Insight: Why Advertisers Pay Millions of Dollars for a Super Bowl Ad Slot


MIAMI, FLORIDA – Can you name an event other than the Super Bowl where the public eagerly anticipate watching a couple of ads? Honestly, I can’t think of any. For an advertiser, that’s probably a good enough reason to be there – that, and so much more. 

So, even if a single 30-second slot costs a whopping $5 million, any brand’s procurement department wouldn’t bat an eye. Besides the rare chance to have the viewing public’s full attention on an ad, here’s why advertisers go gaga over the Super Bowl.   

The slots are limited, and therefore precious

Since fans need to watch actual football, only a limited air time is allotted for commercials. This year, there are only 77 ad slots. These slots start to get filled up as soon as the current Super Bowl ends.

Aside from the many brands vying to get one, the hefty price tag of a 30-second slot that averages at $5 million and can go as high as $10 million is sure to weed out anyone who can’t afford it. 

It’s also not just about the money. Super Bowl ads, which are known for pushing the limits of advertising standards, go through a tough screening process. The script must be approved by the broadcasting network’s Standards and Practices department, among others before production starts. 

Based on a report by Business Insider, new advertisers even need credit approval and an order to buy before submitting an ad for review.

That’s why we only often see ads by hotshot brands like Budweiser, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s that have previously done business with the Super Bowl or the broadcasting network.

The reach is far and wide – and sometimes the value is more than what was paid for

Every year, millions of people watch this sporting event. In 2019, 98.2 million viewers tuned in to their televisions to watch Los Angeles Rams play versus New England. Another 2.8 million streamed the event online. And it’s not only in the United States. Super Bowl is also streamed in hundreds of other countries including Spain, Japan, France, Germany, and China.

49ers vs. Chiefs | Super Bowl LIV Game Highlights

What makes this more valuable in this age of on-demand service is that because the show is live, the viewers can’t just skip the ads. And more often than not, they don’t want to. 

People even wait for teasers and sometimes the full-length ads to be released online ahead of the event. Through this social media hype, the brand can even already start earning pre-game mileage.  

#PostyBar - Inside Post's Brain

That’s another reason why brands and agencies pour millions of money into producing a Super Bowl spectacle. Impactful ads – both good and bad – will be the topic of water cooler chats and social media posts for days to come. Its Youtube version will also rack up millions of views which won’t only give the brand a longer post-game exposure but a couple more bucks earned from the video platform. Just another ROI for the advertiser. 

The Super Bowl is an advertiser’s badge of honor

We’ve been talking about exclusivity, reach, and exposure but really, being on the Super Bowl is like getting a badge of honor. It’s a status symbol. Do the likes of PepsiCo and McDonald’s even need exposure? But there they are. And they probably always will be.

Famous Orders | McDonald’s

So, being able to have one’s ad aired during the Super Bowl is equivalent to joining the ranks of these high profile brands, telling the world you’ve made it.

And with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira taking the big stage at the Super Bowl LIV for the halftime show, we can expect a bigger and better audience who came for the game but would gladly stay for the commercials.

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