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Super Bowl commercials: What are the world’s most expensive ads really worth to businesses?

With viewing figures hitting more than 100 million, a Super Bowl ad is a powerful tool for a company hoping to increase brand awareness

Caitlin Morrison
Friday 01 February 2019 18:05 GMT
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The Super Bowl might be one of the biggest events of the year for American football, but it is about so much more than sport.

The half-time show easily generates as many, if not more, headlines as the game itself. Meanwhile, the focus for businesses, and a large number of viewers too, is on the adverts.

Companies are willing to shell out huge sums of money for a portion of the airtime during the Super Bowl, with prices climbing every year and reaching more than $5m (£3.8m) for a 30 second slot in 2018.

This year, CBS is reportedly charging between $5.1m and $5.3m for half a minute of airtime - and companies will pay much more than that in production costs.

Brands are all too ready to hand over almost incredible amounts for these adverts - but what are the ads really worth for the companies?

In terms of exposure, the numbers are undoubtedly strong. The Super Bowl attracts huge audiences - last year, more than 100 million viewers tuned in to watch the game in the US and similar numbers are expected this year.

For new brands, a Super Bowl ad can bring its products to the attention of millions of people instantly, which many would argue justifies the high fee. According to advertising consultancy, in 2018 some new brands raised brand awareness by 36.5 per cent after their Super Bowl ad aired.

However, these days exposure can be achieved a lot more cheaply, and most of the brands snapping up space in the Super Bowl ad breaks are already well-known names, like Amazon, Pepsi and Budweiser.

For companies like these, Super Bowl ads act as a signal to the world that their brand is doing well, and tells consumers that they can trust in their products.

It is virtually impossible to calculate the return on investment for a Super Bowl ad, but each year a handful of brands will win out in the battle to become a talking point long after the final whistle blows. And even if an ad goes viral for all the wrong reasons, it might not be a complete failure for the company behind it.

“Even though a Super Bowl advertising campaign might not pay immediately in hard dollars and cents, if a business can afford to produce one of these stellar spots, they stand to earn new customers and build awareness on a scale unmatched by other outlets,” according to Peter Koeppel, founder and president of marketing agency Koeppel Direct.

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“Good or bad, though, impactful Super Bowl ads are the ones that are getting talked about. What a marketer can’t afford is an ad that completely fails to deliver. Because the Super Bowl is also sort of a Super Bowl of marketing, the competition is fierce – the commercials have to be memorable for them to pay off in the long run.

“An ad that doesn’t give viewers something, for better or worse, won’t be a profitable one.”

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