Super Bowl Advertising is More Expensive than Ever — And Still Worth It.


2014 is the 30th anniversary of Marketing Plus. Throughout the year we will be presenting “30 Blogs for 30 Years”, a series of posts about different aspects, perspectives, tips and general how-to from the world of marketing!

Every year, as consumers look forward to the Super Bowl and its super-entertaining ads, marketers grouse about their spiraling cost. With some reason: The average cost for a 30-second spot has risen 38% from 2010 to an astounding $4 million today. These super-sized ad rates provoke debate every year about ROI for participating brands. How can a single $4 million spot be remotely worth it?

Venables Bell & Partners’ Lucy Farey-Jones recently published some very interesting new data from her agency’s Bowl Poll, and concludes that only looking at traditional ways of measuring results is missing the point. In fact, as Farey-Jones tells it, “there has never been a better day in history to spend your marketing dollars.” The reason? Critics simply aren’t  factoring in New Media.

While marketers and media companies are well aware of the fact collective viewing has nosedived in recent years, special event programming – in particular, the Super Bowl – is a huge exception.

As this chart shows, collective viewership of major network events have declined year over year. Contrast these with the Super Bowl, which only gets bigger every year.

image002Farey-Jones  argues that with a Super Bowl commercial, brands are buying a unique opportunity to reach the entire nation. With its Super Bowl study, polling 1,000 Americans annually, her agency sees interest in these ads increasing at an even higher rate than viewership itself. In 2011, they found 59% of Americans were looking forward to Super Bowl ads; in this year’s study, interest zoomed up to 78%. The study also indicated that the ads were just as likely to be talked about as the game plays.

image004Farey-Jones goes on to point out something even more compelling. “The psychology behind this collective viewing event makes the potential for brands even greater. With 85% of Americans gathering with friends and family to watch the Super Bowl, the conversation about ads is a hot topic and many want to arm themselves to be ‘in-the-know.’ We found that 70% will pay attention to ads before the game, with almost half (45%) actually seeking out ads before kickoff–marking a 350% increase in our study since 2010. This goes to show that pre-releasing ads pays off. In fact, YouTube just announced that ads for the Super Bowl were watched on that platform more than 80 million times before the game was played, and overall, ads uploaded to YouTube before the game generated about 3.4 times more views on average.”

image006And not only is it about buzz leading up to the event, this media buy keeps paying off.  According to the study, more than half of Americans polled said they would re-watch their favorite ad later. A full 36% of survey respondents said they plan to share their favorite ads this year, with 77% doing so on Facebook. If you scale out the numbers, this means with 108.7 million TV viewers and the average Facebook user having 130+ friends, this could potentially yield an additional 3.9 billion views for advertisers.

Facebook recently announced that “Super Bowl” was the most talked-about term in 2013.

So, the notion that marketers are wasting $4 million on a mere 30-second spot is missing the point in a huge way. While it’s always difficult to measure ROI of one commercial, you can’t ignore the increasingly-rare opportunity to get the attention of a gigantic national audience which is actually looking forward to seeing and sharing your message.

Can you really complain about the price tag when you’re getting seen during the biggest event of the year? Tune in this Sunday to see which ads you think are really worth it!