Super Bowl Ad Prop Bets Giving Madison Avenue a License to Print Money

Anthony Crupi
·6 min read

While it’s unlikely that CBS viewers will be exposed to a lot of loose talk about gambling during the network’s broadcast of Super Bowl LV, there are roughly 4 billion reasons why many of those tuning into the Big Game might welcome the odd comment about the point spread.

According to the American Gaming Association, some 23.2 million Americans will place a bet on Sunday’s Chiefs-Bucs clash, risking an estimated $4.3 billion on the outcome. More than a few of those dollars will land on prop bets, sportsbook lingo for the expansive list of novelty wagers centered around highly specific and (usually) trivial outcomes. And as much as Jim Nantz and Tony Romo won’t be drawing undue attention to Our Friends In the Desert, many of the available props are centered on the CBS broadcast—more specifically, with matters related to the network’s commercial inventory.

If many of the props from the 2019 Super Bowl have been scrubbed from the boards—one BetDSI prop from the last time CBS carried the game hinged on whether Nantz would utter his signature salutation, “Hello, friends,” at the top of the broadcast; that the odds were -10,000 in favor should tell you all you need to know about the degeneracy of anyone who took the bet—the number of commercial-related wagers on offer has increased. At the risk of spoiling a curious tradition, perhaps the closest a gambler can get to a sure thing is to speculate on the content of the ads, which are by their very nature a series of predetermined outcomes.

Perhaps the lowest-risk prop available via domestic and offshore sportsbooks has to do with the identity of the actor who’ll portray the “Flat Matthew” character, whom Doritos first began teasing a few weeks ago. At 3/2 odds, you’re not exactly going to make Scrooge McDuck money if you bet on Matthew McConaughey, but you’ll be in better shape than anyone who wagers on Matthew Stafford (7/2), Matt Dillon (5/1) or Matthew Perry (10/1). Even if you weren’t privy to the fact that the True Detective star had been spotted filming a Doritos spot in L.A. back in December, the ad has been all but ubiquitous since it dropped yesterday morning.

That it’s possible to bet on a Super Bowl ad is a bit like being given the green light to wager on the outcome of a scripted WWE wrestling match or the reenactment of a Civil War battle. Even if Frito-Lay had kept the spot under wraps, presumably just about anyone from creative agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners who’d worked on the Doritos commercial would’ve been in a position to make a few extra bucks if they’d elected to tackle the Flat Matthew prop. (As would the executives at CBS and the NFL who pre-screen the in-game ads.)

As it happens, Frito-Lay’s brands are all over the Super Bowl prop sheet, as another three bets involve the company’s 60-second NFL-themed spot. In a reprise of its fall “’Twas the Night Before Kickoff” execution, the snack-chip purveyor has brought back an uncharacteristically garrulous Marshawn Lynch to anchor an ad about rivalries (sibling and otherwise). You could do a lot worse for yourself if you were to pick Peyton (-200) as the Manning to speak first in the multi-brand showcase, and no (+140), that’s not a paper football that Jerry Rice flicks through the uprights. As for the brand reveal itself, you’ll want to steer clear of this prop altogether, given that the Frito-Lay spot opens with a master shot of Lynch cozying up with a bag each of Lay’s (2/1), Tostitos (9/4) and Doritos (9/4).

Another commercial prop asks gamblers to speculate on which Anheuser-Busch brand will appear first during the in-game ad crunch, and even if you don’t have a spy at Wieden + Kennedy New York, it may be useful to know that as the official beer of the NFL, Bud Light tends to pop up before its sibling brews—hence the +100 odds of the brand making a splash ahead of Michelob Ultra (+125), Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade (+450) and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer (+500).

Some of the more exotic non-commercial props focus on moments during the halftime show and in postgame. And while we can’t tell you with any degree of accuracy what color liquid will be poured over the winning coach, one of the more crude scenarios on the board is free money. Bookies invite you to ponder whether or not Miley Cyrus’s “side boob” will be in plain view during the NFL TikTok Tailgate, and while it may be tempting to wager $100 on “yes” to win $150, does anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex think for a moment that CBS will leave any room for that sort of thing?

This is the same network that endured so much agita in the wake of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show (2004), during which Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast in front of an audience of 143.6 million viewers. The network spent seven years fending off a record $500,000 fine from the FCC, and while the matter was ultimately dismissed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, you can bet your last dollar that any part of Cyrus’s performance that airs on CBS will be tape-delayed. Whatever happens on TikTok is another matter, but as far as CBS is concerned, fans who tune into the broadcast pregame will see a show that’s more Hannah Montana than Bangerz.

Lastly, bookmakers have established the over-under on how many dogs will show up in the Super Bowl ads at three-and-a-half canines. In the entirely unlikely event that literally three-and-a-half dogs are trotted out during the Big Game—as in three whole dogs and another unfortunate pup who for some reason has been neatly sliced in half, either straight down the middle at around the T13 vertebra or in some sort of grisly cross section—that’s a push and nobody wins or loses.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. Nobody’s going to saw a dog in half … although six years ago, we would have bet that a Super Bowl advertiser would never murder a child, and boy oh boy, did Nationwide ever turn around and say, “Hold my beer.”

Meanwhile, the NFL’s gradual warming-up to legalized sports-betting will be on display this Sunday, as league sponsor DraftKings becomes the first gambling-adjacent entity to buy time in a Super Bowl broadcast. The daily fantasy sports platform/online sportsbook has forked over some $5.6 million for a pair of 15-second in-game spots, although instead of using that airtime to tout gambling, it will opt for the soft-sell approach, offering CBS viewers a chance to kick the tires on its service by way of a free fourth-quarter pool. Fans who participate in the DraftKings promotion won’t risk a penny and yet the big winner may walk away with as much as $1 million.

In so many words, the end game of the DraftKings buy is to get new users acclimated to its platform before then converting them into active sports bettors. The spots will air in the second and third quarters of Sunday’s game.

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