Are Super Bowl ads worth the millions?


Photo courtesy of Duluoz Cats/Flickr Creative Commons Advertising agencies spend huge amounts of money to air during the big game.

Photo courtesy of Duluoz Cats/Flickr Creative Commons
Advertising agencies spend huge amounts of money to air during the big game.

Over 50 companies spent an estimated five million dollars for a single, 30-second commercial time slot this past Super Bowl Sunday. That’s $600,000 spent per second. This type of spending may seem ludicrous, but some companies are more than willing to pay the fee year after year. So is that money well-spent?

There are definitely positives in advertising during the big game. The most obvious one is the potential for brand exposure: the Super Bowl is by far the most watched television event in the country, and last year had over 120 million viewers tune in. With this said, advertising during these time slots provide the largest potential customer base for any company to get their message out and theoretically drive future sales. Advertisers will never have a better chance of reaching the most with their message than during the Super Bowl.

Another positive aspect is that advertising during the Super Bowl provides companies with a chance to build their brand personalities. The expectation during the Super Bowl is that commercials will be funny or impactful, which provides marketers the opportunity to be bold and create a memorable relationship with consumers and develop their public image.

After the Super Bowl this past Sunday, Senior Telly Korbakes commented about his favorite Super Bowl ad.

“My favorite commercial was the Heinz commercial with the wiener-dogs,” Korbakes said. “The hot dog puppies were the real Super Bowl MVPs.”

Often times cute or funny commercials like these are effective enough to make a positive impression on viewers.

Finally, with so many consumers watching intently to the commercials, and doing so in a world driven by the demand to share information, successful marketing during the Super Bowl can create buzz on social media and develop further engagement with potential customers. This provides the company with measurable results that can be analyzed for later marketing use.

There are also negatives to advertising during the Super Bowl. The most obvious is the enormous financial cost: ads are expected to cost up to and above five million dollars for a 30-second commercial time slot during the game. The issue of this is not only that it is an enormous sum of money based on viewership but also the cost of ads, and the total viewership.

A Super Bowl ad would cost around 42 cents per viewer, whereas a typical Sunday Night Football game commercials cost around 28 cents per viewer, which is a 50 percent premium for the big game. It is worth noting that viewers are probably more likely to be paying attention to commercials during the Super Bowl than during a normal game on Sunday night, but the cost is definitely inflated.

Another negative of advertising during the Super Bowl is the added pressure of the commercial. Commercials are expected to be funny and memorable, and as touched on earlier, help develop brand personality.

With this said, brands in the past have aired commercials that received negative responses from viewers, and ended up hurting the brand’s personality on the biggest stage possible. An example from the 2015 Super Bowl is when Nationwide aired a commercial in which a child talked about all the things he would never do because he died in an accident. Although the message was clear, the commercial ended up angering a lot of people and left a sour taste in viewers’ mouths.

Lastly, due to the wide-range of consumers who watch the Super Bowl and the nature of television advertisements, it is very hard to track the effectiveness of the marketing. Marketing is becoming more and more granular, as targeting/tracking individual consumers is becoming more plausible for marketers. This isn’t as specific to the Super Bowl as it is a commentary on the current environment of brand marketing, but it makes it difficult to justify spending so much money on marketing efforts in which the traffic driven, return on ad-spend, and overall impact are poorly tracked.

In theory, through other marketing mediums the 5 million dollars could be traced down to the penny and targeted towards only potential consumers instead of all the viewers of the Super Bowl, who are likely not 100 percent potential customers.

This past Sunday, many companies spent the estimated five  million dollars it cost to have their commercials aired during the 50 annual Super Bowl.

It’s yet to be determined whether the money spent was worth it, but the following months of business will likely reveal whether the impact on each business was worth  the   investment.