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Are Super Bowl Ads Worth It?

January 31st, 2018   ||    by Melanie Brown

The Super Bowl is often heralded as the mecca of television ad placement. It garners over 100 million viewers nationwide each year, making it the most-watched live event on TV. According to Nielsen, it was watched by more than 111.3 million people in 2017. And an average of 1.7 million viewers watched via live stream (up 23 percent from 2016), according to CNNMoney.

A 30-second spot set advertisers back about $5 million in 2017, and the cost is slated to be even higher this year. Advertisers everywhere are thinking the same thing: are Super Bowl ads worth it?

Value in the Digital Age

The value of advertising during a Super Bowl broadcast is no secret: With over 110 million people tuned in, brands looking to make a splash have broad reach—and everyone’s attention. The added bonus of viewership via mobile devices and live streams offers even more opportunity to make an impression.

The digital age has changed the value of a Super Bowl spot. While it’s no longer imperative to watch the spot live, the conversation that surrounds the advertisement can now be coupled with repeated online viewing. Many advertisers will use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to launch new campaigns, but plenty of others see the event as a one-off, and digital viewing gives their ad a second wave of impressions.

But the cost of a Super Bowl spot isn’t just limited to the price of actual airtime. Marketers who opt for time on the nation’s biggest stage have to consider a slew of other inputs: Time spent conceptualizing, the money to produce it (and pay the celebrity talent), and the scrutiny that it’ll face after airing.

Is It Worth It?

This year, advertisers are hesitating about airing a spot in Super Bowl LII. The NFL is up against several issues, including the line it’s straddling around the political protest. Colin Kaepernick aside, putting advertising dollars into anything these days is a tacit endorsement of the programming’s content. The fear of backlash is already giving marketers pause at re-upping their usual media buys—and a huge national stage could exacerbate the hesitation.

In a similar vein, the Pyeongchang Olympics begin just a few days later. Despite political tensions between North and South Korea, the Olympics always perform consistently well with audiences. While the focus isn’t as acute as the Super Bowl, the reach for an Olympic sponsorship is still huge. Advertisers might ultimately opt to put their money into something that’s not so politically charged—just like the current hesitation surrounding Super Bowl advertising.

With Super Bowl viewership at its lowest in 2017 in three years, declining NFL viewership will force marketers to ask themselves about the true value of advertising during the big game.

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