beyond a vehicle for presenting expensive, stand-alone commercial spots that seek to entertain viewers and generate awareness,” said Swallen. “Increasingly, in-game spots are being supplemented by elaborate integrated communications programs that attempt to drive traffic online or in-store, generate positive social media discussion, incorporate public relations effort and ultimately achieve a strong ROI.”

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