Super Bowl ad prices flat, but there's still 'no other game in town'

Senior Writer
Yahoo Finance

For the first time since 2010, the average price of a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement is the same as the year before.

CBS, which will broadcast Super Bowl 53 on Sunday, has commanded an average $5.2 million for each 30-second ad, according to reports. That price is flat compared to what NBC charged last year.

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That may look like a contradiction when you consider that NFL regular season ratings rose 5% this year.

But the ad prices are likely being dictated based on last year’s Super Bowl viewership, which was the lowest showing in eight years. And prior to this season, regular season ratings fell for two years straight. So just because ratings rebounded this season, that’s no guarantee that Super Bowl 53 will be a big hit.

Nevertheless, a Super Bowl ad is as valuable as it ever was. So says Allen Adamson, cofounder of the branding firm Metaforce.

“Unfortunately for marketers,” Adamson said on Yahoo Finance’s live show YFi AM, “there’s no other game in town. Viewership is so fragmented, it’s still the one place you can talk to millions.”

2019 Stella Artois ad with Jeff Bridges (L) and Sarah Jessica Parker
2019 Stella Artois ad with Jeff Bridges (L) and Sarah Jessica Parker

The ad price flattening may be yet another indicator that the NFL won’t ever return to its peak levels of 2015. But even if the league’s reach is plateauing, it is the biggest live draw on network television (that goes for regular season games and the “Big Game”), and nothing comes anywhere close.

Coke: No in-game ad this year

For another sign that some big brands are moving way from paying for an in-game ad, look at one of the biggest consumer names: Coca-Cola this year bought an ad to run right before kickoff, rather than during the game. The ad spot, called “A Coke is a Coke,” promotes a message of diversity and inclusion.

Coke’s rival PepsiCo, on the other hand, is going the traditional celeb route with an ad featuring Cardi B, Lil Jon, and the actor Steve Carell. It is also once again the sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show; this year’s musical act is Maroon 5.

Stella goes for celeb power

Stella Artois, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, is another big consumer brand going the celebrity route this year. Stella got actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges to reprise their famous characters from “Sex and the City” and “The Big Lebowski,” respectively, in an ad that makes comic use of those characters’ personalities. Carrie Bradshaw (Parker) and Lebowski (Bridges) both order a Stella at a restaurant, to the shock and horror of the staff. Bridges even delivers his famous line, “The Dude abides.”

Adamson thinks the spot will be effective with women. “Seeing ‘Sex and the City’ come back is going to catch their attention,” he says. “The issue is, will people remember it? They probably will remember the ad, but may not remember it was Stella, and why they should drink it.”

CBS says no to marijuana

Finally, CBS made headlines last week when news broke that the network rejected an Acreage Holdings ad that advocated for medical marijuana. Acreage Holdings CEO Kevin Murphy said on Yahoo Finance’s live show YFi PM, “I think it was a very crisp, curt response... But we don’t begrudge CBS.”

Adamson believes that despite the CBS veto this year, marijuana ads during the Big Game are inevitable: “It’s going to happen sooner, rather than later, but not this year.”

Listen to former Patriots exec Michael Lombardi on the Jan. 31 episode of the Yahoo Finance Sportsbook podcast:

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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