The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is the 'Super Bowl of fashion,' with ads that cost millions

Models Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge, Elsa Hosk, Josephine Skriver, Stella Maxwell, Martha Hunt, Liu Wen, and Ming Xi walk the runway during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret)
Models Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge, Elsa Hosk, Josephine Skriver, Stella Maxwell, Martha Hunt, Liu Wen, and Ming Xi walk the runway during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret)

Some have called the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show the “Super Bowl of fashion,” considering the expense of producing the show and the global audience it reaches when it broadcasts.

The comparison, apt in more ways than one (commercial appeal, normative standards of masculinity and femininity, just for starters), also highlights just how expensive it is to purchase television advertising space during the broadcasts.

According to Kantar Media, a marketing consulting firm, it cost $1.8 million to purchase a 30-second commercial during the December 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. That’s just over a third of the cost to run a Super Bowl commercial of the same length ($5 million in 2017), but still more expensive than it is to advertise during the Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards, or the Golden Globes.

The figures are astounding, but it’s lucrative advertising space, considering the reach of the lingerie show’s audience. Viewership estimates range between 500 million and 800 million worldwide in more than 190 countries, which “outstrips the Super Bowl many times over.”

A look at the stage during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret)
A look at the stage during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret)

This year’s show on CBS — which in years past has spent $1.3 million to retain the exclusive rights to the broadcast — was interspersed with advertisements for deodorant and cars, but the buzziest commercials come from Victoria’s Secret itself. The brand bookended show segments with its often-buzzed-about holiday commercials, at once loathed and lauded by viewers.

For Victoria’s Secret and its parent company, L Brands, the expense is justified by the bottom line. After this year’s runway show, which included a special collection of lingerie and accessories from the luxury French design house Balmain, items from that line sold out online within two hours.

Despite its popularity (waning, say some), Victoria’s Secret largely fails to serve the majority of American women — that is, those who are plus-size. That’s inspired commercial retailers like Lane Bryant to produce their own counter-programming marketing campaigns that are clear shots at VS.

Got my wings! .. my #AdditionElle wings! #thickthighssavelives

A post shared by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@theashleygraham) on Nov 19, 2017 at 6:47pm PST


Lane Bryant’s “I’m No Angel” campaign, launched years ago but broadcast again during the 2017 Emmy Awards, drew praise from those who view Victoria’s Secret beauty standards to be outdated. Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie and loungewear brand, has also seen massive marketing campaign success in its efforts to be realer than glamazonian women on a remote catwalk with their bombshell hair and bombshell bras.

Still, neither of those brands purchased advertisement space during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this year. Lane Bryant confirmed to Yahoo Lifestyle ahead of the show that it would not broadcast a commercial, but did not respond to questions about the reason.

Of course, there’s social media for cheaper (see also: free) ad buys. Ahead of the Victoria’s Secret show, lingerie designer and model Ashley Graham Photoshopped herself with angel wings on a runway, a hallmark of the VS Fashion Show, and posted the photo to her Instagram page.

“Got my wings! My #AdditionElle wings. Thick thighs save lives,” Graham captioned the photo, liked by 763,000 viewers.

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