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Sports | Demand for Super Bowl ad time is higher than ever

Issue: "Tidings of discomfort and joy," Dec. 28, 2013

To NFL fans, the Super Bowl may be all about football, but to advertisers across the nation, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest advertising day of the year. With viewership rising every year—the Big Game averaged 85 million viewers per year throughout the 1990s, 90 million viewers per year throughout the 2000s, and 109 million viewers per year since 2010—advertisers are desperate to get a piece of the marketing gold. And, according to Neil Mulcahy, executive vice president for sales at Fox Sports, commercial airtime was sold out before Thanksgiving—more than 8 weeks before Super Bowl XLVIII takes place. 

The demand for airtime is good news for Fox, which is charging around $4 million for a 30-second spot, and is a good sign for the economy. In previous years, most notably during the economic recession, commercial airtime was still available for purchase during the week leading up to the game. Mulcahy told The New York Times the rebound of the automobile industry is a key factor in Super Bowl ad time demand. General Motors announced in August that it would return as a Super Bowl advertiser after skipping three out of the last five years.

The strategy for making a Super Bowl commercial varies greatly by company and by product and includes storytelling (Budweiser’s “Brotherhood”), comedy (Doritos’ “Goat 4 Sale”), celebrity endorsement (Mercedes-Benz’s “Soul”), and shock tactics (any commercial). 

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Even if Super Bowl advertisements do not boost product sales, word of mouth regarding the commercial can lift stock prices: “Companies with well-liked commercials see, on average, a quarter of a percent increase in their stock prices the following Monday,” Kenneth Kim, a finance researcher at the University of Buffalo, told NBC News.

Come February, there will be more than one team celebrating a Super Bowl victory.

Pay for play

BALL PARK AND CHAIN: Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Associated Press/Photo by Chris Bernacchi
BALL PARK AND CHAIN: Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

When the Atlanta Braves asked to build a new ballpark in Cobb County, Ga., a county committee quickly voted to approve the deal, which included $300 million of taxpayer-funded support for the project. When the Washington Nationals asked for a similar amount to finance a stadium renovation project, D.C. mayor Vince Gray started laughing. 

If the Nationals want a new roof, they will have to pay out of their own pocket. 

For Cobb County, the appeal of this investment includes hopes for new jobs and money from tourism in the area. Another positive effect of a new stadium is the potential revitalization of an economically depressed area—although that idea bore little fruit when the Braves moved into Turner Field in 1997.

Those who argue that taxpayers should not pay for stadiums point out that ballparks create very little new revenue for a city—fans spend money at the stadium instead of spending it on some other entertainment source in the area. Opponents also argue that a significant portion of the money invested in the area leaves the community. In other words, players and owners make a profit; small businesses and citizens who live in the area do not. 

When Baltimore spent $210 million in taxpayer dollars to help build Camden Yards in the early 1990s, proponents promised the stadium would revitalize the city’s downtown, create jobs, and amass tax revenue. Twenty years later, these promises remain unfulfilled. Cincinnati suffered a similar outcome when it approved $540 million to build new baseball and football stadiums in the early 2000s.

Not all public investments have been fruitless, although success stories appear to be exceptions to the rule. In his 2010 book, Major League Winners, Mark S. Rosentraub noted that Coors Field (Denver), Progressive Field (Cleveland), and Petco Park (San Diego) have brought economic success and revitalization to their surrounding areas. —Z.A.

Zachary Abate
Zachary Abate

Zachary is a sports fanatic working as a WORLD intern out of Purcellville, Va. He currently studies at Patrick Henry College.


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