Super Bowl In-Game Advertising Generated $2.59 Billion in Network Ad Sales Over Past 10 Years

2017 Game Could Top $445 Million Generated For Pre, In-Game and Post-Game Advertising Last Year

New York, NY, January 12, 2017 – From 2007 through 2016, in-game Super Bowl advertising – commercials taking place between opening kick-off and the final whistle - generated $2.59 billion of network advertising sales from more than 130 marketers, making it one of the most valuable sports franchises in the US.

That’s according to Kantar Media, the global leader in media intelligence, which has mined its extensive database to analyze the past ten years of Super Bowl advertising.

With Super Bowl LI, taking place in Houston on February 5th, the NFL will hope to again break advertising records despite concerns about TV ratings and stadium attendance. And indeed, the Super Bowl still offers a unique opportunity to the marketers who seek to entertain, earn attention and activate consumers by airing expensive TV commercials to the game’s anticipated US audience of over 100 million people. Like the football teams, brands approach the game with different capabilities, resources and strategies for success. Afterwards, sponsors will evaluate the performance of their Super Bowl LI playbooks to determine whether they scored or fumbled on advertising’s most visible stage.

Price of Advertising Continues to Climb...

The average price for a 30-second advertisement in the Super Bowl game has doubled during the past decade and reached $4.8 million in 2016. It’s the most expensive commercial time on television by far. (The next two most costly properties in 2016 were also football games - the NFC Championship at $2.2 million per :30 and the AFC Championship at $1.8 million). Demand for ad time is pointing towards even higher rates for the 2017 game.

Ad pricing is negotiated and therefore individual marketers can pay different amounts. Variables affecting the actual rate include the amount of commercial time purchased, where spots appear in the game and whether the advertiser opts for a larger package that includes units in the pre-game and/or post-game coverage.

Ad Revenues

The escalating cost of commercial time has led to more revenue and the Super Bowl generates some staggering figures. In 2016 sponsors paid nearly $370 million for in-game messages. When pre- and post-game programming is included, the grand total swells to $445 million for the one-day sporting event. To put this latter figure in perspective, it’s nearly equal to the combined ad revenue of the four major broadcast networks in an average week for their entire programming schedules. And it exceeds the full-year ad expenditures on some national cable TV networks.

Commercial Time Has Expanded

The volume of commercial time in the Super Bowl game also continues to creep upwards, further contributing to revenue growth. The 2016 contest contained 49 minutes, 35 seconds of ad messages between the opening kickoff and the final whistle and was the second most cluttered broadcast in the 50 year history of the event. The tally includes commercials from paying sponsors, the NFL and promotional announcements from the network for its own shows. The latter typically accounts for about 15 percent of total ad time and 25-30 percent of all spots in the game.

Compared to regular season NFL games, the Super Bowl contains more ad time and the commercial load has been growing at a faster clip. From 2007 to 2016, Super Bowl ad time increased by 15 percent, from 43:05 mm:ss to 49:35 mm:ss. During the same period, the volume of commercial time in an average regular season game on a broadcast network has increased by 3 percent, from 40:31 mm:ss to 41:41 mm:ss.

Longer Commercials

Despite the high cost of air time in the Super Bowl, a significant proportion of advertisers choose to spend even more by running longer length commercials in an effort to tell a deeper story and further engage viewers. Twenty five percent of brand ads in the 2016 game were 60 seconds or longer. Although this proportion exactly matched the average of the past decade, it was lower than the levels seen in 2015 (37 percent) and 2014 (40 percent).

Top Five Super Bowl Advertisers

The largest advertising positions in the Super Bowl tend to be held by well-known marketers. In a typical year, the top five spenders account for about 30 percent of total ad revenue even as the makeup of the group changes.

Anheuser-Busch In Bev was the leading advertiser in 2016 with expenditures of $33.6 million. The beer maker has placed in the top two of the annual rankings for at least 35 consecutive years and has invested more than $520 million in the game (not adjusted for inflation) during this period. It also holds the official beer sponsorship for the NFL through 2022, so its dominance is not surprising.

Fiat Chrysler and Pepsico were tied for second in 2016 with spending of $19.2 million. Fiat Chrysler has been a Top Two advertiser in each of the past five years.

First-Time Advertisers

The roster of Super Bowl advertisers has turnover from year to year and the replacement pipeline has been delivering a steady stream of first-time participants who believe they can create and execute a successful strategy for their brands. In last year’s game 23 percent of the parent companies were Super Bowl rookies.

Financial service brands dominated the 2016 freshman class with messages from PayPal, Quicken Loans, Social Finance and Suntrust Bank. The consumer technology category accounted for three slots in the roster with Amazon, FitBit and LG Group each making their debuts.

Do freshman marketers return as sophomores to the following Super Bowl? The odds are against it. Over the past decade, more than 60 percent of first-timers were on the sidelines the next year.

David vs. Goliath

The enormous price of Super Bowl ad time would seem to be a barrier to small marketers with limited budgets, especially when you consider that air time is just a minimum entry fee. There’s also the cost of commercial production plus the price tag for marketing elements to complement the in-game spot.

Nonetheless, the annual roster of Super Bowl advertisers includes several companies who invest a hefty chunk of their annual media budget to purchase commercial time. In 2016, seven marketers put more than 10 percent of their full-year media budgets into the game.

The most leveraged sponsor in the 2016 Super Bowl was Avocados From Mexico. Its $4.8 million purchase of a 30 second spot represented 24 percent of its annual measured ad expenditures.

Auto the Top Super Bowl Advertising Category

In recent years the Super Bowl has been a popular destination for a number of different automotive, movie studio and food companies, making these the most populous and competitive ad categories.

Automakers have had the largest footprint each year since 2010, a stretch that coincides with increasing sales of new vehicles and a steady stream of marketing launches for new or redesigned models. In 2016 auto manufacturers accounted for 23 percent of all ad expenditures in the game.

Movie studios use the Super Bowl to promote upcoming theatrical releases that have strong box office potential, thus justifying the high price of commercial time. The volume of advertising in this category can swing sharply from year-to-year because of its dependency on studio’s release schedules.

The Food & Candy category (which excludes 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 and specialty food brands have purchased time.

How Large Is The Super Bowl Versus Other Sport Franchises?

Despite the handicap of being a single-game event, the Super Bowl holds its own against the multi-game championship series of other professional sports leagues when it comes to TV ad expenditures. In recent years ad spend in the MLB World Series and the NBA Finals have significantly lagged the Super Bowl’s haul.

But in 2016 the tables were partially and unexpectedly turned. The World Series and the NBA Finals each achieved record-setting ad revenues. Both events were aided by the double bonus of playing the maximum possible seven games and having compelling story lines and appealing matchups that generated exceptionally large viewing audiences -- and higher ad prices. In the final tally, national TV sponsors invested $394 million in the Fall Classic versus $370 million in the Super Bowl. The NBA championship series trailed at $303 million.

As impressive as these amounts are, they’re still way short of the $1.9 billion of TV ad money generated by the 2016 Summer Olympics, an event with more than 1,000 hours of program coverage.

About Kantar Media

Kantar Media is a global leader in media intelligence, providing clients with the data they need to make informed decisions on all aspects of media measurement, monitoring and selection. Part of Kantar, the data investment management arm of WPP, Kantar Media provides the most comprehensive and accurate intelligence on media consumption, performance and value.

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