Super Advertising: $3.5 Million for 30 Seconds

The National Football League’s annual championship game is consistently the most watched American broadcast on television.  The 2011 Super Bowl had an average audience of 111 million viewers, which surpassed the record-setting 106.5 million viewers drawn by the 2010 game.  It would not be at all surprising if this year’s game surpasses the 111 million viewers drawn last year.

This Sunday, teams from two of the largest media markets (New York and Boston) play in the 2012 championship game.  This is a “rematch” of the 2008 championship game in which the Giants beat the previously undefeated Patriots in arguably the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.

With so many eyes (and dollars) at stake, advertisers line up to get their products and message valuable airtime during these high-profile games.  Not without a steep cost, however.  NBC sold its 30-second spots for this Sunday’s game for an average of $3.5 million, at an astounding per-second rate of $116,667.  This represents a 17 increase from last year’s average of $3 million per 30-second spot.

Granted, commercials aired on Super Bowl Sunday have a useful life much longer than 30 seconds.  A cult-like following has developed in recent years, aided in no small part by the expansive reach of the Internet and social media sites.  Many viewers tune in for the commercials as much as for the game itself, and the resulting buzz (both before the game and thereafter) is undeniable.

Memorable commercial spots become a part of history and pop-culture, such as the following:

  • In 1984, Apple Computer presented its Macintosh in a one-time only commercial which alluded to the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell.
  • In 1989, Budweiser aired the first of eight “Bud Bowls”, in which Budweiser bottles play football against Bud Light bottles.
  • In 1993, McDonald’s featured Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, who played an impossible game of HORSE for a Big Mac.
  • The Budweiser Clydesdales have appeared in a number of Super Bowl commercials, including a poignant 9/11 tribute in 2002.
  • In 2010, Tim Tebow appeared in two controversial commercials which included his personal story and pro-life position.

Make no mistake about it, folks.  Many people are counting on us to pay attention this Sunday.

Chances are, we’ll find ourselves talking about the commercials just as much as the football game itself.  And if we’re really lucky, we might see a commercial that people talk about decades from now.

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