US Insights

TV’s most expensive airtime, in 10 factoids

Jon Swallen

Chief Research Officer, Kantar Media Intelligence North America

TV 01.24.2016 / 21:15

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Ahead of Super Bowl 50, Kantar Media has the data behind a decade of the most widely anticipated ads in TV advertising

The Super Bowl's golden anniversary is almost here, providing advertisers with coveted access to an expected audience of over 100 million people. Competition during the commercial breaks rivals that seen on the field as advertisers field their best ads and try to make the most of what's become platinum-priced airtime. Kantar Media has mined its extensive database to report on the past 10 years of Super Bowl advertising and to provide a sense of what can be expected this year.

#1 Ad sales in brief. From 2006 through 2015, the Super Bowl game has generated $2.38 billion of network advertising sales from more than 130 marketers, making it one of the most valuable sports franchises in the US. With ad rates and revenues continuing to rise, the Super Bowl remains a winning game.

#2 The price of advertising. The average rate for a 30-second advertisement in the Super Bowl game has increased by 76% during the past decade, reaching $4.4 million in 2015. It's the most expensive commercial time on TV by far. (The 2015 runner up: the NFC Championship Game at $2 million per 30 seconds). Strong demand for ad time is pointing towards even higher pricing for the 2016 game, though the actual amount paid by individual marketers will vary depending on where the ad runs in the game, how much commercial time is purchased, and whether the advertiser opts for a larger package that includes spots in the pre-game and/or post-game coverage.

#3 More advertising, more clutter. Super Bowl ad pricing isn't the only measure that has been trending upwards. So has the volume of commercial time in the game. The past six Super Bowls have been the most ad-saturated in history, each containing more than 47 minutes of commercial time, and this trend is likely to continue in 2016. (The spike in ad time for the 2013 "Blackout Bowl" was partly due to a decision by CBS to re-run a commercial pod that first aired just after the game was halted by a stadium power outage.) This includes paying sponsors, commercial messages from the NFL and promotional announcements from the network for its own shows. The latter typically accounts for about 15% of all ad time and 25-30% of all spots in the game.

#4 Longer commercials. Despite the high cost of air time in the Super Bowl, a significant proportion of advertisers opt to spend even more by running longer length commercials. It's an effort to tell a deeper story and further engage viewers. In the past two games, 37% (2015) and 40% (2014) of brand ads were 60 seconds or longer, the highest shares since at least 1984. By comparison, the normal proportion of long-form ads on broadcast networks is about 6%.

#5 Top five Super Bowl advertisers. During the past 10 years, the top five Super Bowl advertisers have spent $745 million on network advertising during the game, accounting for 31% of total advertising revenue. Anheuser-Busch InBev and Pepsico lead the pack, followed by Coca-Cola, Chrysler, and General Motors. Anheuser-Busch has one more game left in its multi-year Super Bowl contract and will likely be the leading advertiser in 2016.

#6 First-time advertisers. In recent years, there has been a steady influx of first-time advertisers eager for the recognition and brand-building opportunity of the Super Bowl spotlight. In 2015, first-time advertisers accounted for 29% of the Super Bowl ad lineup. A big part of last year's freshman class was mobile game apps. Three different brands ran spots in the 2015 game, and in 2014, two mobile games were among the first-time advertisers. With Super Bowl 50's Bay Area location, it's likely that tech companies will be even more important this year.

#7 Small players, big stage. The daunting price of Super Bowl ad time would seem to be a barrier to small marketers with limited budgets. However, each year the roster of Super Bowl advertisers includes several companies who invest a hefty chunk of their annual budget to buy commercial time. In 2015, eight Super Bowl advertisers put more than 10% of their full-year media budgets into the game. The most leveraged sponsor in the 2015 Super Bowl was Mophie, a manufacturer of battery chargers for mobile devices. Its $4.4 million ad buy represented 47% of its annual measured ad expenditures.

#8 Top Super Bowl advertising categories. Over the past decade, the Super Bowl has attracted a bevy of different automotive, movie studio and food companies, making these the most populous and competitive ad categories. The Food & Candy category (which excludes all beverage brands) had a major presence in the Super Bowl in the late 1990s before tailing off. In the past several years, it has made a comeback as a variety of candy, yogurt and specialty food brands have purchased time.

#9 Local market TV sponsors: the second battleground. While most interest is focused on the national TV commercials appearing in the Super Bowl, affiliate stations in local markets also have an allotment of air time to sell. This inventory offers another way for sponsors to access the event, albeit on a smaller scale. What categories of advertisers typically appear in the local market broadcasts? In the 2015 game, ads from automotive, insurance and telecom marketers were a common sight in markets of all sizes. Travel & Tourism made a splash in the top 25 DMAs, and Medical Services was one of the leading categories in mid-size and smaller markets.

In 2015, noteworthy campaigns from regional advertisers included one from American Family Mutual Insurance, which used a commercial featuring the singer Jennifer Hudson to launch a new campaign. The ad appeared in more than 50 markets. Another was the Republic of Ecuador, which made a regional spot TV buy to promote tourism. The 30-second ad appeared in thirteen DMAs, including all of the Top Ten. The United States is Ecuador's second largest tourism market.

For the third year in a row, the Church of Scientology promoted its philosophy in a 30 second unit, which cleared in 15 markets.

#10 The social Super Bowl. The Super Bowl generates plenty of second-screen activity during the game, and marketers have accelerated their efforts to attract and engage multi-platform consumers. It's evidenced by the increased number of ads containing a social media element. According to Kantar Media's analysis of paid commercials shown during the game, hashtags have overtaken URLs as the most popular call to action mechanism. Last year, 57% of non-promo ads (34 of 60) contained a hashtag, and a bit less than one-half had a URL. Only 5% of ads mentioned Facebook.

Source: Kantar Media

Editor's Notes

The original article and complete data were published on the Kantar Media blog on January 12, 2016. Journalists, for inquiries or to speak with the author, contact us. Follow us @Kantar and sign up for our alerts.



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