The NFL Super Bowl championship game is broadcasted in 30 languages across 130 countries. It’s also the most watched television broadcast in the United States every year. More than 100 million people watched the game in 2020 and whether you check out the game because you are an avid football fan or want to see the extravagant halftime show, you’ll most likely have a spot on the couch to check all the action.
The Super Bowl is also the biggest advertising event of the year. In fact, Nielsen reported that 51% of people prefer watching the commercials to the game itself! Brands whip out their checkbooks to claim a spot during the program. Many companies will introduce a new campaign during the game and celebrities frequently make cameos to help support the ad. Let’s discuss some of the top questions about marketing during the Super Bowl.
When Did Super Bowl Ads Start?
Super Bowl ads started during the inaugural event at Super Bowl I on January 15th, 1967. Ford, RCA, Goodyear, McDonald’s, Budweiser, and other brands showcased ads during the primetime spot. Brands targeted male viewers since most companies though predominantly men would watch the event.
Although some of the spots may seem outdated and sexist, including Goodyear’s ‘When There’s No Man Around’ commercial, the Super Bowl was an advertising creative revolution. Bob Batchelor explains in his book We Are What We Sell: How Advertising Shapes American Life. . . And Always Has, that agencies were focused on innovation, sophistication, and an appeal to the emerging youth audience rather than traditional styles. The landmark event transformed advertising and launched a marketing revolution that continues to evolve to this day.
How Much is a Super Bowl Ad? 30 and 60 Second Commercials
Super Bowl commercials continue to become more and more expensive every year. During the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967, a 30-second ad cost only $42,500 which would be worth $332,851.35 in 2021 dollars. In 2021, CBS started bidding costs for a 30-second commercial at Super Bowl 55 at $5.6 million! If brands want that extra air time, they will have to fork over $10 million for a 60-second ad. Check out a full breakdown of super bowl ad costs and you’ll notice the price continues to climb virtually every year.
Why Do Super Bowl Ads Cost So Much?
Super bowl ads are so expensive for several reasons. It is the largest televised event in the US every year, so brands want a coveted spot because there are millions watching. Just like running a Facebook ad campaign, the bigger the ad reach, the more expensive the costs. However, when it comes to the Super Bowl, it’s not that simple.
The majority of the audience tune into the Super Bowl for the commercials and they have become an integral part of the show. Most of the time, people will ignore television ads, skip them, or use the ad break as a chance to go to the bathroom or grab a drink. Brands and networks recognize the phenomenon, so companies are willing to pay the premium cost to earn a slot.
Commercials such as Apple’s 1984 ad helped propel the company into the spotlight while brands like Doritos earn praise for hilarious skits. While many brands may fail to deliver a winning commercial, other companies earn massive recognition and market share for a genius 30-second ad during the big game.
Who Has Spent the Most on Super Bowl Ads?
Many companies splend a huge chunk of their annual ad budget to secure a Super Bowl slot and introduce their brand to a much larger audience. Other companies repeatedly promote their brand during Super Bowl events and have spent millions of dollars throughout the years since the inaugural event.
The top five companies who have spent the most on Super Bowl Ads are:
- Budweiser: ($470 million, 54 Super Bowls)
- Pepsi: ($320 million, 35)
- Coca-Cola: ($202 million, 29)
- Hyundai: ($169 million, 12)
- Toyota: ($156 million, 22)
How Effective Are Super Bowl Ads? Are They Worth It?
Whether or not a Super Bowl ad is worth it for most brands is a tough question to answer. A 2018 Marketing Science study found that the effects of Super Bowl ads can continue throughout the year and increase sales during other sporting events. However, since we do not have the luxury to use a tracking pixel or analytics to truly access the ROI of a Super Bowl ad, it is hard to quantify the value.
The problem with many brands is that they approach a Super Bowl campaign as pure entertainment rather than trying to elevate their company and sell a product or service. Many spots lack a clear pitch and do not position their service or product in an enticing manner. Brands will invest in celebrity cameos and lavish sets to produce a D-level SNL skit. Instead of glorifying their brand, viewers are left with a bad taste in their mouths. $5 million not well spent.
However, some brands have launched brilliant campaigns during the Super Bowl to great success. In 2007, Doritos created the suburb “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign. They invited consumers to produce 30-second commercials and submit their ideas for cash prizes and a chance to air during the big game.
Doritos not only saved money on their own production costs to produce a professional, but they created a massive buzz for their product. Hundreds of people shared their own Doriotos ads to their friends, family, and social media accounts, increasing brand awareness and positioned their brand as fun and different. They continued the campaign until 2016 and participants produced some of the best Doritos commercials in the brand’s history.
Randall Rothenberg, chief marketing officer at Booz Allen Hamilton said that, “As the Super Bowls evolved over the years, the ads are no longer ads. It’s all about entertainment, and has become a very expensive high risk, potentially high-reward strategy for marketers.” However, Kantar researched 13 years of Super Bowl ads and identified 3 core objectives marketers should try to leverage in their ad:
- Deliver a strong link between the creative and the brand.
- Emotionally engage with the consumer.
- Provide a strong relevant hook and generate meaningful and sustainable social engagement.
Unfortunately, most brands will most likely stick to poor celebrity endorsements, goofy premises, and a total dismissal to actually advertise a specific product or service to the millions watching.
How Many Ads Play During the Super Bowl?
Between 2003 and 2020, there were between 76-104 ads per Super Bowl. Most ads are 30-seconds long, however, some brands purchase 45 or 60-second ad spots as well. Check out Statistca’s full breakdown of Super Bowl ad lengths.
How to Get a Super Bowl Ad
First, account executives must make the decision to create an ad. They will hire an agency to help produce a winning campaign that fits their goals. After they produce the ad and it is ready for air, they will bid for a spot on the network. As we mentioned earlier, their commercial will cost anywhere from $4-10 million dollars.
For most brands, executives should spend their budget on a more diversified marketing strategy. Although they can still invest in a great 30-second spot, they can choose to promote it on social media platforms or YouTube advertising. For the multi-million dollar budget, they would be able to show their ad to a more focused target audience and increase the frequency and reach of their campaign. Check out Hubspot’s ideas for Super Bowl ad alternatives.
We came up with a list and breakdown of our top 5 favorite ads from the 2021 Super Bowl. We’ve also been busy providing the best wholesale eCommerce platform on the market. Learn more about our enterprise ecommerce solutions, best ecommerce software, and drop us a message if you want to learn about how we’ve helped dozens of businesses leverage intelligent commerce to double their online sales while cutting costs.